We get it: Retirement feels like a lifetime away, but having the lifestyle you want in your golden years requires smart retirement planning right now. Here are some smart retirement apps that can help you start.

By Joni Sweet
Updated September 03, 2019
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When it comes to retirement savings, the earlier you start putting money away, the better—compound interest has the power to multiply your dollars over time. But far too many of us get caught up in our families and careers that we put off this critical investment. How can we prioritize our retirement savings—much less saving for a emergency fund or rainy day fund—when there are so many other things demanding our time, energy, and (most importantly) money?

Saving for retirement is a long-term endeavor, but a number of savings apps can help you take control of the process right now. Plus, having the ability to stash away some cash in just a few taps acts as motivation to help you hit your goals. Here are six of the best retirement apps for saving and building security for your golden years.

1
Betterment

Let’s face it: Figuring out how and where to invest your money can be confusing. Betterment streamlines your savings by building a personalized retirement portfolio for you, taking into account your age, income, investment goals, and risk tolerance. The retirement app offers both traditional and Roth IRAs, and also syncs up to external accounts (such as your employer-sponsored 401k), so you can get the full picture of your finances. When the market shifts, Betterment rebalances your portfolio automatically to help you stay on track. Annual account management fees start at a low 0.25 percent with no minimum balance.

Perfect for: New investors who want an account that’s easy to set up, without a lot of regular maintenance.

2
Acorns

When money’s tight, coming up with a certain percentage of your income to save for retirement every month can feel impossible. Acorns operates under the principle that “anyone can grow wealth”—regardless of the size of their paycheck. With fees that start at $1 per month, the app helps you save for retirement by connecting to your debit and credit cards, rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar, then investing your “spare change.” So, if you buy a coffee for $3.80, Acorns automatically transfers 20 cents from your checking account into an investment account for your future. It’s the simplest way to start saving for retirement without changing your spending habits.

Perfect for: People who want to start saving without even thinking about it.

3
Digit

Income that fluctuates presents its own set of challenges when saving for retirement. How can you know for sure what’s okay to save when you don’t know what next week will bring? Digit takes away the guesswork by analyzing your daily account balance against your spending habits and moving a “safe” amount into a savings account a few times per week. The transfers are typically small amounts that you’ll hardly notice at the time, but can add up to a decent stash at the end of the month. While Digit charges $2.99 per month, the savings app also offers a 1 percent annual savings bonus paid every three months. However, you can probably get a better return by transferring the balance to an external investment account with a company like Betterment or Vanguard instead.

Perfect for: Those who don’t have a steady paycheck but want to build stability.

4
Stash

New to investing and not sure where to start? Then Stash is for you. This app offers step-by-step guidance on building a portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and individual stocks that can serve as the basis for your retirement account. You can also open a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, if you’d like to take advantage of certain tax benefits. Every account comes with personalized investment advice in language you can actually understand. While Stash charges moderate monthly fees on retirement accounts ($2 for a balance of less than $5,000, or 0.25 percent for higher balances), it waives them completely for customers under 25 years old—perfect for people who want to start investing for retirement at a young age. But the real appeal of this savings app might be the colorful, streamlined interface that not only makes it easy to manage your accounts, but creates a downright pleasant experience.

Perfect for: Investors who want to know exactly where they’re putting their money and why.

5
Personal Capital

How do you decide between cost-effective robo-advisors, or a conventional financial advisor who offers that human touch? With Personal Capital, you don’t have to choose. The app gives you the power of algorithms that can rapidly readjust your portfolio in response to market fluctuations, while also offering access to a team of financial advisors who can answer questions via email, phone or chat. While annual management fees range from 0.49 to 0.89 percent, Personal Capital offers a suite of powerful planning tools that are free for everyone (even if you don’t open an investment account with the company). Most notably, the retirement planner takes into account your investments, expected Social Security income, and potential expenses to predict whether you’ll have enough saved by the time you leave the workforce. The personalized analysis can help keep you on track to hit your goals.

Perfect for: People who aren’t ready to hire a dedicated financial advisor, but still want trustworthy advice from an expert when questions arise.

6
Wealthfront

Whether you buy a house, get a promotion, or grow your family, everything that happens to you right now can play a role in your future. Wealthfront helps you understand exactly how life changes will impact your retirement through its Path tool. Developed by a team of economists, the planner can give you a comprehensive look at your future based on market factors and what’s happening in your life today. It can advise on whether saving more can help you retire a little earlier, or if you can still achieve your financial goals with a less aggressive investment strategy. Wealthfront can also provide personalized recommendations on the best retirement account for you, including a traditional IRA, SEP IRA, 401k rollover, or another type of investment and help you open one. Annual advisory fees are a flat 0.25 percent on all assets. Retirement can seem like a distant future—Wealthfront brings it into the present so you can make smart decisions right now.

Perfect for: People who want to learn how to play an active role in saving for retirement.