Everyone of us are good at a few things, but none of us are good at everything. This is why personal finance software has become so popular in recent years. You may be an excellent engineer, nurse, or teacher, but you may not be so sure of your skills when it comes to budgeting, getting out of debt, saving money, or investing.
Personal finance software can help you in each of these areas, and that’s why they are rapidly becoming so popular.
Sometimes all you need is the introduction of formal structure, and you’ll be able to get control of areas of your finances you haven’t been successful in controlling in the past. Unfortunately, personal finance isn’t a subject that’s taught in high school or college. You have to learn it as you move into adult life. And some of us do need some help in that area.
All you need to do is determine what your greatest personal finance need is, and match it with the best personal finance software for that category. If you can, then you may have found the perfect software for you.
Creating and living within a budget is one of the best ways to avoid bankruptcy. It’s also just about the best way to begin saving and investing money. After all, until you can create extra room in your budget, you won’t have any money to save and invest.
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Personal Capital took top honors on our list because it provides so many different services. It offers a full wealth management service, which will handle complete investment management of various investment accounts. This is a premium service, but Personal Capital also has its free personal finance software.
The free version not only offers the ability to aggregate all your financial accounts on the platform, but it also provides budgeting capability. But maybe even more interesting is the fact that the free version also provides a significant amount of investing advice.
For example, it could help you in managing your overall investments, but also drills down into specifics, such as the fees you’re paying in your 401(k) plan.
Personal Capital may not be the very best in all categories, but it’s a combination of all the services it offers that makes it Number 1.
Much like Personal Capital, Quicken Premier offers both budgeting and investment features. But the platform has a strong emphasis on investments. Unlike Personal Capital, Quicken Premier doesn’t have a free version. But they charge a small annual fee for the service, that includes considerably more investment tools than Personal Capital provides.
In addition to helping you to maximize your investment worth, it also helps you to minimize your taxes. It does this by making sure you’ll get the maximum tax benefits with prepared reports, as well as tracking cost basis and estimated capital gains, to help you make trading decisions.
What makes it so difficult to narrow down a relatively small number of personal finance software plans is the sheer number that are available today. There are dozens, and each has its own specialization or specific flavor. In producing this list, we decided to emphasize the following criteria:
- Personal finance software available specifically for Mac owners
- Software that’s strong in a particular specialization
- Offers different services that would be of interest to most users
- Software costs
- Reviews from other sites (a consistent pattern of less than favorable reviews eliminated certain software)
- Personal experience in using some of the software
Our list of the best personal finance software for Mac was created with these guidelines in mind.
1. Personal Capital
Personal Capital is available for both Windows and Mac. And it’s one of the very best personal finance software ever created. This is because Personal Capital excels in both budgeting and investing.
Budgeting software is available through their Free Personal Software. You can add a variety of different accounts to the platform, including investments, loans, and bank accounts. It offers investment tracking, a retirement planner, a 401(k) fee analyzer, and an investment check-up tool that monitors the health of your investment allocation.
But if you decide you want more specific investment services, such as direct investment management, that’s available through Personal Capital Wealth Management. It provides full management services of your investments in various accounts.
But the downsides of the Wealth Management Service are that it does require a minimum of $100,000 to participate, and it has a high annual management fee 0.89% of funds under management, which is well above the typical range for robo-advisors.
2. Quicken Premier
Quicken Premier offers both budgeting and investing, but it has a strong emphasis in favor of investing. It charges a flat annual fee of $67.49, and it packs a whole lot of investment services in that fee.
Quicken Premier provides an incredible line up of investment tools including:
- Informed buy/sell decisions
- Unrealized gains
- Continuous quotes
- Printable and exportable portfolios
- Investment performance displays
On the budgeting side, Quicken Premier enables you to view balances, budgets, accounts and transactions, track spending trends, and search your transaction history. You can also sync your data across your desktop, web, and mobile devices.
Related: Best Money Management Apps
Mvelopes is primarily a budgeting software. It enables you to connect unlimited accounts, and provides real time budgeting, with automatic transaction syncing so you’ll stay up to date on your spending activity.
But the stand out feature of this software is that you get access to financial coaching.
Every three months, you’ll get a session with a personal finance trainer, who will provide guidance and up-to-the-minute feedback on your progress. This will provide you with live support, which may be exactly the motivation you need.
Mvelopes offers three different plans:
- Basic – $6 per month
- Plus – $19 per month
- Complete – $59 per month
For most people, the Basic service will be sufficient. It provides unlimited envelopes and financial institution accounts, automatic transaction importing and account balance monitoring, live chat and knowledge base, and interactive reports. But if you need help specifically with debt issues, you can sign up for the Plus plan, which has specific debt reduction features.
If you want to maximize direct personal assistance, the Complete plan offers a dedicated personal coach, as well as a personalized financial plan. Coaching sessions are available on a monthly basis.
