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Retirement: There’s an app for that

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

When I started saving for retirement, the credit union clerk recorded it in my passbook in black ink.

Today, I downloaded my first retirement savings application, or app, to my iPad (or iPhone). It's from Vanguard and it makes managing retirement savings ridiculously convenient. The app allows Vanguard customers to:

  • View  account balances, including those in 401(k)s, 403(b)(7)s, and other employer plans.
  • Buy and sell within mutual fund accounts.
  • Move money between banks and Vanguard.
  • View up to 30 days' worth of transaction history.

Other financial management firms also have jumped on the retirement planning app bandwagon. Here are a few of these apps that you might find useful.

  • Charles Schwab has an iPad, iPhone and Android app available to the 1.4 million people whose 401(k)s it manages. This tool offers view-only access to 401(k) account information, including balances, year-to-date personal performance, contribution rate and a 45-day transaction history.
  • Fidelity Investments' new app allows you to pay bills, move money and deposit checks using its mobile brokerage apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. You can also track your portfolio and monitor positions, balances and intraday valuations of accounts. The app also lets you trade stocks, mutual funds, ETFs and options from within the app and lets you check the status of your orders.
  • Last week, Putnam Investments debuted an app that enables participants in its 401(k) plans to use their iPhone cameras to scan the bar code of items they are about to buy. The app calculates the impact of saving the same amount of money in a retirement account. For instance, you could buy a $1,738 TV or you could save the same amount and 25  years later  -- depending on the specifics of your retirement plan -- you would have about $11,000 in savings. That could translate into $44 per month in retirement income. A pretty slick incentive to avoid buying things you don't really need.

If you can't wait until retirement, consider downloading the Days Until Retirement app for iPad and iPhone. Every midnight it clicks off another day, although the developer Minneware warns  -- prophetically -- that if retirement is more than 27 years or 10,000 days away, the app might not display correctly.

Unlike all these other apps, which are free, the Days Until Retirement app costs 99 cents. There must be a moral there somewhere -- but I can't figure out what it is.

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