No matter who you are, what your annual household income is, or where you live, budgeting is a crucial skill. Budgeting can help you recognize where your money is going, curb excessive spending, build better saving habits, and move you more effectively towards your retirement or other long-term financial goals.
The right financial planning software can help make budgeting easier and can help you visualize your expenses more effectively. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best financial planning software currently available on the market along with more information on how to recognize the next great financial planning program.
Quick Look: The Best Financial Planning Software
Characteristics of Great Financial Planning Software
Before you commit, make sure the program addresses the following:
Features That Fit Your Needs
The best financial planning software programs appeal to a niche segment of the market. They nail down what it is that they want to do and they perfect these features instead of spreading themselves too thin.
That being said, not all financial planning programs will fit the need of every individual or company.
For example, if you’re a business owner or independent contractor who’s constantly recording expenses, you’ll need a more in-depth categorization system than someone who just wants to spend a little less on takeout every month. Thoroughly read through your financial planning software’s list of features to ensure that it has everything you need and doesn’t have so many extra features that it’s overwhelming.
Financial planning software is supposed to make your life easier, not add extra learning steps to your to-do list. The best financial planning software programs combine functionality with fashion, offer a simple and aesthetically pleasing design that’s easy to use and navigate.
Check out a few YouTube tutorials from vloggers who have experience with the software to see just how user-friendly the program is in real time.
Do you to budget on-the-go? If you’re a frequent traveler, tracking and planning your finances on the road may be a necessity.
The best financial planning software programs offer mobile compatibility in the form of complementing iOS and Android that mimic the functions and features of desktop versions.
Some software manufacturers have even ditched the desktop altogether and only offer mobile use, though these programs are inherently limited in their offerings.
The Best Financial Planning Software of This Year
Based on the criteria above, we’ve compiled a list of the top financial planning software you can use.
1. Personal Capital
Who’s it for? Beginning-to-intermediate planners who want an affordable way to coordinate their accounts
Price: Free, premium features vary
Personal Capital is an account aggregation software that offers users a single solution to coordinate multiple bank accounts. You can move between bank accounts with a single click or swipe and the software also offers comprehensive retirement planning advice (including a calculator to determine how much you need to save annually to retire on time), a fee calculator to identify where you’re losing money on overdraw and late fees, and budgeting tools that allow you to organize expenses by date, type, and transaction amount.
Personal Capital offers both desktop and mobile app compatibility, which makes it simple to track cash flow and expenses no matter where you go. Personal Capital’s software is free, but you’ll need to pay an additional fee to access some of its wealth management tools.
Personal Capital’s desktop, mobile, and tablet interface. Source: PersonalCaptial.com
Who’s it for? Intermediate-to-advanced planners
Price: Software packages start at $34.99 for an annual subscription
Quicken’s financial planning software packages offer a comprehensive set of tools, from budget creation to debt tracking and even investment coaching and advising.
More advanced users will love Quicken’s Excel compatibility which allows them to perform calculations and quickly import data into Quicken’s system. The software’s corresponding app is also powerful, mirrors compatibility from the desktop platform and even allows users to send and pay bills on the road—unlike some other tools, which water down functionality on the mobile platform.
Quicken is one of the more expensive personal finance management options on the list; software packages start at $34.99. However, for hands-on personal planners and independent contractors who want to take a more proactive role in their financial health, Quicken’s suite of tools may be worth the investment.
Quicken’s budgeting platform. Source: Quicken.com
Who’s it for? Personal finance who prioritize their mobile experience
Popular among millennials, the Mint app has attracted over 20 million users in just over a decade of operation thanks to its easy-to-use platform and hands-off approach to investing.
Mint allows you to input your banking and credit card information, and the software automatically analyzes your finances and pinpoints areas in which you can cut back to save money. The software also helps keep users accountable by allowing them to enable alerts and push notifications for things like low balances, incoming minimum bill payment dates and overdraft notices, which can help you avoid paying expensive late fees or accruing interest on credit cards.
Mint’s software is totally free and available on both desktop and mobile.
While the platform offers only simple budgeting and finance tools, its simple design makes it easy for even new budgeters to get started. Mint is best used by younger investors, personal finance newbies, and those who frequently find themselves racking up late fees or interest because they have trouble keeping track of all of their accounts.
