Published February 17, 2017|7 min read
Updated, May 17, 2019: You use apps for everything: Ordering food, signing up for gym classes, banking, playing games, learning new languages, cooking dinner. You can hardly live without your phone. It’s a modern day Swiss army knife, and even after you move away from your parents and kick your kids out of the house, you figure you’ll have a phone by your side well into your golden years.
What if your phone didn’t just enter retirement with you, but helped you get there, too? Using an app to help track your retirement accounts makes it easy to see how decades-long investments are doing, and they provide a quick and easy way to make sure your retirement is on track which will set your mind at ease. But which one is the right one for you? We take a look at three of the most popular: SigFig Portfolio Tracker, Personal Capital Finance, and Schwab Workplace Retirement to help you find your ideal fit.
Using an app to help manage your money isn’t anything new. And software has been an integral part of money management since Quicken and TurboTax launched decades ago.
New ways to track your retirement accounts are popping up every day, and being able to check up on them where and when you want is important because, as you approach retirement, your margin for error is smaller and your future self is on the line.
When you’re using other apps, it’s usually in the context of managing your budget or actively investing in things like stocks or exchange-traded funds. You want to make sure everything is on track, but you also have a chance to course-correct if anything goes wrong. Blow your budget on that new cookie dough restaurant that opened next door to your office? It’s OK, you can make changes next month. Stock market plunge? History shows it’ll balance out.
In fact, having these apps helps you realize where things have gone off the rails. They allow you to make changes and get back on track well before you feel like you have to recalibrate or start over.
When you’re retired, by definition you don’t have employment income coming in. You’re working with what you’ve saved up, whatever continues to make money during retirement, and any additional streams of money (like Social Security). You don’t really have the extra money to make up for huge mistakes, or even the time to let things balance out. That’s why it’s extremely important to track your retirement investments, even well before you actually retire: You want to see surprises beforehand so you can fix them, not have to address them when you’re supposed to be relaxing after paying your dues.
At the same time, almost paradoxically, you’ll also have a lot of different income streams when you’re retired. While you mostly live off of your salary when you’re working, retirement is when you take all of the different accounts you’ve been building over the years – 401(k)s, IRAs, mutual funds, Social Security – and actually use them. You need to make sure you know where all of your available income is coming from so you know how to best use them.
Having an app that you can check from anywhere with an internet connection makes it simple to ensure that you’re on the right track at all times. But the sheer number of apps can be overwhelming. We’re going to try to steer clear of any all-purpose budgeting apps (you can read about those here, here, and here – seriously, there’s a lot out there and we’ve covered them all), but here are the best apps dedicated to tracking your retirement investments.
Best for: Seamless tracking with the option for upgrading to robo-adviser investments
You know robo-advisers? Those algorithmically-powered robots that print money for you so you don’t have to talk to another person ever again? OK, just kidding, that’s not what they do.
Robo-advisors here are a way way to automate your investing, whether you’re a beginner or already have a portfolio in place. SigFig offers robo-advisoer-style services, helping you put in place an investment plan based on how risk averse you are, just like other robo-advisers. But SigFig also has a Portfolio Tracker, and that’s what we’re going to take a closer look at in this article.
Our partner ConsumersAdvocate can help you find the best robo-adviser for you. (FYI: We may receive compensation when you click on the map below.)
While the SigFig investment tools have fees involved, the Portfolio Tracker is free, supported by the money made from their managed accounts.
SigFig’s Portfolio Tracker lets you sync all of your brokerage accounts from over 80 sources, either automatically or manually, so you have everything in one place. You can see growth of everything, in aggregate or as separate accounts, and even see news articles relating to your investment.
Best of all, syncing your accounts go SigFig is simple. I was able to add accounts from multiple brokerage firms in literally just a few seconds (helped by the fact that my account login information is held by a password manager). No one wants a service that’s more complicated to use than it’s worth, so the fact that this is seamless is a huge plus.
SigFig pulls all of your accounts into one place, and also shows how it matches up against its potential. Does it match your risk tolerance? Is it diversified enough? How can it be better? Which funds are overly expensive?
Of course, the SigFig’s main goal is to get you to improve your retirement investments through their services. But Portfolio Tracker never feels like it’s a half-baked attempt at making you spend money on SigFig’s other products; it’s a fully fledged retirement account tracking service that can give you a holistic view of all of your investments. If you happen to see something that SigFig offers that you like, you can take the next steps if you want.
SigFig provides the data behind services like USA Today Money and CNNMoney. While those can be great sites to use as resources for your retirement accounts, why not go straight to the horse’s mouth?
Best for: Investors who want a whole suite of other account tools
Personal Capital brings several specialized tools to the table, and it’s worth looking at each one individually.
First is their Investment Checkup. This helps you make sure that your investments are on track. After adding your account(s), you’ll be shown portfolio rebalancing suggestions, target recommendations, comparison and projects, and allow you to review your risk to make sure your investments are right for you.
There’s also a 401(k) fee analyzer. The average American household loses up to $155,000 to 401(k) fees over a lifetime. Personal Capital lets you see how much you’re losing to hidden fees. Their 401(k) charts show how much you’ve contributed, how much you’ve earned, and the fees you’ve paid – ie, how much you could have earned. It’s a pretty effective way of showing you just how much you’re losing out on.
It’s easy enough to look at all of your accounts and see how each of them is doing. It can be hard to see how they’re working together, even if you average out their growth. Personal Finance has introduced the You Index, which combines the performance of all of your individual accounts into a single number. The You Index is "the performance of all of your current stock, ETF, and mutual fund holdings for which we are able to retrieve a current price on a public market, extrapolated backward." It’s handy alternate way to view your finances (albeit one that’s really only applicable to how Personal Capital calculates your score).
Finally, Personal Capital has a retirement calculator. A lot of companies have retirement calculators, but Personal Capital’s – which can calculate your expected monthly income and projected Social Security distributions – is especially valuable when used with the other tracking tools.
Like SigFig, Personal Capital has some element of upselling – in this case, to their advieor services – but also like SigFig, the app is completely useable without shelling out a penny for their specific products.
Best for: Consumers who already bank at Schwab and/or just want straightforward retirement account tracking
The Schwab Workplace Retirement app is pretty straightforward. It has fewer robo-adviser influences of the previous apps we’ve discussed, and is more of a back-to-basics tracking app. But sometimes that’s all you need, right?
Some people don’t want or need a lot of bells and whistles; they’d rather have something closer to a spreadsheet than an interactive experience. No one should be pushed out of the retirement tracker market because other apps serve to simply complication the process. If you want an easy, straightforward way to have all of your retirement account performances in one place, Schwab Workplace Retirement will do what you need it to do.
The other main benefit of the Workplace Retirement app is that it’s already integrated into the Schwab ecosystem. If you already do a lot of your banking with Schwab, you’ll feel right at home and be able to easily have all of your major banking and retirement tracking done in one place.
Even if you don’t use Schwab, or still have accounts in other places, Workplace Retirement can be a valuable tool. Their retirement calculator is one of our favorites because of its quick, financial advisery-style Q&A; retirement assessment, so having your tracking tool under the same roof as your calculator is extremely useful.
No matter what app you use – or, heck, if you don’t use an app at all – it’s important that you track your retirement accounts in some way. The last thing you want is for 20 years to go by and you don’t really know what’s happening with your investments, what happened with them in the past, or what’s expected to happen to them in the future. Taking charge of your retirement is just a finger tap away.
What’s your favorite app for tracking your retirement accounts? Let us know in the comments!
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