Top Three Apps for Financial Literacy
For the first time in US history, there is more student debt than credit card debt (US Chamber of Commerce). The average student loan debt today is somewhere between $25,000-30,000, reaching a combined total of almost $1 Trillion (USCC). On top of that, 46% of Americans have credit card debt of on average ~$5,000, so it’s not surprising that more than half of Americans regularly worry about their finances (2012 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey). The highest percentage of “worriers” exist among female Millennials (57%) and 40% of Americans overall say they currently “lack control of their finances” (“The Face of Personal Finance”, Learnvest & Chase Blueprint). Almost 8 out of 10 Americans feel like they’d benefit from expert advice and answers to every day financial questions, but financial advice has traditionally been a luxury only those with wealth could afford (National Foundation for Credit Counseling). Sadly, like in most situations, the people who need the help the most don’t have access to it.
Thank goodness for the power of technology and the potential it has to democratize financial literacy. Virtual financial advisors and online planning tools are starting to pop all over the e-landscape, providing financial services and education to the masses at affordable prices and in some cases even for free. Now, what’s more Millennial than that? Below are a few of our favorite tools to help you take back control!
Khan Academy & Bank of America’s website titled “Making Better Money Habits”
What is it?
A collection of short 5 minute videos that provide free, unbiased advice and educational content focused on answering “every day financial questions”. There are currently 20 videos available on topics ranging from “How to get out of debt” (very topical) to “Understanding how mortgage interest rates work” (I need that!).
Why it’s Millennial?
- It’s curated. The content of the website is decided by none other than yourself! New topics for videos are crowd sourced via the website creating an engaging experience and giving us what we want, when we want.
- It’s all about personal development. How many of us pretend to know exactly what our older colleagues are talking about when they’re discussing the painful process of applying for a mortgage? Busted! Now you have the ability to get up to speed within 15 minutes by watching an interactive video and no one will ever know.
- It’s visual. Our parents often equate “learning” with text books, or at least a healthy dose of reading. That’s what makes this partnership so ingenius: it combines the knowledge from Bank of America with the visual learning methodology and tools of Khan Academy. All you have to do is watch and internalize – no reading glasses required!
What is it?
Learnvest seeks to bring financial advice to the masses. Their mission is to “empower people everywhere to take control of their personal finances so that they can afford their dreams“. The Learnvest website is filled with unbiased information and tips on how to manage your finances, and they even offer expert financial advice through their in-house, virtual advisory team who will help you design a financial plan that fits your lifestyle and goals.
Why it’s Millennial?
- It’s virtual. Your account comes with unlimited phone and email chats, fulfilling the Millennial desire for constant connectivity and instant gratification. No need to stop by a stuffy office full of people who use fancy words and wear fancy clothes – now we can access all the financial support we need while wearing PJ’s!
- It’s transparent. You know exactly what you get for your $19/month ($608 a year including start-up costs) and won’t be confronted with hidden fees or complex percentages to figure out. If you can’t find an answer to a question on their website, they provide a long list of “vetted providers” with detailed information, reviews, and costs. Now that’s helpful!
- It’s fun. They’ve created a 7-step program that’s easy to follow and gives you the sense that you’re playing a game and working towards the “next level” together with your financial expert. To keep you on track, your expert will even send you bite-size challenges with a deadline. These experts do not resemble what you might imagine when you think of a “financial advisor” – they’re young, their passionate, and they have cool nicknames like “The Reformer”, “The Sheriff”, and “The Optimizer”.
What is it?
Simple is the ultimate mobile banking application focused on helping you reach your financial goals. All you need is a Simple Visa debit card and your phone, and you’ll be able to make purchases, deposit checks, pay bills, transfer money to friends, make direct deposits, and manage your money more effectively. Oh, and did I mention there’s hardly any fees involved? Their slogan: “Your spending tells a story, smarter saving makes it happen.”
Why it’s Millennial?
- It’s convenient. No need to use multiple apps to track your expenditures and manage your financial goals, because Simple offers everything in one! Use your Simple card to make purchases that are immediately tracked and registered on your mobile app. It even tells you what amount you’re “safe-to-spend” based on your upcoming bill payments, pending transaction, and saving goals. Warning: it will become harder to convince yourself you absolutely need that new pair of boots.
- It’s social. Simple has joined forces with Dropbox and Braintree to integrate the latest social media trends. The Dropbox integration allows you to attach any image, PDF, or text file to an activity or transaction, so you can attach receipts or, more importantly, a picture of the cupcake you just purchased so you can keep reminding yourself it was worth it. By adding your Simple card to Braintree’s Venmo Touch, you can also seamlessly transfer money to friends and connect with your Venmo community.
- It’s free (almost). Unlike all other banks, Simple doesn’t profit from fees – in fact, they think it’s bad for the bank-customer relationship. Duuh? They promise no hidden fees, no monthly debit card fees, account maintenance fees, low balance fees, overdraft fees, and no fees for domestic funds transfers. They do acknowledge that 6 months of inactivity may result in $5/month charges to avoid escheatment (when the government reclaims an unused bank account).
Explore these tools and break your bad money habits today.