4 Tips for Building the Ultimate Finance App

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@jessealmedaJesse Almeda

There are a lot of good personal finance and investment apps on the marketplace, but trying to find an app that does it all is hard.
Instead of trying to make an app work for you, you could actually build your own app - one that checks off all of your boxes.

The Best Personal Finance Apps Around

The world of personal finance has completely shifted in just 20 years. We’ve gone from a world where physical money - dollar bills and coins - were the preferred tender of choice to a world where plastic and digital modes of spending reign supreme. Credit cards, debit cards, cryptocurrencies, PayPal, and Venmo - these are the economic tools of our time.
While we’re all aware of this shift, we - meaning collectively as 21st century
Americans - haven’t done the best job of shifting our own personal finance
habits. With balancing a checkbook no longer a necessary or commonplace
practice, we have to find new ways to track our spending and saving. The same goes for investing. Paper statements are out and digital accounts are in. For many, this makes tracking investments a bigger challenge.
The solution? Personal finance apps - of which there are many. Some of the most popular ones include:
  • Mint. Probably the most popular personal finance app of all time, Mint lets you link your debit and credit card accounts so that you can track transactions, categorize spending, and understand where your money is going.
  • YNAB. You Need a Budget, or YNAB, is built on four rules: (1) give every dollar a job, (2) embrace your true expenses, (3) roll with the punches, and (4) age your money. The platform is high on functionality, but less user-friendly than some other options. (At least aesthetically speaking.)
  • EveryDollar. As the name suggests, this app is all about giving every single dollar a purpose at the beginning of each month. It’s essentially a zero-sum budgeting tool that cuts out all of the fluff and focuses on the features that users need to be successful.
These are just three of the top apps. There are dozens of additional personal finance apps that fill various voids and meet different needs. The problem is that they each do different things, follow different personal finance belief systems, and have their own nuances.
It’s impossible to find a personal finance app that completely meshes with your strategy, preferences, needs, and wants. At the end of the day, you have to choose an app and build your personal finance philosophy around that app (which isn’t recommended).
But there has to be a better way, right? (You can read that in your favorite
infomercial voice.)
The answer is yes. But you’ll have to roll up your sleeves (or hire someone to roll up their sleeves on your behalf).

4 Tips for Building Your Own Personal Finance App

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re building a personal finance app that’s truly personal. In other words, you’re designing it for yourself - not with the intention of mass distributing it or selling it to
others. (Though this is certainly an option down the road.) And with this in
mind, here are a few helpful tips:
  • Leverage stock APIs. A good personal finance app needs to understand what’s happening in the larger marketplace. Utilize stock APIs to pull relevant data sources from all of the different stock exchanges (which is too much to manually program on an exchange by exchange basis).
  • Think about UX. Functionality comes first, but user experience (UX) doesn’t trail too far behind. Carefully consider the UX of the app and ensure it’s an app you want to click on and use regularly.
  • Prioritize security. Any time you’re handling sensitive financial data - and especially when you’re combining multiple accounts from different sources - you have to establish a robust security framework. This isn’t something you can afford to skimp on.
  • Iterate to great. Your first version probably won’t look much like the version you ultimately move forward with. Start with a lean option and gradually iterate to great!
Clearly, this isn’t a technical how-to on app development. But if you use these four guiding principles, you’ll lay a solid foundation for future growth. 

Adding it All Up

We all have different financial situations, philosophies, needs, and objectives. By designing your own finance app, you can bring control and clarity to your situation and do more with the resources that you have.

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