Your net worth is your assets minus your liabilities. In other words, how much you have in total (home value, investment, savings, etc.) minus how much you owe (i.e. student loans, car loans, your mortgage, credit card debt, etc.)
Your net worth will change over time. It’s the big picture of your financial health, meaning it doesn’t include your monthly income or expenses, just your long-term monetary worth.
Why should you track your net worth, especially if you don’t have many assets?
For the same reason that you go to the doctor or save for retirement—you have to prepare now for what comes later. Knowing your net worth lets you know what you really have—beyond just your checking account balance and your credit card statements.
Basing your financial health just on your income alone can be dangerous. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and you lose your job, life is going to be significantly more difficult if you don’t have savings or investments to fall back on. Knowing your net worth and working towards a positive (and growing) net worth makes sure your financial security is not just tied up in your income—it gives you a cushion for when life happens.
How do you go about building your net worth? It can be as easy as looking at your phone—literally.
Personal finance apps can help you track your spending, investments, and debt in order to help you develop healthy spending habits that ultimately increase your net worth over time.
There are two elements to building your net worth: Increasing your assets (i.e. cash, investments, real estate) and decreasing your liabilities (credit card debt, student and auto loans, a mortgage).
There are different apps to help with each of these.
Personal Capital is a free app that focuses on tracking your investments and your spending.
For seasoned investors, this app can help you get an overview of how your investments are doing, while making you aware of how much you’re spending and how much you’re really saving.
With Personal Capital you can link all of your bank investments (your checking account, IRA, and 401k accounts, etc.) and see them all conveniently in one place.
Unlike YNAB, this app is for people that are already in good financial shape, but want to make sure they stay that way. Personal Capital prides itself on doing the work for you. Once you link all your accounts, you just sit back and let the app tell you how you’re doing.
The Net Worth page gives you an overall picture of your net worth and then breaks down each individual account so you can see how your investments add or subtract from your worth.
There are a few downsides with the Personal Capital app. Yes, the app is free initially, but if you have more than $25,000 in assets, chances are you’re going to get a sales pitch (masked as a financial advisor) advocating that you try out their (not free) financial planning services.
However, because Personal Capital supports itself via those financial planning services, your interface isn’t littered with cross-promotions with other banking products.
Read our review of Personal Capital.
YNAB (You Need a Budget)
YNAB uses every platform available to help you better your financial health. Their app is web-based with easy transfer between an iPhone or Android app.
Their philosophy isn’t just to help you budget better, it’s to help you better your entire financial life. YNAB’s system allows you to “give every dollar a job,” making sure you only spend allotted amounts on certain categories such as your living expenses, gifts, clothing, internet, etc. Any category you can think of, they have it (or you can create it).
YNAB also makes saving easier by urging you to always be saving. They want you to “embrace your true expenses,” by treating infrequent expenses like holiday and birthday gifts as if they’re monthly expenses, helping you save up over time.
If their catchy slogans aren’t enough to help you change your ways, YNAB offers online classes every day of the week, help guides, podcast, and a YouTube channel with even more tips and advice.
One gripe that consumers used to have with YNAB—it’s wasn’t automated. But now, it’s easy to link your bank account. But, YNAB still wants their customers to actively participate in their finances—so they also allow you to do things manually.
There is a cost for YNAB, but they offer a free 34-day trial (and an additional 12 months free for students!). After this trial is up the cost goes up to $6.99 a month, or $83.99 a year.
Mint is the simplest, yet most tried and true of the budget apps. The free app puts all your balances and transactions in one place.
Why am I including budgeting apps in this list of apps that help you build your net worth after I just told you income doesn’t factor into it?
Budgeting, for most, is the starting point of your personal finance journey. While income may not be directly related to your net worth, managing your money now can help you save for investments you can make that will build your net worth. Mint helps you do this by allowing you to create goals (buying a car, getting out of debt, etc.) to help decrease debt and increase your net worth.
What users appreciate most about Mint is that the transactions are recorded for you. After you link your accounts, Mint will record your purchases and categorize them, which works for some, but can be slightly annoying if you need very specific categories.
EveryDollar is a free, simple, easy-to-use budgeting app (which I use) that relies on the same principle as YNAB of giving every dollar a job.
While EveryDollar is, at its core, a simple budgeting app, it also allows you to incorporate long-term financial goals in your budgeting plan, just like Mint.
You can create your own savings categories and allot money to each. There’s also a section for debt. The section allows you to record how much you owe and dedicate a monthly payment towards each debt category.
There are a few large limitations of EveryDollar. If you want to link bank accounts to the app, you must pay a steep fee of$99 a year for EveryDollar Plus. If you stick with the free app, you’re responsible for recording your transactions on your own (which is actually why I prefer it to Mint), which can be a hassle for someone who wants an app to do everything for you.
Digit isn’t technically an app (it works via text, meaning you can use it even if you’re still stuck with that flip phone) but it’s a genius little service that helps you mindlessly save instead of mindlessly spend.
You give Digit access to your bank account, it analyzes your spending, and every few days it takes a small amount (between $5 and $50) that it’s determined you won’t miss and puts it away in an account for you. (Only down side: That account does not earn interest.)
It sends you informative texts about your growing nest egg, and sends congratulatory GIFs whenever you hit a major milestone.
The best part? You don’t even have to think about it.
Read our review of Digit.
Betterment is another app (and online platform) for managing your investments. It’s by far the easiest investing platform to use, making it a great choice for newer investors. A lot of us don’t know everything (or really anything) about our best investment opportunities, that’s why financial advisors exists. Betterment is a “robo-advisor” that helps eliminate heavy fees that come with paying an in-person advisor.
Like a lot of these apps, Betterment does a significant amount of work for you. It starts by asking you questions about your goals and risk tolerance. It then automatically invests your money into index funds, allowing you to “passively invest” in many different asset pools.
The Betterment app itself is free, but there are fees for using the online software. These fees are relatively low for the services being offered, but high in general for someone on a limited budget. The app charges .25 percent per year for all accounts under $100,000 and .40 percent for accounts over $100,000.
Read our review of Betterment.
Acorns is a little like Digit, only with an investing component and a more robust interface. Like Betterment, it asks you questions about your goals and risk tolerance. It then recommends one of five diversified portfolio of low-cost ETFs.
Acorns is different from Betterment in a few key ways: First, it doesn’t offer IRAs, so it’s definitely meant for any extra money you’ve got left over after you’ve funded an emergency fund and your retirement accounts.
Second, it allows you to fund your account in a few different ways. You can just set up regular (weekly, monthly, whatever you want) deposits from your bank account. Or, you can turn on their “round up” feature, which looks at your credit cards and bank accounts and “rounds up” purchases to the next dollar and funnels the difference into your investments.
It’s another nice way to dip your toe into the investing pool. Plus, it allows you to build wealth without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.
Acorns costs just $1 a month, and is free for college students for up to four years.
Read our Acorns review.
Stash is another investment app, but one that lets you invest in companies that align with your personal values.
Whereas Betterment picks your investments for you and Acorns lets you choose from one of five pre-fab portfolios, Stash gives you free rein to put your money wherever you want it to go. Want to dump everything into social media stocks? You can do it! How about clean energy? No problem.
This might not be a recipe for amazing returns, but it does give you more control. Stash is a good next step for somebody who’s already got a robust emergency fund and flush retirement accounts.
Read our Stash review.
It’s important to think about your net worth if you ever want to go far (or anywhere, really) in the financial world, but it doesn’t to be such a headache.
Personal finance apps give you a choice of being actively involved in tracking your net worth, or, if you like to spend your time doing other things besides thinking about your personal finances, do the work for you!