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Handy apps, online tools for your financial planning

With apps and websites offering everything from shopping and dining to transport and travel, it’s no surprise that plenty of mobile apps and online services offer personal finance services. From budgeting and investment advice to comparing insurance costs and credit cards, a multitude of new apps offer useful insights to help with financial planning.

The new Apple iPhone SE is displayed at an Apple shop in Tokyo on March 31, 2016.  Photo: AP

The new Apple iPhone SE is displayed at an Apple shop in Tokyo on March 31, 2016. Photo: AP

With apps and websites offering everything from shopping and dining to transport and travel, it’s no surprise that plenty of mobile apps and online services offer personal finance services. From budgeting and investment advice to comparing insurance costs and credit cards, a multitude of new apps offer useful insights to help with financial planning.

With so many options available, the biggest challenge may be choosing which services will actually make your financial life better. Focusing on three areas can be a good start.

COMPARING COSTS

Even before you start monitoring your finances, it is important to figure how much financial services will cost and whether there are opportunities for savings. While it used to be difficult to compare the cost of loans or insurance as well as other services, apps and websites now make comparisons easy.

Basic sites such as GoBear offer easy-to-use screens where consumers can input details about their insurance or borrowing needs and see a list of products that can match their requirements. While sites like this or ones like Cardable for credit cards may have limited information, they are easy to use.

For a little more information, apps and sites such as BankBazaar.sg and MoneySmart.sg offer more details about loans, credit cards, insurance and other financial services as well as how the products actually work. They provide more extensive details about products from large companies as well as pricing

For life insurance specifically, the government partnered with CASE and other organisations to set up compareFIRST, which consumers can use to obtain information about life insurance and compare costs.

By using these or other sites, you can find information you’ll need about product details and costs so that you can develop a budget. While you can also purchase products on some of the sites, it is important to compare costs between sites because some providers may receive commissions and could be tempted to promote certain products.

BUDGET PRUDENTLY

Once you know more about the services and costs, the next step is developing a budget and managing your expenses. There is no shortage of websites and apps for budgeting, so the difficulty may be selecting which one to use.

Basic budgeting sites allow you to set a budget, track income and expenses, and manage your money better. GoodBudget, for example, uses a system of envelopes whereby you categorise your expenses, decide how much you want to spend in each category, put income or receipts into each envelope, and track expenses.

The next level up provides these basic services and then goes further by analysing your finances and helping with planning. Toshl, for instance, says it analyses earnings as well as spending to assist with planning and also has a bill reminder service to help you pay bills on time.

Other sites offer even more bells and whistles. Along with helping set goals and compare income with expenses, sites such as Wally also allows users to scan receipts and get notifications when payments are due or when they reach a target for savings.

While other sites offer even more, such as linking to your bank accounts to the app, some sites are global and not tailored to Singapore. While Mint is very popular and has superb features such as links to bank and retirement accounts, many of the links are specific to the US. It can be preferable to select sites that cater better to needs in Singapore.

INVEST WELL

Once you’ve started budgeting and tracking your finances, you’ll be in a better position to save and invest. Finding apps to help select and manage investments is the next step.

If you only want to put your money in time deposits, sites such as Bankbazaar or Moneysmart.sg provide rates for some deposits. Most banks and brokerage firms here also have their own sites, where you can receive information about services ranging from time deposits to shares or unit trusts, as well as alerts and investment analysis.

While the number of independent financial advisory sites here is still relatively limited, perhaps due partly to restrictions around financial advice, more are starting to pop up. Sites such as TradeHero, for instance, enable investors to learn about investing and practice buying shares or foreign currencies. Services such as WeInvest offer information about everything from deposits to mutual funds and real estate in Singapore, while sites such as Mesitis aggregate information about an investor’s accounts. Along with obtaining education and information, consumers can use apps such as Call Levels to receive alerts when there are significant changes in prices of their investments.

GETTING STARTED

Financial apps and websites like these can indeed improve your financial life through budgeting, investing and saving. While there are plenty more services available, even just these apps or others like them can provide insights on where to start. If you don’t find enough here or elsewhere yet, financial technology (fintech) is such a hot trend that other high-impact financial services apps will undoubtedly pop up before long.

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