Apps to Meet Your Financial Goals

There’s an app for everything, including your money. Some, such as the popular Mint, are the financial equivalent of a Swiss army knife. They can do a little bit of everything — from creating a budget to tracking investments.

But sometimes you want a specialty tool; one that is designed with your specific need in mind. Fortunately, there are financial apps like that too. The following are five apps created to help users successfully reach their money goals, whether that be a secure retirement or a relaxing vacation.

— Acorns.

— Backer.

— UNest.

— Lively.

— Bank of America Life Plan.

[See: 12 Steps to Achieve Financial Freedom.]


Use for: retirement savings

Since its app launched in 2014, Acorns has added banking and earning options, but it got its start in investments. A defining feature of the app is the ability to round up purchases on linked debit and credit cards and invest the change. Today, users have the option to place that money in a traditional, Roth or SEP IRA using Acorns Later.

“If you’re not an expert, that’s OK,” says Kennedy Reynolds, chief content and education officer at Acorns. After answering a few brief questions, the app can recommend a diversified portfolio based on a user’s goals. In addition to investing change in a retirement account, Acorns allows people to set up recurring and one-time contributions that can be as little as $5.

“We designed Acorns to work as a system,” Reynolds says. Banking and earning options are designed to be used hand-in-hand with investments, and the company also offers a number of educational resources. Acorns Later is included as part of personal subscriptions that cost $3 per month.


Use for: 529 college savings plans

With the cost of tuition and room and board averaging $24,623 in 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, college is a large and looming expense for many families. While there are many options for college savings, a 529 plan may offer the best tax benefits, and the Backer app makes it easy for families and friends to pitch in toward a student’s higher education.

Backer allows parents and grandparents to link an existing 529 plan to the app. Or if they don’t yet have a 529 plan, Backer will recommend one. Once a savings plan is linked or created, the app makes it easy to invite others to support the fund with gifts for birthdays, holidays or at other times. Users can also earn cash back by shopping at partner accounts, and that too is added to the balance.

The app allows users to choose their own monthly fee. While the minimum is $1, Backer says most families choose to pay $5 per month. There are also annual fees associated with 529 accounts. Those vary depending on the plan administrator, but they can be as low as 0.16% for Backer-recommended plans.

[SEE: 10 Best Money-Saving Apps.]


Use for: UTMA/UGMA accounts

Money in a 529 plan can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified education expenses, but you’ll pay the taxman if the cash is used for any other purpose. Parents who aren’t sure whether their child will attend college may want to use a UTMA/UGMA account instead. Standing for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act and Uniform Gift to Minors Act, these accounts also provide some tax benefits and come with added flexibility.

“It’s not necessarily only college,” explains Ksenia Yudina, founder and CEO of UNest. The app allows parents to set up a UTMA/UGMA account for their child and save money that can be used for any purpose, from buying a house to paying for a wedding. For 2021, the first $1,100 in gains in the account is tax-free and the next $1,100 is taxed at the child’s tax rate. Parents retain control of the account until their child reaches the age of majority.

Like Backer, UNest allows users to invite family and friends to contribute money to a child’s account. The app also provides extra perks, including rewards that can add cash to the balance. Currently, UNest invests money in low-cost ETFs, but there are plans to add single stocks and possibly cryptocurrency in the future, Yudina says. UNest costs $3 a month for a regular account or $6 a month for a family account.


Use for: health savings accounts

Health savings accounts offer a way to pay for medical expenses with tax-free dollars, and the Lively app allows people to easily manage their money. It allows users to set up one-time or recurring contributions and then invest that money in stocks, bonds or other securities.

Contributions to HSAs are tax-deductible, up to annual limits, and money in an account grows tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified medical expenses. Only those with a qualified high-deductible health insurance plan are eligible to open an HSA, though. Once open, the balances in these accounts roll over each year, making them a good choice to save for medical expenses later in life.

There is no cost for individuals to open and maintain an account with Lively. However, there may be fees associated with investments.

[Read: Best Budget Apps.]

Bank of America Life Plan

Use for: life goals

Everyone’s financial goals are unique, and Life Plan is an app designed to help customers work toward whatever milestone is important to them. “Bank of America’s Life Plan is a digital experience designed to help clients set and track near- and long-term financial goals based on life priorities and better understand and act on steps toward achieving them,” says Teron Douglas, chief digital executive of preferred banking and consumer investments at Bank of America.

Life Plan allows customers to set goals such as paying off a loan, improving credit or going on vacation. The app provides educational resources and tips and also tracks progress toward each goal. When one-on-one assistance is needed, that can be requested through the app as well.

Bank of America customers can access and use Life Plan for free within the Bank of America app.

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