One of the keys to being successful with money is to have a strong money system in place. You’ll find that once you’ve done that, money just seems to build up without you even realizing it. I don’t really budget, and to be honest, I’m not really all that frugal either. And yet, every month, I seem to have more money then I did before.
That’s because my money system is heavily automated. I’ve always maintained that saving isn’t about willing yourself to save more – it’s about having the right systems in place so that money gets saved without you even realizing it. You probably already do this to at least some extent – automatic contributions into your 401k, money to various savings accounts, etc.
I do all of this too, of course, but I also like to push myself a little more by using fintech apps that run in the background, squeezing out just a bit more savings out of my budget each day.
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a new fintech app with you all, so I thought today would be a good day to do just that. I go through a ton of fintech apps over the course of a year and most of them end up unused on my phone. It’s a pretty big deal to me when I find an app that I actually use and if I write about it, it means I really think it’s useful (especially when the app I’m writing about doesn’t even offer any referral bonus for me).
The app I’m talking about today is called Albert – and it’s one that you might want to consider adding to your money system.
Update: Before reading on, when I first wrote this post, I was using an app called Dobot which then started charging a monthly fee, hence why I ended up switching to Albert. However, Dobot soon reversed course and made their app free again. As a result, I’ve switched back to Dobot because I find it to be the better, easier app to use of the two. If you’re interested in Albert, it’s worth reading this post to learn more about it. I don’t think you can go wrong with either app, but I still prefer Dobot (Dobot also gives you $5 if you open a Dobot account using a referral link, so all things being equal, Dobot makes more sense for most people to use).
Microsavings Apps As Part Of Your Money System
Before jumping into what Albert is and why you might want to use this app, I’d like to explain a little bit about how my money system works.
As part of my money system, I like having apps that run in the background, monitoring my transactions, and figuring out ways to automatically save away more money for me. I’ve always felt that money is like food – when it’s in front of you, you’ll figure out a way to spend it, so it’s important to keep it moving and out of your grubby hands.
Microsaving apps are what I use to help get more money out of my hands. These microsaving apps monitor my spending and save small amounts of money for me that I don’t notice on a day-by-day basis. Over time, I end up with a surprising amount of extra money saved. By themselves, microsaving apps aren’t enough for you to save with, but when you add them on as an extra layer to an already well run money system, they can work magic.
There are two types of microsavings apps that I incorporate into my money system:
- A “round-up” app, and
- A “sweep” app.
A round-up app is an app that monitors my daily transactions and rounds up each transaction to the nearest dollar. It then saves the extra money for me. Peak Money, an app that I highly recommend, serves as my round-up app. If I spend $1.50 on something, Peak rounds up that transaction to $2, pulls 50 cents from my bank account, and saves it away in a separate, FDIC insured bank account. Over time, this money adds up. Every few months, I look at what I’ve saved and then move those savings over to my emergency fund. (Check out my Peak Money App Review for more information about Peak).
A “sweep” app – the other microsaving app that I use – monitors my bank account and, using smart algorithms, saves small amounts of money for me each week that it thinks I won’t notice. Unlike round-up apps, “sweep” apps aren’t tied to any specific transactions. They just see if I have extra money to spare and if I do, they take the money out and move it to a savings account. I’m a big fan of sweep apps because they keep my money from sitting idle and sort of make me live on less since I end up with a smaller stash of cash in my checking account.
The original “sweep” app I used was Digit, which served me well for about two years until it started charging a small monthly fee. On principle, I don’t believe that saving money should cost any money, and since switching between these sorts of apps only takes a few minutes, I made a switch, going over to another app I found called Dobot. Dobot did essentially the same thing as Digit, only for free. Of course, as luck would have it, Dobot started charging a fee soon after I switched to it, so I dropped Dobot and went on the search for another app that could do what Digit and Dobot did, only for free.
Update: Dobot is now free again, and as a result, it’s the primary app I would recommend for anyone looking for a “sweep” app to help them save more money. You can check out my in-depth Dobot Review for more information.
