Find the best financial planning option for you
Picture yourself at age 67, without a care in the world. Days of leisure lie in front of you.
Can you feel the warm sunshine and cool breeze?
Sadly, not every person gets to enjoy a life of leisure in retirement. The scary truth is many Americans are unprepared for retirement. A report by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that on average, individuals in the age of 56-to-61 bracket had $21,000 in their retirement accounts.
That is not enough to live for a year, much less to retire for years.
If you need financial advice, you can always contact a professional financial advisor, but be careful. You’re putting your retirement and life savings in the hands of another person.
Consider financial planning software. Good software can help you track your finances but also give you sound investment advice. It will help you meet your financial goals so you can buy that boat for retirement or spend your days at the golf course rather than worrying about where your next meal will come from.
Keep reading to learn about what criteria make up good financial planning software and which software is your best bet in 2020.
Ultimately, personal planning financial software can help you plan how to use your finances. Whenever you earn a dollar, you should give that dollar a home, telling the dollar where to go.
Financial planning software is an organized way of giving your dollar home or a label, where you tell it where to go before you spend it.
Thus financial planning software should help you plan a budget.
When you have a budget, you can find ways to save money. You end up with more money in your pocket because you’re telling your money to stay in one area, and you can see how much money you have leftover at the end of every paycheck.
You also end up with the money to save for retirement. If your job does not currently have a retirement-matching plan, you should figure out a way to save for retirement.
Financial advisors do not guess at what will help you earn the most money. They use software that gives them the best projections for your financial future.
Sophisticated financial software helps financial advisors to give their clients advice and to engage their clients. Often, professional financial planning software has tools where a client can log in and see his progress. At the same time, an advisor can recognize when the client has logged in.
This tool engages clients so they can watch their money and communicate more with their advisor because they can see what their money is doing.
With proper financial planning software, you should be able to see two different investments. You should receive historical data on investment, allowing you to see comparisons easily and assess the risk and volatility measures of stocks.
Effective personal financial planning software gives you the ability to backtest a stock. That means you go backing the history of the stock and apply your trading strategy.
This allows you to see the effect of rebalancing your investments or buying and selling to maintain the same amount of risk. Good software will also enable you to see various taxation pictures to understand which investments are truly best for your overall portfolio.
The key to successful software is in its transparency. Whether you’re a financial planner looking for software or someone who wants help investing your money, it should allow you or clients to track dollars. You should see how their dollars are working toward your financial goal and if the projects you’ve invested will help them meet your goals.
Any successful software needs to be user friendly. If the personal financial planning software does so much that a user cannot operate it, it does no good. You will stop using the software if it requires multiple clicks and searching to find information.
User-friendly also means the software will have multiple platforms. You should be able to see your information on a desktop, mobile device, or any smart device.
Great software will only be as good as its security. Your personal financial planning software should have robust security, making sure that your financial information is secure.
Financial Planning Software Options of 2020
The 2020 list of financial planning software has some good throwbacks and some new software. Here is some financial planning software out there for 2020.
If you’re looking for both advice and the freedom to make your own decisions, consider Savvi Financial.
This online investment service provides personalized investment portfolio advice. It does not control your finances, however, it gives you information on the following areas:
- Where to allocate assets
- Where to move money
- How to shift money between accounts
Overall, Savvi appears to work best if you have enough confidence to listen to its advice and follow it. You have to make the decisions still. These are the pros and cons.
- Easy to use: You enter your financial information and goals, and the program does its voodoo. Then you follow the advice the program gives you.
- Holistic approach: The program does not just give advice based on your finances. It looks at your financial situation and goals to give the best advice for you.
- Forward-thinking: The program is focused on generating future cash flow for your specific purposes. It does not focus on a particular portfolio dollar amount.
- Individualized: The software evaluates your investment portfolio and bases its advice on the specifics of your situation. Robo advisors will build their advice around risk tolerance.
- Cost: Savvi has a free version so you can test out the services. The premium plan that you pay for makes sense when you have a portfolio of more than $50,000. You can save in fees when you have an extensive portfolio.
- Features: Savvi has calculators that help you track your employer-sponsored retirement plans.
- Security: Savvi does not take control of your funds, so you have the security of caring for your own money. They also use Secure Socket Layer tech to encrypt their website.
- Customer service: Savvi has customer service available via live chat.
