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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 3/31/2017

The App Store is saturated with tools for helping you keep track of your budget, spending, income, credit score, and more. However, each app is different, offering varying levels of user-friendliness, security, and helpful features. We've built a list of the most useful apps for keeping track of your finances--from budgeting and paying bills, to learning about investing and credit, these apps have you covered.

Mint

Mint is the juggernaut of budgeting apps. You can securely sync all of your bank accounts, loan accounts (credit card, student loans, etc.) and even income accounts like PayPal. Once you've logged in, Mint does most of the work for you. In fact, just yesterday I got a notification from Mint that I was charged extra for my gym membership. In the app or from the website you can design your own personalized budget that includes things like food, shopping, groceries, gas, etc. When you make a purchase with one of your linked cards, Mint automatically sorts the purchase into the correct category. Aside from budgets, Mint also helps you set up a timeline for paying your debts. It shows you how long it will take at your current monthly payment amount and tells you how much you would save in interest by paying it off faster.

PocketGuard

PocketGuard is like a sleek, minimal version of Mint. However, its main strength, as the name suggests, is security. It boasts several barriers to identity theft and complicated and technical security measures that we won't get into here (we're talking 128-BIT SSL encryption). PocketGuard is also simpler than Mint, both in terms of content and display. Plus, you won't see as many advertisements for credit cards that Mint so slyly sneaks into just about every screen you view.

Home Budget with Sync

The name's a little awkward, we know. But they added that "with Sync" in there for a reason. Home Budget's most redeeming feature is that it allows you to sync up with other budgets in your household (your spouse, roommate, etc.). This makes it much easier for couples who are splitting bills to keep track of their expenses and savings. One piece of advice is to choose what you share wisely. Not everyone wants to share all of their personal finance information with others.

You Need a Budget

You Need a budget, or as its many happy customers call it, YNAB, is a whole lot more than just a way to keep track of your money. It boasts several learning resources that empowers you with financial knowledge. Where other apps just let you plug in numbers, YNAB teaches you what all of those numbers mean and helps you make more informed decisions with your money. YNAB is created with the intention of reducing your financial stress. It has simple videos, instructables, and more to help you learn the ins and outs of budgeting. Then it helps you build your own budget and stick to it with many of the same features as Mint or PocketGuard.

Personal Capital

If you're ready for the big leagues of finance and want to start investing and tracking your assets, Personal Capital will help you get there. This app is designed for managing and analyzing assets. The app's main features are broken into categories: cashflow, retirement, investing, and net worth. The outstanding feature here is investing. It simplifies investing, checks up on your investments, and gives you useful tips that will help you get your toes wet in the investment world.




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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 4/15/2016

It is a great time to be a real-estate investor. If you are looking to jump in the investor market low home prices and low interest rates make this a great time. According to Zillow.com. the real-estate market is starting to recover: U.S. houses lost $489 billion in value during the first 11 months of 2009, but that was significantly lower than the $3.6 trillion lost during 2008 and things only continue to look up. While the timing may be right, you will need to have all your ducks in a row. An investment purchase is different than your typical purchase. Consider your options. Have a strategy and know what kind of investor you would like to be. Ask yourself if you want to be a landlord, or are you planning on flipping or restoring and reselling properties. What types of properties are you interested in? There are many choices from land, to apartment buildings, residential housing and other commercial real estate. Partner with experience. Real estate agents experienced in investment property deals know what to look for in a deal. You may also want to consider asking a more experienced real-estate investor for advice. If you plan on becoming a landlord make sure to familiarize yourself with the local laws regarding being a landlord. Location, location, location. If you buy a property with hopes of renting it out, location is key. Homes in high-rent or highly populated areas are ideal; stay away from rural areas where there are fewer people and a small pool of potential renters. Also, look for homes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms in neighborhoods that have a low crime rate. Also think about potential selling points for your property. If it's near public transportation, shopping malls or other amenities, it will attract renters, as well as potential buyers if you decide to sell later. The more you have to offer, the more likely you are to please potential renters. Have capital lined up. Speak to potential lenders or a financial planner about what you will need for assets and cash flow. You will need to have enough assets to handle the ups and downs that could come with investing. Most experts suggest a fallback of about six months of mortgage payments for landlords. You will need this in case or vacancy or repairs. If you're planning to fix up a home and sell it, you will need reserves to cover the costs to maintain the home while it is on the market. Becoming a real-estate investor is much different than being a residential homebuyer. A buying decision is a business decision not one based on emotions.