Whether you’re in college, a recent graduate, or years into your career, getting your finances organized is always a good idea. With hundreds of financial apps already vying for your attention, is a new financial app worth considering? I argue it is.
Unless you’re happy with your current system of financial organization, Stratus, an app that bills itself as a financial planning app for young adults, is an app well worth considering. They try to make financial planning really easy - billing themselves as the "TurboTax" of financial planning.
If you're looking for an easy to use solution to not just track your spending, but actually help you achieve your financial goals, this could be the tool for you.
Here’s what you need to know about Stratus.
- Free online financial planning tool
- Great budgeting and goal setting tool
- Still in Beta, doesn't have full support for investments yet
Connecting to Stratus
Like most financial apps, Stratus requires users to connect all of their bank accounts (and debt accounts) to the app. If you only have a few accounts, this process can take as little as a few minutes. For those with multiple accounts (retirement, credit cards, checking, student loan, mortgage, etc.), getting set up takes quite a bit longer.
As they are still in Beta, they didn't have full support for all investments yet. Hopefully this is a feature they build out soon and is as awesome as their budgeting and planning tools.
Compared to other financial apps, Stratus seems to provide an above-average financial organization system. It’s not exactly a budgeting app (although you can review your spending by category and change certain targets).
Instead, Stratus organizes your finances into a monthly outlook (with expected income and expenses) called “My Money Story,” a daily spending goal (called “My Plan”), and longer-term goals such as preparing for emergencies, paying down debt, retirement investing, and saving for big expenses (such as a wedding, having children, travel, etc.).
Monthly Spending Plan
Compared to other financial apps, Stratus does an unusually good job of integrating both short-term and long-term financial planning into a single app. The daily spend plan (how much money you can safely spend and still meet your financial obligations and savings goals) seems ingenious. The thermometers showing progress towards debt payoff or savings accounts are nicely organized and motivating.
How Much Can I Spend Today?
The only area where Stratus isn’t as good as industry leaders is a spending tracker. Mint.com and Clarity Money are still the industry leaders in understanding where your money went. However, Stratus helps with a more proactive approach to planning.
Stratus provides a nice one-time snapshot of your money, but its real value comes in daily (or at least regular) use. The daily spend limit (the amount you can spend without sacrificing your goals) is the most important feature that Stratus provides. If you overspend early in the month, you have to tighten up later on. If you “save up,” you’ll have the opportunity for a few splurges later on.
Since Stratus already takes into account your upcoming bills, the spending limit is very accurate.
That said, Stratus doesn’t necessarily account for annual bills (such as insurance or taxes) or bills that come less than once per month. Even though Stratus does a good job organizing your finances, it’s not perfect. The less your situation conforms to regular monthly paychecks and monthly bills, the less Stratus will perfectly predict your needs.
Who Should Sign Up for Stratus Today?
If you’re not satisfied with the state of your finances, signing up for Stratus should top your to-do list. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone. Mint.com or Clarity Money may end up being the superior financial app for you. However, I think that on average, Stratus gives users more actionable information than most other apps. Stratus is on my short list of financial app recommendations.
Also, as an interesting side note, Stratus does not take commissions from financial product referrals (unlike most free tools in the space).
However, if you’re already satisfied with the state of your finances, I don’t think Stratus brings anything particularly compelling to the table (yet). For example, people who use a zero-based budget (including apps like YNAB or EveryDollar) won’t see an additional benefit from using Stratus.
Remember, Stratus is still in beta, and will hopefully continue to build out on what they have now. I think it's worthwhile to check it out and see if it's what you're looking for. Plus, they claim that they are using the feedback they get from users right now to build the next features - so be a part of the discussion.
- Commission and Fees - 100
- Ease of Use - 100
- Features and Tools - 60
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.