- You have to push the buttons and manage your own money. Savvi just advises you. This means you cannot just sit back and watch your money grow.
- Savvi’s advice is based on exchange-traded funds and mutual funds. The software does not calculate in stocks and other individuals investments you may have.
- Because Savvi doesn’t trade for you, you have to pay trading commissions and additional investment fees. You will also have your annual fee to Savvi if you use their premium version.
- Savvi’s most expensive plan is $29 a month, which is higher than a fee for a typical Robo-advisor with smaller portfolios. Robo-advisor software works better if you have a portfolio of less than $50,000.
As you can see, Savvi works well when you have a more significant portfolio and confidence in the advice the program gives. You are ultimately in charge of your money still.
Quicken is one of the oldest personal financial planner software on the market. It’s used most often as a budgeting tool, but it has some nifty features that allow for wealth building. Here are the pros and cons.
- Cost: It starts at just $34.99. There is no “free” version, but you have a pretty inexpensive, simple software.
- Flexibility: Quicken offers multiple financial planning software solutions, depending on what you want to do with your money. Quicken also has a business feature so you can use it for both business and home finances.
- Budgeting: Quicken helps you plan financially by giving you a platform to create a budget. You can track your spending and bills as well with the basic version. The Premier version helps you do your financial planning.
- Tracking: With Quicken, you can track your loans, investments, and retirement accounts.
- Sage Advice: The premier version comes with portfolio analysis tools such as market comparison and investment planning tools.
In summary, Quicken helps you track your day-to-day spending as well as gives you marketing advice for your investments. You have a whole-money program with it.
- Requires Experience: While Quicken helps the average Joe track his money, the investment advice tends to work well for someone with more finance experience. You should have some understanding of market comparison before you dive into financial planning with Quicken.
So while Quicken works great for tracking all of your money, it is generally a great investment software if you have some experience in comparing markets.
Intuit Mint is a great overall financial planning software for a few reasons. For one, it’s free. Secondly, it has a “big picture” look at your finances.
- Cost: It truly is a free financial planning tool. You can set your monthly budget, track and categorize your expenses, and set up bill-pay reminders for no cost.
- User Friendly: Intuit Mint appears to be user-friendly, allowing you to see all of your financial accounts like your investments, credit cards, loans, and banking information. You can see a big picture at a glance. You also do not have to download any software since Intuit Mint is an online platform.
- Tracking: You can track and categorize your expenses but also can track your investments.
The “big picture” features of Intuit Mint, along with its free price tag, make it an attractive option for financial planning.
- Limitations: Intuit Mint features a bill-paying reminder, but you cannot pay your bills online. Older versions of Intuit Mint had this feature.
- Investments: You can track your investments, but Intuit Mint does not manage your investments for you. You still have to move your money around on your own.
- Internet Required: Intuit Mint is entirely online. It is not a software you download, which means you need to have a constant connection to the internet to use the software.
Personal Capital has enough features that it works well for both experienced financial managers and everyday people who are just learning to invest.
- Cost: Basic financial planning tools with Personal Capital cost nothing. This makes it an excellent program for beginners to try out because they spend nothing to practice investing and money management.
- User Friendly: You can see all of your accounts like banking, retirement, and investment, in one place. The fewer clicks, the easier the software.
- Transparent: The net worth tracker allows you to see at a glance what you are worth.
- Money-Saving: Personal Capital has a built-in tool that helps you see hidden fees. You can also track your goals and see if your spending and savings are helping you meet them.
- Helpful: For a fee, you can use a Robo-adviser wealth management service. The Robo-adviser will help you decide which investment is worth the most for you.
Personal Capital’s free version has everything you need for essential money management and financial planning.
- Cost: With the free version, you get what you pay for. If you’re not as knowledgeable about investing, consider getting some experience or pay for the Robo-advisor.
- AI Tech: The Robo-advisor is not a human. It is AI technology and algorithms that help you invest. So realize that you will not have a human with whom you can discuss your portfolio.
Personal Capital is considered a top financial planning software if you have some experience investing. It costs nothing, but it helps you manage your finances effectively.
Plan and Save
Proper financial planning software ultimately can save you money. Choose one that works best for your experience and comfort level. For more great financial advice, check out our financial resource center.
