2017’s Best Financial Planning Software – Intro


Online financial planning software and tools provide many benefits to consumers who are looking to spend, budget, invest, and save money in the smartest way possible. While this seems like a no-brainer, many people turn a blind eye to their finances–either out of fear or confusion.

Think about it this way: you monitor your car’s gauges all the time. If you’re a responsible car owner, you know how much gas you have, when your next oil change is, and how much mileage your car has. The same should also apply to your financial health. That’s where top financial planning software apps come in.

Award Emblem: Top 5 Best Financial Planning Software

Financial planning software tools provide a comprehensive overview of your money, all in one place. These tools act as an interactive dashboard, monitoring your spending and earnings, helping you make the right choices about your money, and giving you notice when issues arise. Additionally, studies show that people who monitor their money online end up wealthier than those who don’t monitor their spending closely.



AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 5 Best Financial Planning Software for Individual use

  1. Personal Capital
  2. YNAB
  3. Mint
  4. Quicken
  5. AceMoney

The above list of 2016’s best financial planning software apps is sorted alphabetically

Below we present a detailed financial planning software reviews to help shed light on the benefits, negatives, features, and unique aspects of each of these top ranking financial planning software applications.

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Image source: Big Stock


The Two Types of Financial Planning Software for Individuals

Financial planning tools can be divided into two categories. The first, money-management software, is typically used for online banking, planning for paying down debt, estimating major life expenses, tracking portfolios and stocks, and providing reports of your finances. The other category, tax preparation software, gives tax advice on retirement, allows you to access federal and state forms, gives information on itemized deductions, performs tax error checks, and provides status updates on tax returns.

The tools listed below are typically a mix of both of these broad categories.

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How to Choose the Financial Planning Tools That Are Right for You

Though the below reviews will give you a good overview of the pros and cons of different financial planning software, it’s important to do your own analysis to determine which service works best for your needs. The site that works best for one person may not be the best choice for another, so always go through a free trial of a program before you commit.

As you will see, not all financial planning tools offer the same features.  Make sure the features offered will encompass all your various needs. For example, if you hold multiple investments across many different channels, you will want to make sure the software you select offers the ability to import information on all these investments into one place.

You’ll also want to assess the security features and accessibility of the software. Read up on the security policies of the site you choose and ensure that there are backup measures in place in the event of a breach. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that the online financial planning tool offers authentication measures besides just a username and password.

Additionally, make sure that the financial planning software you select offers compatibility on all the devices where you will want to use it, such as your smartphone or tablet. It should also offer various reporting functions so you can see your money in many different ways.


AdvisoryHQ's Selection Methodology

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Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated firms, products, and services.


Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Financial Planning Platforms

Below, please find the detailed review of each software on our list of top financial planning tools. We have highlighted the key factors that allowed these software apps to score so high in our selection ranking.



Financial Planning Software 1: Personal Capital Review


Personal Capital wants to “build a better money management experience for consumers” by blending financial advice with state-of-the-art technology. Personal Capital is a financial planning tool that aims to make online investment management more accessible to consumers, more honest, and more transparent.

They currently have over 1 million registered users that are actively managing $2 billion in assets.

Values and Philosophy

Personal Capital holds itself to high standards according to their company philosophy:

  • Financial advice that is within their customer’s best interests
  • A holistic view of consumers’ money to make informed decisions
  • Transparent business processes, with no hidden fees or gimmicks
  • Dedicated personal financial advisors
  • Affordable solutions to complex fiduciary problems, providing an alternative to other higher-priced products
  • Customized investing advice

Additionally, Personal Capital has formed the Creating Capital movement, which aims to empower women to close the gender investing gap through promoting more dialogue, awareness, and education. It urges women to reach their financial goals in a supportive, social, and engaging way through hosting meet-ups and lessons.

Features

Each of Personal Capital’s sets of tools and services offer different registration and pricing structures.

Click Here to Join Personal Capital Now!

Its free financial planning software option requires just a name, email address, and password to get started. This allows you access to their award-winning dashboard, which gives you a complete picture of your financial standing, including IRAs, investments, and mortgage. This visibility allows you to set monthly spending targets for different categories and visualize your spending and saving by merchant, category, or date.

This free version also gives you access to other free financial planning tools, including the Fee Analyzer and Investment Checkup Tool.

The Fee Analayzer provides transparency into any hidden fees you may be incurring because of a mutual fund, investment, or retirement account. The Investment Checkup tool allows you to analyze your portfolio and can identify quick improvements that can save–or earn–you money. This tool can also recommend an ideal portfolio based on your comfort level of risk and reward.

Under “Financial Advisory,” Personal Capital offers several services based on consumer needs. Once you become a financial advisory client of Personal Capital, they are matched with two advisors who act on your behalf toward your goals and offer personalized investment strategies.