Related: Best Online Budget Tools
YNAB is one of the most popular budgeting software programs available, and for good reason. They provide you with a simple four step process to manage your money:
- Give Every Dollar a Job: Here you decide what every dollar in your budget will do between now and your next paycheck.
- Embrace Your True Expenses: This step encourages you to prepare for large, future expenses, that way you’re ready before they arrive and they won’t upset your budget.
- Roll With the Punches: This step helps you to prepare for the unexpected. If one budget item will be high, you simply move funds from other envelopes into that one. It enables you to deal with a higher expense category, without upsetting your overall budget.
- Age Your Money: This is one of the features makes YNAB unique in the budgeting software world. This step moves you towards spending money today that you earned last month. That is, it enables you to put your income/checking account one month ahead of your expenses.
YNAB charges $6.99 per month for the service, but not before you get a 34-day free trial. The company claims new budgeters save $600 by the second month, and more than $6,000 the first year by using the service.
Related: Best Budget App for Couples
What makes Banktivity stand out is that its financial software designed specifically for Mac. The company claims customers can save $500 per year and about 40 hours of time by using the app.
Banktivity works by connecting all your financial accounts on the app. In fact, you can connect with more than 14,000 different financial institutions, and the service even enables you to track the value of your home.
Once you sync all the accounts you have, you can create a budget using a digital envelope budgeting system. It will allocate each dollar in your paycheck toward specific spending categories. It includes not only paying expenses, but it also helps you to fund specific goals. For example, you can set up goals to save money for the down payment on a house, to pay off debt, or to purchase a new car.
Banktivity’s newer version is $69.99 and the older version is $64.99. Banktivity comes with a 30-day free trial. The service also comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, as long as you purchase the software online.
TurboTax is a bit different than the other software on this list, in that it doesn’t get involved in budgeting or investing. But it does focus on one critical aspect of personal finance, and that’s preparation of your income tax return. And that’s what TurboTax does better than any other software available.
TurboTax is available for both Windows and Mac, and it’s a service well worth having. Not only does it cost a fraction of what you will pay a professional tax preparer, like a CPA, but it also gives you access to either a CPA or an enrolled agent, if you reach a point in the preparation process where you’re having difficulty.
TurboTax even gives you the option to purchase it’s Audit Defense Package to help you in case you’re audited. But should you decide – halfway through the preparation process – that you can’t complete your return, you can turn it over to a CPA or enrolled agent, who will complete the return by remotely accessing your computer.
It’s the closest thing to having a CPA prepare your tax return, but at a much lower price. And speaking of price, TurboTax offers five different packages, so you can match the service that’s appropriate for the complexity of your return.
We recognize that when it comes to financial software, everyone has goals they hope to accomplish. For that reason, we’ve broken down the specializations where we think each of the six software excel. In most cases, each software serves several purposes, but the areas where each is at least a bit stronger than the others are as follows:
- Best All-around: Personal Capital
- Best for Investment Management: Quicken Premier
- Best for Financial Coaching: Mvelopes
- Best for Budgeting: YNAB
- Best Mac-dedicated app: Banktivity
- Best for Income Tax Preparation: TurboTax
One of the complications in finding the best personal finance software for Mac or for Windows is that exactly which will serve you best will depend on your individual needs. In that regard, you should consider the following factors in making your decision:
- Decide which personal finance category you need the most help with: If it’s budgeting, YNAB or Banktivity may be the most appropriate, since that’s what they specialize in. But if you need the most help with investing, you may want to look carefully at Quicken Premier or Personal Capital.
- Determine how much personal assistance you may need: If you need help from a coach or a financial advisor in managing your budget, Mvelopes can provide it, and may be the natural choice.
- Cost: This is always a factor, but maybe even more important if you’re on a very tight budget. You can consider using a free budgeting software, such as Personal Capital. As your financial situation improves, you may want to move up to a premium service.
- If you already have significant investment assets: Budgeting may not be your primary concern, but investing will be. Quicken Premier and Personal Capital would be the better choice if you were in this category.
- You may need more than one software: That will certainly be true if you do your own taxes, and need to use TurboTax. But you may also want to use YNAB for budgeting, or Quicken Premier for investing.
Part of what complicates the search for the best personal finance software is that there are now so many plans available. You could spend weeks or months searching through the dozens of potential choices that are out there.
It may help to first decide exactly what you expect the software to do for you, so you can narrow the search. For example, if saving money is a priority, you’ll want to narrow your search down to budgeting software that also helps you to set savings goals. If paying off debt is a priority, you’ll want to look for software that specifically helps you with debt reduction strategies.
Over time, your personal financial software needs may change. For example, once you’re out of debt and you have some savings, you’ll probably want to move up to a software that provides investment services.
What this really means is that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to personal finance software. Select the one that works best for you, based on where your financial situation is right now. You can always make a change later, as your circumstances and financial needs change.