In our last article on money management, we spoke about how digital apps are making it easier for us to receive and pay out money in all contexts. But what about money that stays with us long term – our savings, investments, and even the various funds we're building for the future? Let's talk about some digital tools that help you control your budget and build a lucrative financial future.
Keeping tabs on where your money is going is the first step towards starting your financial life right. The next being, figuring out whether it is going to the right places. There are multitudes of planning, tracking and investing apps out there, but what you should download depends on what you want to do. Once that is figured, stick with one or two key apps as your daily drivers for financial management.
Here are a few questions that can help you decide what you most wish to do with your digital assistants.
- Am I looking for financial discipline in my life?
- Do I need to learning more about investing?
- Am I looking for self-service investment tools?
- Do I need to trade on the go?
- Am I keen on goal-based investing?
- Do I need to only track portfolio performance?
Apps for the Planners
There is greater need for financial discipline today than ever before thanks to the opportunities for spending or taking loans. With more than one bank account and multiple digital wallets and credit cards, it is often difficult to keep track of our balances everywhere. This is where the budgeting apps are really handy. They let you add your various bank accounts to that you can review all bank statements together, set a budget as well as personal financial goals. These apps also let you track investments, save images of offline transaction receipts, and view visual graphs of your financial status. The smarter ones suggest where you can save more, send you bill reminders and can even be configured to pay them automatically.
In a nutshell, here are some of the features to look out for in a good budgeting app:
- Personalised budget
- Category based budget allocation
- Snapshot of your 'spendable' amount and actual spends to help you cut them down
- Management of cash inflows and outflows by syncing with bank account and automatically updating the budget
- Analysis of spending patterns, alerts when running low on budget, and recommendations on appropriate offers
- Credit score reports and account alerts that help prevent overdraft charges
In a way, these apps are bringing money management best practices from earlier generations (like keeping bill payments aside in envelopes at the start of the month so there is clarity on how much the family could spend) into a digital mode.
Apps for the Day Traders
If you're the trading kind, staying updated with the latest financial news and keeping track of what's happening to your set of stocks is a necessity. There are several mobile apps that can serve most of your needs, from checking the latest prices of commodities to managing your stock profile.
Following are some of the must-have features you must look for when choosing a trading app:
- Heat maps, technical indicators and charting features that enable technical analysis
- History of the submitted orders and their status
- Trading across multiple segments and across instruments
- Smart search that gives you quick results
- Provision to apply for Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and Offers for Sale (OFS)
- Stock watch feature that allows you to pin performance charts of selected stocks
- Intraday charts, drawing tools, real-time portfolio and chart trading
- Data points like lower circuit value, volatility
- Dividend chart, portfolio summary chart and history chart
- Background price alert notification
- Live market updates, market watch lists
- Access to domestic market news, top gainer, top loser, top traded volume, top traded turnover, 52 week high, 52 week low
Apps for the DIYers
The trend of people seeking greater transparency and control over their investment decisions is not new. In fact, digital platforms like Fundsupermart that help people learn about investments and transact directly with financial institutions have been around for far longer than money management and payment apps.
When considering taking charge of your investments, there are two ways in which digital apps can help you: advice and transactions.
Automated investment advisory
Advising someone on the most suitable investment strategy for them usually involves studying their capacity to earn and save, risk appetite as well as short term and long term financial goals. There are many tools and calculators available online that help you complete this initial assessment by yourself.
However, leading financial institutions across the world are taking this further, by using specially developed robots to offer personalized advice to their customers. Using artificial intelligence and natural language capabilities, the app requests the investors to provide details about their financial situation and future goals through an online survey, and then uses this data to offer advice and/or automatically invest customer assets. Robo advisors sift through years of data to arrive at the best investment strategy for the customer as well as the current products best suited for the portfolio. They provide advisory on investment, insurance, loan portfolios, as well as expense management and tax. They also connect all aspects of personal finance, providing a holistic view of the user's financial health.
Robo advisory is also more cost efficient for customers who may not wish to spend on personal wealth managers. Look for the following features in your robo advisor app:
- Investment recommendations
- Multiple real-time market data scanners to identify market trends
- Advanced technical charting
- Ability to track and manage investments
- Updates on any account activity
- Digital payment integration for transactions
- Investment/Portfolio performance graphs
Advisory apps today carry a high degree of complex, technical capabilities in tracking capital markets. They can provide real-time filtering of stocks under various criteria such as rising and falling volume, price trends, strong and weak options, high-low breakers, abnormal volume shocker, and so on.
Straight Through, Paper Free Transactions
Most online investment platforms, be it for stocks, mutual funds, bonds, currencies or commodities, have mobile apps today, bringing the convenience of anywhere, anytime investing even closer to you. With transaction apps you can:
- Open a new investment folio, update KYC and FATCA details
- Submit purchase, redemption and switch instructions
- Transact and register Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs) in mutual funds
- Register and change default bank mandate
- Obtain real-time alerts and notifications on your favorite stocks, mutual funds, commodities, futures, and currencies
- Schedule transactions
- Get latest quotes of stocks, futures and options (F&O), mutual funds, commodities and currencies from BSE, NSE, MCX, and NCDEX
- Receive real-time news related to markets, business and economy, corporate action and expert interviews
- Monitor portfolios across your holdings, with proactive updates and alerts
A Few Other Handy Financial Apps
The Financial Calculator India is a useful app exclusively for the Indian market. It includes calculators with information on schemes available in Indian Banks, Post Office, Mutual Funds, and so on, with the objective of helping you calculate possible returns across options and time durations. It provides options for everything from interest calculation to currency conversion, and even retirement planning.
The Tax Planner app is for salaried individuals and informs you of your tax liability based on details like salary, investments, and savings. Some of the other popular tax calculators include ThinkTax and MyTaxIndia.
Going Digital with Caution: Our Take
Be it budgeting, expense tracking, tax planning or investing, all the information you seek is just a few clicks away – but you need to choose the right app. The best place to start is to see what your own bank offers and the look at other options in the market. It is wise to read the user reviews (in the app store) and check the ownership of the company and its backers before downloading the app. The idea is to go with an established company so you know your app will be updated with latest features as well as security protocols on an ongoing basis.
When it comes to investing, ensure you do adequate research on the product and competing options before investing in it. At Fundsupermart, for example, we believe in as much importance to research data and personal finance guidance as we give to our transaction oriented features. For DIYers therefore, choosing an app from a reputed online broker may be better.
The basic due diligence for an investment app would include the following:
- Many investment apps are free, while some may offer more personalized features, or access to more products for a fee. Fees and commissions can impact your returns and should be considered. Weigh the pedigree of the app, products you need access to, and the app features to make a call.
- Choose a platform that supports your device (iOS and Android)
- Track user reviews to ensure that the app is not facing security or performance issues. Also look for what reviewers are saying about the support team.
- Ensure the app integrates with a large network of banks for easy fund transfers
- Check that it functions well at low internet connection bandwidth
- Confirm order execution speeds
- Look out for the guest login feature that allows you to try the app before you make a decision – for example, you can look for easy navigation, and few or no ads