By Heather Bryan
Anything from shampoo to a treadmill can be purchased at the touch of a button on a smartphone. It only makes sense money can be managed the same way through an increasing array of mobile apps.
People, particularly millennials, use apps for budgeting, spending, investing and pretty much everything in between. In fact, millennials are coming out ahead of past generations when it comes to saving and investing. According to a study from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 82 percent of millennials put money toward their retirements, with Generation X coming in second at 77 percent and the Baby Boomers next at 75.
Maybe it’s the mere ease of saving or investing at the touch of a button or the fear of record high student loans, but whatever it is motivating them, millennials are looking out for the future.
Financial mobile apps are convenient. Budgeting apps such as Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB) are directly linked to users’ bank statements, notifying how much is being spent in each category. Different programs have different features, such as Mint’s auto option, which keeps track of spending habits and proportionally moves money to savings when affordable.
“That’s one big advantage of apps—it’s making saving and investments more accessible to millennials,” said Swarn Chatterjee, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia.
According to American Bankers Association, millennials are three times more likely to handle their money on their phones than other generations. Considering most millennials have smartphones and have their smartphones on them at all times, banking from a mobile app just makes sense.
“It’s easier than people think it is,” said Erin Valle, a junior journalism major at UGA and YNAB user. “It’s a really important habit to form, and I think more kids our age should get on board with it.”
In addition to budgeting apps, students also use apps to invest in the stock market.
For UGA senior marketing major Lisee Pullara, simply budgeting and putting money away in the bank wasn’t enough. Frustrated with the miniscule interest banks offer on savings, one year ago she chose to invest her savings in various stocks through the mobile app Robinhood.
“I’m up 10 percent right now which is exciting,” Pullara said. “I think my bank was giving me like a penny every once in awhile.”
Despite the convenience, results and good habits these apps foster, there are a few things students would change.
“Because it is partnered with my bank account, it doesn’t necessarily process spending when it happens—it registers it when it’s processed through my bank account,” said Laurel Hiatt, a junior majoring in biochemistry and Spanish. “The only thing is it’s usually a few days behind.”
In addition to the catch-up period, users expressed frustration with the lack of desktop versions and potentially heightened security risks.
Chatterjee said he doesn’t think mobile banking is necessarily any less secure than banking on a desktop. However, there are precautions to take.
“I think when using the online accounts people need to be careful to not use a public network that can be easily accessed,” Swarn said. “The same goes for computers on Wi-Fi…be careful where you’re using it.”
There may be a few tweaks here or there, but overall it seems as though banking apps for smartphones are being well received by students and actually making a difference in their spending and saving habits.
Pullara, Hiatt and Chatterjee agree apps such as Mint and Robinhood are particularly enticing, as they are free to use.
“Mint, I can use for free as a student, which is good because I didn’t want to pay to look at my money,” Hiatt said.
In addition to the app being free of charge, Hiatt has actually found budgeting to be much more freeing than constraining.
“I have the opposite problem from most people, where I’m so afraid of not having enough money that I spend no money at all and live like a hermit…it’s very unhealthy,” Hiatt said. “Because I set out money specifically to do things that are fun, I actually go out and do things that are fun which is pretty exciting.”