When it comes to financial advisory, pricing gets a little more complicated. Clients who invest at least $25,000 in portal assets receive licensed advisors dedicated to their account, an initial meeting with their advisors to discuss investing goals, and personalized recommendations to get started.

This service is priced at one all-inclusive fee based on a percentage of assets managed. There are no set-up fees, account opening fees, or maintenance fees. Personal Capital is very up-front about their cost structure.

Security

With Personal Capital, all credentials are stored with Yodlee instead of their own servers to provide an extra boundary between your information and criminals. They also have strict internal access controls, which assure that no one at Personal Capital can ever access your personal credentials.

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When using Personal Capital’s financial planning app, users can enable Touch ID authentication or mobile-only PINs for an extra layer of protection. Personal Capital also allows you increased visibility into potential fraud across your accounts.

Pros at a Glance

  • Free features like the Fee Analyzer and Investment Checkup Tool
  • Clean, easy-to-use interface
  • Strong security measures
  • All accounts in one place

Cons at a Glance

  • Higher investment fees than some other financial planning software

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Financial Planning Software 2: YNAB (YouNeedABudget.com) Review


YNAB was started by Jesse Mecham, a CPA, in 2004. He was dealing with financial struggles and needed an easy-to-use solution to keep his family’s budgeting in one place, so he created YNAB, initially a financial planning app that is now web-based.

Values and Philosophy

YNAB was created to help people get out of debt and manage their money in a smart way. They provide colorful, helpful guides as a resource for people to learn how to work toward their goals, simplify their finances, and budget effectively.

Their philosophy is that no matter how small your income, you can achieve financial stability and remain in control of your finances with the right resources and by following three simple rules:

  • Rule #1: Give Every Dollar a Job: Each dollar in your budget should be allocated to a certain purpose to avoid unrestricted spending and to impose discipline and purpose in your spending.
  • Rule #2: Embrace Your True Expenses: Take large, less frequent expenses like insurance premiums, vacations, and holidays and allocate funds to pay them on a monthly, rotating basis. If you routinely budget for these expenses, you’ll have greater control of your cash flow and be able to manage months with more expenses. This adds predictability, which is a huge financial and emotional relief.
  • Rule #3: Roll With the Punches: Circumstances will crop up that will take you off your financial game, and it’s understood that you will spend more than your budget allows in some cases. When this does happen, roll with it and make adjustments as necessary by moving money between categories. Plan for disruptions, but don’t let them get you off track.

Features

This personal financial planning software offers an app and browser-based application, which syncs with your bank account to import transactions and keep track of your budget automatically.

YNAB allows you to set goals and see how far away from them you are. “The Inspector” feature allows you to see information about your budget at a glance and will let you know if you’re on or off target with budgeting for certain expenses.

Though YNAB was once free, they now charge $5 per month, or $50 for a one-year commitment. Many users report that using a financial planning tool to keep track of their finances means that they save more money over the long run, which makes the fee worth it.

Security

Staff with YNAB are not allowed to access customer data unless it is requested by customers. Data is encrypted, and when you terminate your account, your information is wiped from the hard drive.

They also advertise that their infrastructure is built on the same technology as the CIA, ensuring it is nearly un-hackable.

Pros at a Glance

  • YNAB strictly specializes in budgeting, not investment management (but what they do, they do well)
  • Free advice and resources from ebooks and blog posts
  • Low cost ($50) and a free trial
  • YNAB has a history of continuous improvement, including several new versions and features

Cons at a Glance

  • It’s not a one-stop-shop for your financial needs; there are limitations to what it can manage. If you’re looking for one online financial planning tool that can handle all your budgeting, credit card deals, and investments, this isn’t it.
  • Limited customer support. They do have a live chat feature, but no phone customer support functions.

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Financial Planning Software 3: Mint Review


Mint is a free financial planning software that is 15 million users strong, offering a quick and easy signup and painless syncing of personal data into one place.

Financial data is updated on a continual basis and is presented in easy-to-read graph format. Its services are useful for budgeting and providing a holistic overivew of your finances at a glance.

Values and Philosophy

Mint believes in smart, simple, and secure budgeting and financial overviews. They are continually updating features and services and believe in the philosophy of Intuit, their holding company: innovating to simplify the business of life.

Features

Mint’s financial planning tools are highly intuitive and can be personalized depending on the user’s unique needs. Spending is automatically placed into categories like Clothes, Utilities, and Gas.

Through its platform, you can easily set goals and budgets and track your progress. They also have free, continual credit monitoring, which allows you to avoid having to log into separate services to track your score. However, Mint’s investing features are minimal, especially compared to Intuit’s Quicken.

