Use Financial Apps to Track Spending in Retirement

Start keeping tabs on where your nest egg is really going with your smartphone.

(Image credit: Westend61 / Frank Roder (Westend61 / Frank Roder (Photographer) - [None])

When Lauren Lindsay joined a large group of about 20 friends for brunch recently, things quickly got complicated. “Different people ordered different things, and some had to come and go at different times,” says Lindsay, 49, a financial planner in Houston. “And the place wouldn’t do separate checks.”

But the friend who organized the brunch had a simple solution, Lindsay says. She paid the entire bill and then used the payment sharing app Venmo, letting people know what they owed and how much the tip was, so she could be reimbursed. Lindsay also regularly uses Venmo to split dining and other expenses. “It’s very handy so you aren’t chasing people down when they owe you money,” she says. “Not very many people carry cash in general anymore, so this is the way things are going.”

For retirees, organizing expenses and splitting checks equitably are key ways to keep a handle on everyday spending, which can be stressful when adjusting to life without a paycheck from a job coming in. While your grandkids may be familiar with a range of apps that help manage spending, you may be on a financial tech learning curve. Four in 10 seniors now own smartphones, which is double the number in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center. But some remain wary of using financial apps. For others, it may just be a matter of getting comfortable using such an app, says Rick Kahler, a financial planner in Rapid City, S.D.

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Kahler says he only recommends to clients the apps that he actually uses. He likes TurboScan, which uses your phone’s camera to scan a receipt and helps keep the virtual receipts organized. Another favorite: GasBuddy, which Kahler accesses when he rents a car while traveling. Instead of taking the option to return the car with the tank empty and face a more costly rental company charge for filling it, he uses GasBuddy to find the lowest priced station in an unfamiliar area.

Kahler says he and some of his older clients also like Mint, a money-management app. You can create a monthly budget with it, putting your expenses in as many as 20 categories. You can even keep track of charitable gifts, which you can then use as a record at tax time. After you’ve entered the target amounts for each category, you link your bank account and watch your recent expenses automatically fill progress bars for each category. Or you could use an expense-tracking app, such as Fearless Finance.

Find the App for You

To use an app, download it from Apple’s App Store if you have an iPhone or from Google Play if you have an Android mobile device. Many apps are free, but doublecheck for any charges or fees first.

You can log in to Venmo using your Facebook account, which lets you pull in your friends list. To pay or request to be paid back, enter the username or phone number of the recipient within the app. Enter the amount and what the money is for, then select “Pay” or “Request.”

To transfer money you receive in Venmo to your bank account, select “Transfer to Bank.” Note the instant transfer fee is 1% of the transfer amount, with a minimum fee of 25 cents and a maximum of $10. To send money without burdening the recipient with a transfer fee, consider the gifting app called NextRound. You also can use Tab, another app, to make it easier to request payments through Venmo. Tab gives you a code to share with friends so they can join in on the bill from their smartphones. You also can send money to friends through Zelle and PayPal.

If apps aren’t for you, you could instead create an Excel spreadsheet to track spending. Or you might decide that it’s more important to enjoy a meal with friends and family than to worry about splitting the bill, and let it go.

Emma Patch
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Emma Patch joined Kiplinger in 2020. She previously interned for Kiplinger's Retirement Report and before that, for a boutique investment firm in New York City. She served as editor-at-large and features editor for Middlebury College's student newspaper, The Campus. She specializes in travel, student debt and a number of other personal finance topics. Born in London, Emma grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Washington, D.C.