Now that 2017 is behind us (for better or for worse), it’s time to sit back and examine the trends that shaped the personal finance sphere, as well as considering what may lie ahead of us in 2018.
As we look back at 2017, one thing is resoundingly clear: This was the year that fintech really took off.
Top Trend: The Rise of Fintech
What is fintech? Simply put, it’s financial technology – the products and services (usually online) that help us do everything from managing our budgets to paying our bills, to even investing our cash.
Once upon a time, these sorts of technological services were available only to banks and major financial institutions. But now, thanks to the internet and smartphones, we’ve got access to them literally in our pockets.
Personal Capital is an excellent personal finance app that syncs your spending, saving and investing accounts. It's easy to use, plus it's free! Personal Capital has a powerful feature that completes a thorough checkup of your investment portfolio. However, its Wealth Management service, is more expensive than other robo advisors.
- Complete View of Your Finances
- Powerful Investment Checkup
- Support via Many Apps
- The You Index
- Easy to Use
- Custom Allocation of Unknown Assets
- Great Reporting
- All-Inclusive Wealth Management Fee
- Asset Allocation Is Not Customizable
- Budgeting Tool Needs Improvement
- Cannot Reconcile
- Expensive Wealth Management Service
- High Minimum for Wealth Management
- No Import Option From Quicken
Here at Investor Junkie, we’ve reviewed some of the biggest names in personal finance technology. There’s Personal Capital, which can help you monitor your investments, and YNAB, which is perfect for folks who simply need to start budgeting. That’s not to forget about Mint, which is a bit of a workhorse when it comes to tracking your investments and also managing and paying your bills, or the granddaddy of them all, Quicken (we’ll talk about how this product is embracing the Internet Age in just a moment).
Fintech isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, either. There’s big money in this industry. According to a report by CB Insights, venture capital-backed fintech companies – we’re talking startups – raised about $5.2 billion in the second quarter of 2017 alone.
You Need A Budget (YNAB) is one of the more popular budgeting apps on the market, and for good reason. It costs very little and has great synchronization features. Although YNAB doesn't track your investments, it excels at creating and managing your budget.
- YNAB Is All About Budgeting
- Goes Beyond the Mechanics of Budgeting
- Low Cost
- YNAB Continues to Evolve
- No Phone or Email Contact
- Not a One-Stop Shop for All Things Financial
- Lacks Two-Factor Authentication
As you can imagine, these disruptive companies have the big institutions quaking in their boots. That’s why, in 2017, we saw plenty of merger and acquisition activity, along with partnering up, in this space.
It’s a given that this trend will continue in 2018 and beyond.
Here are some of the other trends we saw in 2017 that we expect to continue in the future.
Mobile Is Everything
Among the personal finance companies that we reviewed and discussed in 2017, we’ve noticed that mobile is everything.
That’s a bit of a no-brainer. After all, the Center for American Progress reports that adults in nine states and the District of Columbia now have more cellphones than bank accounts. So of course more and more financial activity is going to happen via smartphone.
In 2017, we reviewed a product called Penny that’s available only through your cellphone. Penny is primarily a budgeting app that uses a chatbot (another cool tech thing!) to talk to you about your financial health and spending patterns. But in 2017, the app took a step into investing.
Throughout the course of your conversations with the app, Penny will evaluate your financial situation and – when it deems you’re ready – suggest that you start investing with either Wealthfront or Acorns. (Here at Investor Junkie, we like both of these robo-investing products a lot.)
One of the things we’ve noticed with the dominance of mobile banking is that the days of account reconciliation are over. Because we can monitor our accounts online whenever and wherever we want, we no longer have to sit down with our statements and make sure everything is as it should be.
Bill Management Makes Bill Paying Better
Another hot trend for 2017 was bill management. Some personal finance apps can now not only help you keep track of your bills – when they’re due, how much, and how they fit into the grand scheme of your budget – but they can also actually pay them for you.
So if you find paying your bills every month a big pain in the neck, don’t worry: There’s an app for that.
Mint.com is a personal finance app that can help you manage your financial accounts. Its Mint Bills feature will notify you of your upcoming accounts and even automatically pay them for you. All you have to do is link your accounts to the app. Best of all, Mint is free.
Free personal finance app Mint can make budgeting, expense tracking and online bill paying easy. It can even track your credit score. However, when it comes to investing, there are many more sophisticated products, and users have complained about problems with the bank synchronization functions.
- Weekly Summaries via Email
- Alerts via Email or SMS
- Budgeting and Goal Setting
- Automatic Downloaded Transactions
- Credit Score Tracking
- Two-Factor Authentication
- Bill Notification and Payment
- Lack of Investing Features
- Synchronization Issues
- Lack of Report Generation
- No Reconciliation
- No Import Option From Quicken
Two-Factor Authentication Adds a Layer of Security
One of the unfortunate trends we’ve seen in the world of finance is the rise of scams and identity theft. From 2015 to 2016, incidence of financial fraud rose by 16%, and although new figures haven’t been released yet, I’m sure that increase carried over into last year.
Fintech companies have been fighting this epidemic by introducing two-factor authentication to their security measures. This involves requiring not only a username and password when you log in but also something that only you would have access to – usually, a piece of unique information or a physical token of some sort. (Receiving a one-time code via text message to enter is an example of two-factor authentication.)
Here are some personal finance apps currently offering two-factor security:
- Personal Capital
- Quicken for Mac
- Quicken for Windows
- Status Money
The Subscription Model Has Taken Over
Remember the old days when you’d go to Babbage’s at the mall and buy a box of floppy disks? Software has certainly come a long way since then.
Now a lot of companies are switching to online-based models for selling their software, offering access either through the cloud or with a subscription-based model.
If you’ve purchased Microsoft’s Office Suite lately, you’ve probably noticed this. I pay per month to have access to this much-used bundle.
But the subscription model has found popularity in financial software, as well. And many users were a bit surprised last year when Quicken completely made the leap.
As we mentioned earlier, Quicken is the granddaddy of personal finance software. But now it can only be purchased through a subscription.
Previously, Quicken editions were valid for up to three years. But now You can only access it as long as you pay your subscription fees. One of the benefits to this switch is that, while before you could have users working with three annual editions of Quicken at the same time (a tech support nightmare), now everyone is on the same version.
Amazon is currently charging $159.99 for 27 months. That works out to just $5.93 per month – and Quicken is still worth that. (Of course, there are now free personal finance apps on the market, but that’s another story.)
Quicken for Windows remains the gold standard for personal finance software. It has the most comprehensive features and functions on the market. And it offers strong budgeting, bill pay and investment monitoring features. However, it's not your best choice if you want mobile app access.
- Most Comprehensive
- Strong Portfolio Management
- Bill Pay
- Robust Budgeting
- Improved Mobile App
- Unknown Future
- Synchronization Issues for Some Users
- Poor Customer Service
- Required to Use Desktop Software
What trends did you notice in 2017? And what do you thing the future for personal finance services will be?