3 Great Tools for Financial Planning

When it comes to financial planning, most of us do not need fancy investments or expensive advisors. I have always believed that simplicity is the key to success, it's no different when managing your finances and planning for the future. These free financial services will help you improve your financial future.

Financial Management Apps

I’ve written about the Mint application before and my previous praise still stands. On mint.com you will find a powerful financial planning and management tool that will aggregate all of your financial information in one place. This allows you to get a clear snapshot of your personal finance at any given time.

The software automatically pulls data from your bank, broker, retirement account and any other financial services that you use. Mint uses this data to track your income and expenses and provides alerts and advice depending on your situation. Lastly this program allows you to create a monthly budget and track your progress immediately. I highly recommend this financial planning tool.

Retirement Planning Software

Smart Money’s Retirement Planner is a awesome tool that enables you to calculate your financial needs for retirement. For the most part the program is straight forward, however it’s not as intuitive as I would like. This retirement planner enables you to determine what your finances would look like under a variety of scenarios; this is also known as sensitivity and risk analysis.

When using this application to help in the development of your retirement plan take a careful look at the pre-retirement savings rate, post-retirement spending, tax rate and inflation assumptions that you use. In financial planning it’s always a good idea to overestimate expenses and underestimate income. This ensures you develop conservative estimate.

Automated Banking Programs

Over the past 20 years, banks have invested billions of dollars into their information technology systems. Despite the fact that there can be negative impacts to automating some banking and investment functions, there are a couple great capabilities worth mentioning.

Direct Deposit- In addition to the previously mentioned apps, I’m also a huge fan of direct deposit. My  advocation  of direct deposit is due to the ability to create an automatic savings plan. By setting up a couple of different bank accounts you can easily save money by allocating a percentage of your paycheck to go to a “savings” only account. This way you never see or are tempted to spend your growing nest egg.

Online Brokers- The shift to online investment brokers also has a few pros and cons. By setting up an online brokerage account you can easily transfer money to and from your bank account. Like direct deposit, you can also set up automatic investment transfers which could help you increase your savings and investment account without the headache of filling out a bunch of forms.

I hope this article helps you develop a sound financial plan and improve your financial future. I personally use all of the financial planning tools listed here, so if you have any questions just leave them in the comments below.