Millennials get a bad rap for not caring about their futures. But according to a recent report, seven in 10 said they would give up the Internet for a month in exchange for an extra $1,000 in their savings account.
Considering we live in a world where an event hasn’t happened unless there are Instagrams to prove it and a relationship isn’t serious until it’s Facebook official, saying sayonara to social networks is a big deal.
The reason behind the push to save? People in their twenties today entered the workforce at the height of the recession, which stressed the importance of being financially stable and secure, says Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, a financial planning company. Millennials also carry more student debt than any previous generation, says Erik Almon, a certified financial planner at Society of Grownups, an organization dedicated to helping adults manage their money.
Most millennials get that they should save money, but it’s hard to know where to start and who to trust. “I see a lot of avoidance,” says Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, a money coach and founder of Knowing Your Worth. “Rather than face the numbers—whether it be with spending, credit, or debt—it can feel easier to avoid money all together.”
Luckily there is a whole slew of apps and services to help 20-somethings grow their savings. We asked several financial experts to dish on their favorites.
The Best (Free!) Tools to Grow Your Savings
This personal finance company was started in the midst of the recent recession to help young Americans better manage their money. Its free app allows you to link your bank accounts, track your spending habits, set up a budget, and determine your goals. The platform makes it easy to do a daily “money minute,” von Tobel’s term for finding a slice of time in your day to quickly check in on your finances and see how you’re progressing toward your goals. “We believe that visualizing your progress can give you the momentum you need to instill smart money habits,” she says.
Similar to LearnVest, this money managing app securely connects your financial accounts, automatically organizes and categorizes your expenses, and helps you create a budget. You can also check your credit score, receive bill reminders, and get customized tips for reducing fees and saving money based on your spending habits.
Want to see the nitty-gritty of your day-to-day cash flow? This app acts as a money meter that analyzes how you spend your money, from your coffee habit to your penchant for buying rounds for friends at the local bar. “It really empowers folks to take a look where they’re spending money and be deliberate about whether they want to be doing that or save for a goal that might be more important to them,” Almon says.
This is the perfect app for people who want someone else (in this case, a robot) to do the saving for them. Digit monitors your income and spending habits and then stashes small amounts of money every few days (or whenever it thinks you won’t miss it) into a savings account. It comes at zero cost and zero effort, and you probably won’t notice the money missing from your checking account anyway.
Think investing is only for people with stacks of cash in the bank? Think again. This app rounds up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and invests the difference into a diversified stock portfolio. Once you earn $5, the money can be transferred into your Acorns savings account. The service is free for anyone under 24. Once you hit your quarter-life crisis, you’ll be charged $1 per month, so long as your account keeps a balance of less than $5,000.
This finance software is equipped to handle your bank accounts, budgets, and bills. Plus, it comes with a built-in tool to help users get out of debt (though you don't need to be in debt to use it!). The software also generates reports that give you a deeper understanding of how your spending compares to your earning.
Have you started thinking about your retirement? That probably seems like a crazy question for a 20-something, but it’s good to know tools like FeeX exist. “This is a great, free website to check the fees on your retirement accounts,” Gerstley says. “You just plug in your retirement account information, and they make suggestions to cut the cost of fees in your portfolio.”
Yes, mom was right when she said you need a budget. But this software makes it super easy to track spending habits and form a plan by giving every dollar you make a job (Is it going to pay for rent or that doctor’s bill?). It can even help you determine if you should avoid an impulse buy and save the money for later. The software comes with a one-month free trial before they make you pony up and pay the $60 fee.
Now you have the tools to set aside some money, but what are you saving that moolah for anyway? Achieving financial security involves a three-pronged approach, von Tobel says. Establish an emergency fund (roughly equivalent to six months of take-home pay in case of a job loss or other unforeseen event), pay off credit card debt, and save for retirement. While tackling these goals simultaneously can be overwhelming, neglecting one area can hurt your entire financial situation. Taking small steps, such as setting up a budget, taking advantage of your company’s 401(k) match program, and opening a high interest savings account, are easy ways to get started.
Money matters can be confusing and scary, but you don’t have to do it alone. “When trying to set fitness goals for yourself, it’s helpful to work with a coach or a buddy,” Almon says. “The same thing works for savings.” Whether that buddy is a helpful app, your best friend, or a financial expert is up to you.