When Mark Riley purchased his first iPhone, in 2010, the global economy was still reeling from a recession caused in large part by excessive debt burdens–not exactly an ideal business climate, at least by conventional standards. Where others saw unnecessary risk, however, Riley sensed opportunity.
“I knew that an app that helped people get out of debt could be popular, especially in the economic climate at the time, and it seemed like a worthy thing to produce if it could help people in some way” Riley, a software developer and self-styled entrepreneur, told Free Enterprise. “As soon as I read about the debt snowball method, I knew that this was something that I could make an app for. The debt snowball is a simple concept: Once you pay off one debt, you use the payment to help pay off the next debt, and so on, which can really help people see the light when they have lots of debts.”
Riley honed his mobile development skills while building his first app, a mortgage calculator and analysis tool. He then began working on a host of other apps that, he says, eventually generated enough money to allow him to “register a company and quit my day job so I could concentrate on developing apps full time.”
From there, Riley was able to devote more time to his debt snowball app. Though he concedes the project posed a number of design challenges, he says it also played to his strengths as a developer. “It is hard to set up and model in an app, which I guess is where my strength lies–making complicated financial processes appear easy by designing simple and intuitive user interfaces.”
Since Riley launched Debt Manager in 2011, its user base has continually grown and it’s consistently ranked among the top 20 paid finance apps. Still, Riley says that the “most pleasing thing about developing apps [is that] as long as they help people in some way–be it getting out of debt, or saving money on their mortgage payments, or helping them to control their spending–then I think it is a worthwhile career to embark on.”
Like Riley, the creators of the following finance apps are helping people get out of debt, better manage their personal finances, and improve their savings rate–which has declined in the U.S. for the past three decades. Americans should find these apps especially helpful: A 2014 Wells Fargo survey found a majority of Americans think talking about personal finances is more challenging than discussing death, religion, and politics.
5 Apps That’ll Help You Make Better Financial Decisions
Acorns: Free — Allows you to easily invest spare change from your everyday purchases into a diversified portfolio. Users get $5 when they open an account and are charged $1 per month for the service. (Still in Beta; Available in the Apple and Google app stores)
Mint: Free — Lets users track their spending, create budgets, and better manage their personal finances. (Available through the Google, Apple, and Windows stores)
BillMinder: $1.99 — Lets users see all their bills in one place and alerts them when they are coming due. It can also be synced for roommates, couples, etc. (Available in the Apple and Google stores)
MileBug: Free or $2.99 — Lets users easily track business-related expenses, enabling them to take advantage of available IRS tax deductions such as those for travel. (Available for the iPhone and in the Google, Windows and Amazon stores)
Debt Manager: $0.99 — Helps users organize, track, and pay off all their debts in the cheapest and fastest possible way. Uses the “Debt snowball” method. (Only available for the iPhone and iPad)