Albert App Review
So what exactly is Albert? It’s a full-featured financial monitoring app (like Mint or Personal Capital). You link up all of your accounts and it can then track your net worth, your accounts balances, and all of that other good stuff. Pretty standard stuff in the world of fintech.
They also have a feature called Albert Genius, which acts as some sort of financial advisor type thing. Albert Genius is not free and instead, works on a pay-what-you-want model.
To be honest, I don’t use any of those Albert features – my financial accounts are already tracked well enough with Mint and Personal Capital, and I’m not sure what the value proposition is of Albert Genius. If you’re looking for information about those features, this review isn’t for you because I haven’t used those features.
What I care about is the Albert Savings feature, which is a good feature for automatic, smart savings in the same style as Digit. Albert Savings is the reason I use Albert and it’s the only reason I’d recommend this app.
How Albert Savings Works
So, like Digit, the Albert Savings feature monitors your transactions and pulls out small amounts of money for you each week that it thinks you won’t miss. According to Albert, the savings algorithm works like this:
Albert does the heavy lifting for you by looking at your spending and income transactions and determining, using an algorithm, how much to transfer from your linked checking account to your Albert Savings.
There are several factors that influence Albert’s smart savings calculations:
- Your upcoming bills
- Your income, including predicted paychecks
- Recent spending
- Your checking account balance
Albert uses these inputs to find amounts of money we think that you can safely save. If we find money and you have smart savings enabled, Albert will transfer the funds from your checking account to Albert Savings.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have too much cushion in your bank account, here’s what Albert says about that:
Albert tries hard to never withdraw money from your bank account if your balance is too low. If your checking account balance is deemed too low, an automatic transfer will not be initiated.
Smart Savings amounts are determined at the time of transfer. As transfers may take up to 2-3 business days to complete, Albert will do its best to not initiate a transfer if there is a risk of your balance decreasing dramatically before the transfer hits your account.
To activate Albert Savings, you link Albert to your checking account, then turn on the smart savings feature. If you prefer, you can also have it set up to just save a fixed amount each week, but I prefer the Smart Savings features since that’s the point of using an app like this.
Over the course of six months or so, Albert has saved me a few hundred bucks – not bad at all. It’s actually more than that because I’ve been pulling money out over these past six months as well. Here are some recent transactions from my own account to get an idea of how it works:
As you can see, based on my transactions, Albert typically saves me between $45 and $70 per week. Over the course of a month, that’s about $200 I save completely in the background. This is all on top of the normal saving I’m already doing, so it’s a nice little compliment to my money system.
You also get a slight amount of interest on your savings, so it’s not like it’s sitting completely idle. It’s not a lot of interest – Albert says that you get 1% interest if you’re an Albert Genius user (which I am not), and 0.25% interest if you’re a non-paying user (which is what I am). Since this is all money that I consider short-term savings, the interest rate isn’t a big deal to me.
Like any fintech app, Albert also stresses that they are secure. At this point, every fintech app uses the same underlying programs to link your accounts anyway, so I’m not particularly worried about security.
Importantly, any money in your Albert Savings is kept in an FDIC insured savings account. In other words, you don’t have to worry about losing your money. If you’ve used Mint or Personal Capital, you shouldn’t have a problem using Albert.
Takeaways – A Free Alternative To Digit And Dobot
Right now, I use most of the money that Albert saves me as a quasi-travel fund. You could use it the same way. Or another good way to use Albert is to let your Albert Savings build up over time and then fund part of a Roth IRA with the money it saves you. The beauty is that you can choose how you want to use it.
I held off on writing about Albert for so long because I wasn’t sure how it would work – it’s a pretty new app, and from what I can tell, no one has really written about it (and no one is using it the way I do). After six months of use, I’m happy to endorse an app like this.
Ideally, you use both Albert and Peak Money together – Peak should round-up transactions you make, and Albert should sweep away a little bit of excess money for you each week. This is a way to add a passive layer to your money system. And it costs nothing to do and takes little-to-no-time to set up.
If you’ve used Albert before, let me know what your experience has been like. You can try out Albert here.