Budgeting for retirement? Here are 3 apps that can help!

Budgeting for retirement? Here are 3 apps that can help!

Our very first Sound Stewardship Principle is “Live within your means.” This principle is the great leveler! Everybody has to do it, no matter your income, otherwise stuff goes bad fast. If you’ve ever been surprised by your credit card bill or stuck making no progress on your goals, you know the pain of living without a budget. You can’t build financial confidence and contentment without creating realistic spending guidelines—and sticking to them. Someone in your household needs to be tracking what’s coming or going every week, whether you’re budgeting for retirement or another big life goal (like education funding, purchasing a home, increasing your generosity or making a career change). 

I’m 50 years old now, and I’ve been budgeting since I was 14—my obsession with budgeting might be more of an affliction than a blessing! Your ability to be a meticulous budgeter usually comes down to how your brain is wired. Our clients tend to either be financial nerds—people who geek out on spreadsheets and don’t need much coaxing to budget—or free spirits—people who have a much harder time getting excited about tracking their spending. Sometimes business owners will spend all their financial nerd energy at work and act more like free spirits with their personal budgeting!

It doesn’t matter which end of the nerd-to-free spirit spectrum you fall on. You can find a budgeting solution that works for you. (Although free spirits who live with hardcore financial nerds have a golden ticket; they still have to know the household’s financial headlines, but the nerd will be happy to do the tracking work.)

The whole point to budgeting is being able to proactively work toward your financial goals. It’s one of the secrets to success during your working years, and it becomes even more important in your retirement years. Why? After your business income or salaries stop, you’ll be relying on personal resources and/or pension plans to provide for you. You absolutely need to know what it costs to run your household. If you don’t know if you can run the place solely on your retirement resources, you can get into trouble quickly! 

If you already have a budgeting system that works for you, stay with it. If you’re just starting to budget or need to improve your practices, here are some good options: 

Our Top Tool Picks to Budget for Retirement (and other big goals)

  • YNAB (You Need A Budget)
    • Cost: $14.99/month or $98.99 per year (after a free trial)
    • Good for: This is the budgeting software I’ve been using since 2018. They’ve been around for a long time, and it connects with banking systems well. You get daily downloads of your transactions, and, as YNAB says, “you give every dollar a job.” You assign your income to various digital envelopes—and you can move that money from envelope to envelope as needed. You can see easily if you’re making progress on your goals as those goal envelopes grow. 
    • Drawbacks: It’s more expensive than the other options and might be overwhelming for first-time budgeters, but its long-term benefits are worth it! If you need tips, you can always ask one of our wealth advisors for help getting started. 
  • Moneywise App 
    • Cost: 
      • Free (use the basic digital envelope system to manually track your spending)
      • $6.99 monthly / $59.88 annually (automatic transaction/balance imports, more custom functions) 
    • Good for: Having flexibility in how you track your budget (in the paid version): In over 21 years of advising, I’ve never seen a software like this: They give you the option of choosing between a digital envelope system, a tracking system, or tracking against a monthly spending plan. This app comes from the same folks who produce the Moneywise radio show and podcast. They are affiliated with the Certified Kingdom Advisor network and have faith-based resources (including a community feature) to support you as you go.   
    • Drawbacks: It’s a newer program, so it doesn’t have as long of a track record as YNAB. 
  • Mint
    • Cost: Free
    • Good for: An easy way to track your spending and establish a basic budget. If you’re a free spirit who hates budgeting, this is an easy, free way to get started. It can help you understand where your problem areas are and go from there.
    • Drawbacks: They make their money with ads and will try to cross-sell you financial products. If you’re not careful with Mint, you can end up just recording where you spent stuff. It’s like driving a car forward by looking in the rearview mirror. You know where you’ve been, but you don’t know where you’re headed…and you’re probably going to hit something! Mint does have some basic budget alerts, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to see how those budgets interact with each other, like “envelope system” budgeting systems do. 

Some final budgeting advice

Whatever tool you choose, don’t go it alone: Tell people that you’re embarking on a budgeting project—especially if they live in your household. Getting others involved will lead to greater budgeting success (and you won’t confuse your friends and family by suddenly changing your spending habits with no explanations). We encourage you to set up a regular budget check-in with your partner or a friend to stay on top of your goals. 

Give yourself at least 90 days to get your bearings with a new budget or a new software. You’ll be throwing a lot of new information at the software, and it will take several days to absorb it—and for you to get a good picture of your spending habits. 

Finally, know why you are budgeting. Everything about money is a heart issue. It’s a constant challenge to work through the biggest question: Am I doing what God wants me to do with the stuff He has given me? A budget can be a powerful tool as you continue to try to answer that question honestly and faithfully. 

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