Mint’s mobile interface. Source: Mint.com
Who’s it for? Those looking for a low-cost tax preparation option that offers additional support and features
Price: Free, but premium feature prices vary
Okay, most people probably won’t need TurboTax during the majority of the year, but the tool earned its place on our list for its powerful use during tax season.
TurboTax’s fluid and intuitive design makes entering your tax information easy—the software even offers iPhone and Android compatibility, which allows you to snap photos of your W-2 forms to quickly enter the information automatically. If you’ve used TurboTax before to file your taxes, the software offers intra-version compatibility and remembers much of the information you’ve entered from previous years to speed up the filing process.
TurboTax offers a free version of its software if you only need to file a Federal 1040EZ or 1040A, but paid versions offer more tools for entrepreneurs and contractors.
TurboTax Plus software offers assistance from a certified public accountant or enrolled agent to give your personalized advice and can help you maximize your deductions by analyzing expenses and taking advantage of deductibles and credits you may not know about. Paid versions of TurboTax also offer audit protection for an additional fee.
TurboTax’s interface. Source: Turbotax.intuit.com
5. Money Tree
Who’s it for? Professional planners, advisors, or business owners who need a powerful desktop platform
Price: Starts at $495 for an annual subscription
Primarily used by bankers, business owners, and financial advisors, Money Tree offers functional flexibility and professional-grade tools at an affordable price.
Money Tree’s Silver offering covers most professional needs and can be used to track progress towards retirement planning, estate management, and education plans. Money Tree’s programs allow you to run “what if” scenarios, so you can see projected results years down the line by adjusting stock and investment variables.
Money Tree also offers goal and cash-flow based planning, which can be useful when managing assets for a number of clients at different income levels at once. While Money Tree’s software is easy to use and consistently ranks high with the non-techy crowd, its offerings may be too comprehensive for users who are looking for more simple financial planning tools or budgeting apps.
Additionally, Money Tree does not offer mobile compatibility.
6. MoneyGuide Pro
Who’s it for? Professionals who want advanced features and a fun client experience
Price: Prices start at $1,295 for an individual annual subscription
MoneyGuide Pro is a powerful yet user-friendly tool for the professional who needs to track and categorize expenses for a client but who finds standard Excel spreadsheets boring and unengaging.
MoneyGuide Pro’s platform is designed to show clients the fun side of finance. One of its most unique offerings is the “Play Zone,” where clients can change portfolio options to see the projected effects. The software keeps the “tough stuff” behind the scenes, giving the financial advisor control over what the client sees and what decisions he or she can make. MoneyGuide Pro also offers a less intensive myMoneyGuide version, which is designed to be used as a sales presentation tool.
MoneyGuide Pro offers a wide range of functionality but is designed for use by financial advisors. Casual budgeters and planners who are tracking their own finances will likely find MoneyGuide Pro’s suite of tools overwhelming, and most beginner and intermediate budgeters would be better off with a simpler choice. However, for the seasoned money management professional, MoneyGuide Pro offers a powerful teaching tool that can help make budgeting and financial planning easier to understand for clientele and also makes life easier for the planner.
MoneyGuide Pro’s platform. Source: Moneyguidepro.com
Who’s it for? Professional financial advisors who like a cash flow-based approach
Price: Inquire for rates
Advicent offers a host of tools for financial advisors but its NaviPlan software suite is by far the most useful for planning purposes.
NaviPlan makes it easy for advisors to quickly flip through the portfolios of multiple clients and uses a cash-flow based approach to manage retirement savings, contributions, debt, and other liabilities. Much like MoneyGuide Pro, Advicent is designed with the financial professional in mind and is not suitable for casual financial planners managing their own expenses.
However, for financial advisors looking for a one-stop-shop for all their analysis and planning needs, NaviPlan is a powerful tool.
Advicent’s platform. Source: Advicent.com
Forget expensive financial advisors. The digital age has made it easier than ever to handle your own financial planning. These days, you can even plan your own retirement from the palm of your hand or from the comfort of your home office. Choose a financial planning tool or take a course on investing and you’ll get your budget in order and take control of your household’s financial health.