Another important feature of Mint is their alerting. You can set up personalized alerts to let you know of late fees, crossing over a budget amount, bill reminders, and large purchases to help protect you against identity theft.

Importantly, Mint’s features are available across many different devices, including iPhone, iPad, and Android.

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Security

Mint’s financial planning app offers two-factor authentication, meaning that you can validate not only through your username and password, but also through an SMS or email. It also benefits from parent company Intuit’s highly sophisticated security framework, offering bank-grade security that doesn’t allow it to see anything you type.

Users are also not allowed to initiate payouts or transfers of any type through the service, which means that hackers and employees can’t, either.

Pros at a Glance

  • Highly automated: the interface updates every time you log on, showing an up-to-date view of all your financial activity
  • Credit score tracking on a continual basis
  • App support across many different devices
  • Easy budgeting and goal setting

Cons at a Glance

  • Some users report problems with the platform synchronizing all their accounts
  • Lack of asset allocation
  • Mint’s investment management features are minimal
  • Manual intervention is often needed to override manual categorization of expenses

Popular Article: Personal Capital vs. Mint – Detailed Ranking & Comparison


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Financial Planning Software 4: Quicken Review


Many financial planning software reviews call Quicken the “gold standard” of personal financial planning. Quicken has been around for decades and is a trusted resource for many people who have been using its services for a long time. 

Values and Philosophy

Quicken is owned by the same parent company as Mint, Intuit. Quicken is Mint’s less beautiful, more investment-centric cousin that focuses on functionality instead of pretty graphs and features.

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Features

Of all of the reviewed financial planning software, Quicken is by far the most comprehensive. Because it is not web-based, it grants users more options than cloud services do. For example, users can write checks directly within the service, instead of having to use their personal banking site.

It also offers robust portfolio management. Within the tool, it allows you to track the performance of multiple stocks and re-allocate assets.

One of its best financial planning features is the ability to pull a suggested budget for different categories of spending from just three months of data. This is especially helpful for people who are just getting started with managing their finances through software.

With Quicken, users can see their financial information through several reports, including account summaries, net worth, and money spending. However, users are unable to create their own custom reports with this feature.

Quicken can be difficult to set up initially, but once you do install it and sync your accounts, its use is fairly intuitive. With the purchase of the software, free phone support is available during normal business hours.

Security

As with Mint, Quicken benefits from the security of parent company Intuit, though Intuit recently put Quicken up for sale.

Information downloaded from banks and other financial institutions is confidential and is not used for anything except updates. Quicken also uses SSL technology and encryption as well as the option to password protect data files.

Pros at a Glance

  • 60-day money back guarantee
  • Portfolio management services that span several different stocks
  • Enhanced security measures
  • You can pay bills directly from the service through Quicken Bill Pay

Cons at a Glance

  • Enhancements and new features are often evolutionary and incremental
  • Cost is more than a lot of web-based programs
  • Can be difficult to set up
  • Inability to customize reporting of your financial information

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Financial Planning Software 5: AceMoney Review


AceMoney is a simple, no-nonsense solution for consumers who need a straightforward approach to their money management. It features a user-friendly interface and the ability to manage money across several platforms, although it does not offer the ability to transfer information for tax purposes.

Values and Philosophy

AceMoney heavily touts that they are the alternative to Quicken and Microsoft Money and that many users switched to their platform after trying the other two financial planning tools.

Features

For $39.99, a download of AceMoney bills itself as a lower-cost alternative to Quicken. This version offers account management across several types of accounts, home budget management with 100 existing spending categories, and multi-currency management across 150 different currencies.

Additionally, investments like 401(k), stocks, and employee stock purchase plans can all be tracked through its interface. Stock quotes are automatically downloaded and updated in the platform.

Its AceMoney Lite feature is a free financial planning tool and can be used by consumers who don’t need access to the vast array of features that the full AceMoney software offers.

Security

As with many other financial planning tools, AceMoney offers secure SSL transfers for your personal information. However, some program features are not password protected. Some consumers, might feel like their information is out in the open, but AceMoney assures users that their privacy shouldn’t be a concern.

Pros at a Glance

  • Once the full version of AceMoney has been bought, users receive free updates
  • Investment management within the platform, as well as continuously updated stock information

Cons at a Glance

  • Doesn’t offer tax preparation integration
  • Data transfer can be tedious
  • Can only be used on one machine and isn’t compatible with several different devices

Bottom Line

At baseline, all of these financial planning tools can help you manage your personal finances and make smarter choices about your money. For overall quality, most financial planning software reviews rate Quicken and Personal Capital as the most holistic services for management; however, it’s up to you to select the service that works best for your needs and goals.  Hopefully the information provided above helps you do just that!

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