Additional Student Loan FAQs
How To Get Financial Aid
To apply for federal loans you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some of these loans are based on financial need, such as a Perkins loan. That means that even if you need the loan, you could be denied based on the gross income of your family.
Private loans can be obtained from private financial institutions such as banks and credit unions. To qualify for these loans, you typically need to meet strict requirements. That means having a good credit score and enough income to pay back the loan.
In the case that you don’t meet those requirements, there are alternatives. These might include having a co-signer or applying for bad credit loans that we mentioned earlier.
How To Pay Off Student Loans
The most basic way to pay off a student loan is to do just that: use your income to pay them off. But there are other options.
One of these options is an income-driven repayment plan like an IBR, PAYE, or REPAYE. You can use these repayment programs to repay your federal student loans.
Your payment will be based on several factors, including your discretionary income and the size of your family. One of the benefits of paying back loans this way is that your student loan can be forgiven after some time of repayment.
Two other methods of repaying your loans are consolidation and refinancing.
What Is Consolidating Student Loans?
Consolidating your loan means combining all of your student loan types into one single loan. Only some loans qualify for consolidation, including:
- Stafford loans (both subsidized and unsubsidized)
- Perkins loans
- Direct PLUS loans
- FFEL PLUS loans
- Direct loans (both subsidized and unsubsidized)
- Federal Nursing Student loans
- Health Education Assistance Loans
When you consolidate your loans, you’ll only be required to make a single payment every month. Consolidating also allows you to extend the time you have to repay the loan.
You might consider consolidating when you want to make your monthly payments more affordable. Because you can extend the loan to say, 30 years, the monthly amount you have to pay decreases. Remember that that also means you’ll be paying more in interest.
Another reason you might consider this is if you prefer to have one interest rate. Multiple loans mean multiple interest rates. But consolidating means you’ll have one stable and predictable interest rate for the remainder of your repayment period.
Keep in mind that private lenders may charge a fee for consolidation. Also, you could lose any benefits associated with your original loan terms.
What is Student Loan Refinancing?
This is one of the most efficient ways of paying off your loan. It refers to combining your federal loan, private loan, or both into one loan with a lower interest rate. You can also choose new terms regarding fixed or variable interest rates and get new repayment terms anywhere from 5 to 20 years.
However, you likely won’t qualify for refinancing if your credit score is less than 670. You’ll also need to prove that you have a stable and recurring income.
Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?
Just like any other loan, your student loan will affect your credit score.
If you make your payments on time and regularly, your student loan will help you build good credit. But if you make your payments late, that will negatively affect your score.
With that said, you usually have more time to be late on your payment with student loans. For federal loans, servicers typically wait 90 days to report late payments to credit bureaus. For private loans, servicers can report as soon as 30 days.
Can Student Loans be Forgiven?
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a federal program for forgiving student loans. They’ll forgive all of your student loans if you meet certain requirements. One of those requirements is making 120 monthly payments while working full-time in certain sectors.
To find out if you qualify, you can fill out an Employer Certification Form. That form is available through the U.S. Department of Education. Other programs for loan forgiveness are the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program as well as programs available through the state in which you live.
Do Student Loans Count as Income and Are They Taxable?
The IRS taxes everything from salaries and wages to tips, commissions, dividends, and even income from rental properties. These can all be considered taxable income. However, the IRS doesn’t consider a student loan as income if they must be repaid.
Student loans, grants, and scholarships, therefore, don’t have to be reported on your tax return as income, but there is a student loan interest deduction you can get when you file your taxes. Keep in mind, there are some types of financial aid for students still available including employer-provided tuition assistance, student-athlete stipends, and federal work-study program income.
When Should You Apply For a Student Loan?
The FAFSA must be filled out before a specific time when you’re applying for a federal loan. But these deadlines are generally forgiving. You’ll be able to apply well into the school year if you recognize the need for financial aid a little bit late.
Consider, though, that your school will have a deadline for FAFSA, and that will differ from school to school. To find out when your school’s FAFSA deadline is, you should contact the financial aid office of your institution.
When it comes to private loans, you should apply for these only when you’ve maxed out what you qualify for under federal loan programs. After filling out the FAFSA form, your financial aid office will tell you what grants, loans, and work-study funds you qualify for. If that’s not enough to help you pay for tuition, supplies, and living expenses, then consider looking for a private loan to help cover those additional costs.
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