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7 iPhone apps for college savings
Saving and investing money for college can be complex efforts, and managing your money wisely once your kid is enrolled in school isn't any easier.
Here are a handful of Savingforcollege.com's favorite iPhone applications that can help make the process of saving for college just a little easier. They can be downloaded through Apple iTunes under the names listed here. Included in our review are their price (if any), how they operate and why we like them.
Details: After you have input all the details of your financial accounts on the Mint.com site, this app will track them automatically. If you've got a separate account for college savings, you can track its performance on a daily basis.
Killer Features: Wireless notifications and alerts let you know when money has been deposited into a college saving account, and a list view of deposits and withdrawals helps you track when and how much you've put away over time. You can't track investment growth visually with this app yet, although you can check out the performance graphs on the free desktop application that this app is linked to.
App: Peterson's College Guide
Details: Use the slot-machine style interface to select a state, program interest and price range, and the app will come up with a college that fits your criteria. Basic details and contact information for the college are provided for each college.
Killer Features: If price is a major factor in your college decision, you can search for nearby schools based solely on the price of tuition. Another tool within the app allows you to provide your e-mail address to the company to receive scholarship information provided by Peterson's. There are also links for you to contact the school directly by e-mail.
Price: 99 cents
Details: This slick app uses a moving indicator widget to help you tweak your estimates for future college costs, your personal investment return, monthly savings, rate of return and inflation rate. You'll see at a glance whether you'll have a shortfall in college savings when your child enrolls as well as how much you'll need to start saving now to make up the difference.
Killer Feature: Immediate calculations allow you to make quick changes without entering in all the information again, and clever charts help you visualize the costs and how they'll rise over time.
Details: This investment application helps you track your Vanguard accounts and provides an array of tools to help you manage your investments and learn ways to manage your money effectively.
Killer Feature: Even if you don't have a 529 college savings account with Vanguard, you can take advantage of the app's educational podcasts and videos about college savings. They're well produced and easy to understand, no matter what your level of expertise is.
App: H&R Block's Tax Answers
Details: Get your most vexing tax questions answered by tax pros through this application. An included glossary will help you understand confusing terms.
Killer Feature: Select the "education" category and you can see the answers that the company's experts have provided to people with questions similar to yours, whether it's about deducting educational expenses on a tax return or how to handle state income tax breaks on 529 plans. Don't see anything that's relevant to your concern? Ask a question within the app itself and receive an answer within 24 hours.
App: TaxCaster Mobile
Details: Get a quick estimate on the amount you'll owe -- or expect to get back -- from Uncle Sam with this application. Enter a few key details about your income and potential deductions on things like your home, family status and education costs. When those items change, adjust the amounts for those data points to see how it may affect how much it'll cost you in federal income taxes.
Killer Feature: Enter in details about current tuition and fees as well as any student loan interest that you're paying to see if it will have an impact on your return.
App: My GPA
Details: This simple but effective app lets you enter your grades and credits for each class. Then, it computes your semester's grade point average as well as an overall GPA based on that information. Set it up properly and you can even calculate the GPA in your major.
Killer Feature: Think you don't need a GPA app for your college planning needs? Think again. Many college scholarships are contingent on receiving good grades. By keeping close track of your details, you'll know when to study even harder for that math final.
Posted May 7, 2010
Erin Peterson is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis.