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The World in Your Pocket


It’s staggering how much accumulated knowledge is available with a few taps on a smartphone screen. Whether Apple or Android, countless apps are available to help users with a wide range of tasks, from managing their finances to tracking their fitness goals to getting an education in various topics to making travel easier and more fun.

For this year’s roundup of what’s hot in technology, BusinessWest checks in on what the tech press is saying about some of the most popular smartphone apps.


Dollars and Sense

Smartphones have put a world of personal finance in people’s hands. For example, Intuit’s Mint gives users a real-time look into all their finances, from bank accounts and credit cards to student loans and 401(k) accounts.

“Let’s start with Mint’s very high ratings in both the App Store and Google Play,” Nerdwallet notes. “It’s free and syncs many kinds of accounts: checking and savings, credit cards, loans, investments, and bills. As far as the actual budgeting, Mint tracks your expenses and places them in budget categories. You can personalize these categories, which are unlimited. You set limits for these categories, and Mint lets you know if you’re approaching those limits.”

Besides those budgeting features, Nerdwallet notes, Mint may help users pay down debt, save more money, and track goals, while showing users their credit score and net worth. As a bonus, Mint provides plenty of support for using the app, including a detailed FAQ.

As its name notes, You Need a Budget, or YNAB, earns top grades from Investopedia because of the company’s renowned budgeting philosophy and reputation. YNAB says new budgeters typically save $600 in their first two months and more than $6,000 in their first year. It includes customizable reports that break down the user’s income and expenses by category, account, and time frame, with the aim of helping users get their finances in order.

“YNAB allows you to sync your bank accounts, import your data from a file, or manually enter each transaction,” the site adds. “After signing up, you create your first budget and assign every dollar a purpose, such as your rent or car payment. The goal is to eventually get at least one month ahead, so you’re spending money you earned 30 days ago. The company offers extensive educational resources and customer support to keep you on track.”

For investors, Forbes recommends Empower (formerly Personal Capital) for its outstanding reporting options, desktop capabilities, investment-management platform and spending tracking. Empower gives a holistic view of customers’ entire financial picture, from day-to-day spending to tracking portfolio performance.

“The app has several savings tools designed to help build retirement savings and emergency funds and pay down debt,” the publication adds. “It also has excellent advisory tools, including an investment checkup, investment-fee analyzer, financial planning, cash-flow tracking, education cost planning, and real-time net-worth tracking. All of these tools give detailed insights into your current financial picture, while also helping you plan for the future. The list of features may sound overwhelming, but the app is easy to use.”

Meanwhile, CNBC sings the praises of PocketGuard, which, among other features, taking into account the user’s estimated income, upcoming expenses, and savings goals, and uses an algorithm to show how much is available for everyday spending. The app categorizes expenses; syncs to bank accounts and credit cards; and boasts security features like bank-level encryption, PIN codes, and biometric IDs.


Beyond the Workout

Moving beyond financial wellness to physical wellness, countless apps are available to offer information on what to eat, how to exercise, and how to stay committed to better habits.

Forbes recommends FitOn, which offers a wide variety of workouts, including cardio, strength, high-intensity interval training, dance, yoga, Pilates, Barre, and more. It even features workouts led by celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough, and Jonathan Van Ness. Classes are available in real time with the app’s live classes feature or through on-demand workouts.

With a live leaderboard and real-time heart rate tracking via Apple Watch, users can track their progress and fitness goals. Upgrading to the Pro version grants users access to more than 500 recipes, live workout video calls, personalized meal plans, and more.

One of the most popular nutrition apps is MyFitnessPal, which offers a wealth of tools for tracking what and how much the user eats and how many calories they burn through activity, according to PC Magazine.

The app is also a top pick of Verywell Fit, which notes that “MyFitnessPal is our pick for best overall fitness app because of its robust food and activity database, easy-to-use logging and tracking tools, library of workouts, and ability to connect to several other apps.” It includes a database of more than 14 million foods, is customizable based on health goals, and offers restaurant menu logging as well.

According to CNET, Nike Training Club provides various workout programs such as body-weight exercises, high-intensity interval training, cross training, yoga, core exercises, and even expert health tips by Nike trainers to keep you on track.

“The workouts are easy to follow because there are video demonstrations of each exercise with the allotted time you should be doing them,” CNET notes. “This keeps you from losing track during your workout and mentally prepares you for the following exercise. The app also connects to your Apple watch to provide health metrics such as your heart rate and logs your activities. The best part of this app is that it’s free and gives you access to many resources no matter if you’re a beginner or more advanced.”

Although Peloton is famously associated with the home-workout bike of the same name, the workouts on the app don’t all require users to have the bike or other equipment, U.S. News and World Report notes, while boxing, running, yoga, and many more types of fitness workouts are available on the app.

Women’s Health agrees, adding that “testers loved the huge choice of workouts available, from strength sessions to yoga to meditation, and found it easy to filter classes on the app by duration and difficulty to find the right one for them. Our team also said they were persuaded to push beyond their usual limits during each session thanks to motivational instructors, who helped keep their form in check with non-stop helpful pointers — though some testers found them a tad too intense for their liking.”



So Much to Learn

Countless popular apps focus on education and learning for all ages. For kids, Verywell Family recommends Khan Academy, which collaborates with the U.S. Department of Education and myriad public and private educational institutions to provide a free, world-class education for anyone.

“From preschoolers to high-schoolers, there are few educational apps that can measure up to Khan Academy when it comes to the wide range of courses it offers to students of all ages,” the site notes. “Khan Academy’s YouTube videos cover most subjects at a range of levels: math, science and engineering, arts, humanities (which includes history and social studies), economics, AP courses, and test prep.”

It adds that Khan Academy is popular among students, parents, and educators because its videos are engaging and targeted at visual learners, using photos, maps, and other illustrations, and because it allows students to work at their own pace.

For teachers, Education Corner calls Google Classroom an excellent resource. “It pulls together all of the G-Suite apps (Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Draw). Teachers can create assignments and announcements for individual classes. They can attach worksheets, slideshows, or weblinks (along with many other things) and set deadlines. The work can be marked/graded and returned to students for further work.”

When a student completes work, it gets saved automatically to their Google Classroom class folders in their Google Drive (which are set up automatically). All work is saved securely. Students may submit class comments that are viewable to all students and teachers assigned to that ‘classroom,’ which leads to collaborative working.

My eLearning World touts HOMER as a personalized learning app designed to help younger kids fall in love with learning, featuring more than 1,000 learning activities across all subjects. “From toddlers to second-graders, this educational app is a fit for every eager kid ready to learn something new, especially younger kids early in their development. HOMER is an early learning software designed to help children develop their critical thinking skills. It helps them build their confidence for the future by leading them on their customized educational journey.”

HOMER features a variety of interactive lessons, stories, and activities that are tailored according to the student’s individual skills, age, and interests. “The level of personalization is what really sets HOMER apart from other kids educational apps,” My eLearning World notes, “and it’s why this is our favorite app for keeping children of various ages and skills engaged and learning at their own pace.

For learning another language in the go, Lifewire gives top marks to Duolingo, which “stands out among language-learning apps, and among education apps overall. Duolingo includes dozens of languages, including a couple of fictional ones just for fun. Each language offers a mostly linear path divided into topics of conversation. Each topic presents you with short exercises to familiarize you with the material through spoken and written formats.”

The app encourages users to make a habit of practicing with a reward system and a social component. The rewards can be spent in the app’s store on powerups and fun accessories. Meanwhile, the in-app social network encourages users to invite friends to the app and compare scores.


Now Go Away

Thinking about a vacation? PC Magazine says Hopper “is an app you definitely want to use while you’re planning a trip and before you buy any tickets. The mobile-only app tracks flight prices and gives you clear advice on the best time to buy — including through notifications when the price drops. What makes this travel app valuable is its level of detail. It doesn’t just tell you to wait to buy your ticket, but gives you a date when the price will likely rise. You can book through Hopper, too, with a commission fee of a few dollars.”

Travel + Leisure notes that flight prices can fluctuate, making it tricky to decide whether to book right away or hold off. Hopper can remove some of the uncertainty by predicting the best time to find the cheapest fares, saving up to 40%. The app also has a price-monitoring feature so users can select a particular flight and receive alerts if the price drops. They can also compare the prices and amenities of more than 250 airlines and get alerts about airfare flash sales.

For lovers of the great outdoors, Travel + Leisure also sings the praises of AllTrails, noting that “this app will provide you with the area’s best hiking, biking, and running trails. In addition to details on length, starting location, and trail quality, AllTrails includes reviews and photos from a community of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. You’ll find useful information like what to pack, obstacles you’ll find along the route, and the best scenic spots to check out.”

Finally, Afar singles out TripIt, which automatically tracks confirmation emails for flight itineraries, hotel, or Airbnb bookings; car rentals; restaurant reservations; and even event tickets, then populates those travel plans into an itinerary that be viewed in one place.

“The easy-to-use organizational app makes it simple to share the consolidated information with family or friends, so you can send them your itinerary directly and avoid having to answer repeated texts like, ‘when are you landing again?’ to coordinate an airport pickup,” Afar notes. “TripIt even features a personalized travel stats page for really data-hungry folks who want to know how many trips they’ve taken or countries they’ve visited — and that’s just in the free version.” Meanwhile, the paid version includes extras like real-time flight alerts, TSA wait times, and loyalty reward program updates.

In short, whatever you’re looking to improve in your life, as Apple’s famous ad slogan notes, there’s an app for that.


Accounting and Tax Planning

The Goal Is Efficiency


Financial reporting isn’t all about profits. Not-for-profit entities can also benefit from implementing formal accounting processes. From preparing budgets and monitoring financial results to paying invoices and handling payroll tax, there’s a lot that falls under the accounting umbrella. Are these tasks, and others, being managed as efficiently at your organization as they could be?


Start with Invoicing

A good first step toward accounting-function improvement is creating policies and procedures for the monthly cutoff of recording vendor invoices and expenses. For instance, you could require all invoices to be submitted to the accounting department within one week after the end of each month. Too many adjustments — or waiting for employees or departments to weigh in — can waste time and delay the completion of your financial statements.

Another tip about invoices: it’s generally best not to enter only one invoice or cut only one check at a time. Set aside a block of time to do the job when you have multiple items to process.

You also may be able to save time at the end of the year by reconciling your balance-sheet accounts each month. It’s a lot easier to correct errors when you catch them early. Also, reconcile accounts payable and accounts receivable subsidiary ledgers to your statements of financial position.


Think Through Data Collection

Designing a coding cover sheet or stamp is another way to boost efficiency. An accounting clerk or bookkeeper needs a variety of information to enter vendor bills and donor gifts into your accounting system. You can speed up the process by collecting all the information on the invoice or donor check copy using a stamp. Route invoices for approval in a folder that lists your not-for-profit’s general-ledger account numbers so that the employee entering data doesn’t have to look them up each time.

The cover sheet or stamp also should provide a place for the appropriate person to approve the invoice for payment. Use multiple-choice boxes to indicate which cost centers the amounts should be allocated to. Documentation of the invoice’s payment should also be recorded for reference. And your development staff should provide the details for any donor gifts prior to your staff recording them in the accounting system.


Optimize Accounting Software

Many organizations underuse the accounting software package they’ve purchased because they haven’t invested enough time to learn its full functionality. If needed, hire a trainer to review the software’s basic functions with staff and teach time-saving tricks and shortcuts.

Standardize the financial reports coming from your accounting software to meet your needs with no modification. This not only will reduce input errors, but also will provide helpful financial information at any point, not just at month’s end.

Consider performing standard journal entries and payroll allocations automatically within your accounting software. Many systems have the ability to automate, for example, payroll allocations to various programs or vacation-accrual reports. But review any estimates against actual figures periodically, and always adjust to the actual amount before closing your books at year end.


Ongoing Review

Accounting processes can become inefficient over time if they aren’t monitored. Look for labor-intensive steps that could be automated or steps that don’t add value and could be eliminated. Also, make sure that the individual or group that’s responsible for the organization’s financial oversight (for example, your CFO, treasurer, or finance committee) promptly reviews monthly bank statements and financial statements for obvious errors or unexpected amounts.


This article was prepared by Whittlesey, one of the largest regional accounting firms in New England, specializing in the areas of accounting, audit, advisory, and technology.

Banking and Financial Services

Investing for the Long Run

By Barbara Trombley, CPA, MBA


As I write this article, the S&P 500 index, which tracks the performance of 500 large companies in the U.S., is down almost 22% for the year. Even more remarkable is that the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is down more than 14% year to date. If the average investor had a 60% equities / 40% bond portfolio that followed these two indexes, they would be down 18.8% for the year! This is without any portfolio or advisor fees.

After many years of positive stock market returns, this is extremely unsettling for the average investor. Usually, investing in bonds or ‘fixed income’ serves as a buffer to the stock market by providing what is usually a more conservative return. This year, because of rampant inflation, the Federal Reserve has rapidly increased interest rates. Bond prices and interest rates move in opposite directions, leading to large drops in bond prices and, therefore, a depressed bond market.

Barbara Trombley

Barbara Trombley

“Sometimes during volatile market periods, an advisor may strive to counsel a client to change their withdrawal strategy from their portfolio or offer advice on large purchases that can be financed another way.”

As a financial advisor, I wear many hats. The obvious one is that I provide investment guidance and strive to help my clients make financial choices. A less obvious role that I play is that of cheerleader. At times, some investors are very tempted to sell out of the market when times are bad. They feel nervous and uncomfortable. But history has shown us that investing is a lifelong event. A financial plan needs to be followed in good markets and bad.

There is a J.P. Morgan asset-management study that shows that seven of the best ten days in the stock market occurred within two weeks of the ten worst days. Since Jan. 1, 2002 through the end of 2021, for example, an investor who was fully invested in the S&P 500 would have returned 9.52% year over year (without fees). If the same investor missed the 10 best days in the market during that same time period, their return may have been 5.33% year over year (without fees) — almost half! An advisor will strive to provide guidance and education to prevent their client from making rash decisions.

Another area where an advisor can assist clients during volatile stock-market periods (and other times as well) is, if appropriate, potential tax-loss harvesting. If an investor has money that is not in a retirement plan, they can sell positions held at a loss in order to offset any gains held in other stocks. The investor can also offset $3,000 in ordinary income each tax year (if he or she has already offset gains) and carry forward unused losses to be used against gains in future years.

The investor would want to be aware of wash sales rules, which prohibit selling an investment for a loss and replacing it with the same or a ‘substantially identical’ investment 30 days before or after the sale. This would void the loss that the investor was deliberately trying to achieve. The investor is allowed to sell a stock at a loss and buy a similar one in the same industry so that he or she can continue to have their money working for them. Tax planning in volatile times could be part of your financial plan as well.

Sometimes during volatile market periods, an advisor may strive to counsel a client to change their withdrawal strategy from their portfolio or offer advice on large purchases that can be financed another way. I have often counselled clients on the options available to them, from where to draw money for their monthly expenses. In a volatile market, for many clients, using cash savings to pay monthly expenses can take the stress off a portfolio that has declined.

The greatest benefit to you from using a financial advisor is having someone to listen to you, someone for you to seek out and reassure you that, based on history, industry knowledge, and their experience in the financial world day after day, you can pursue financial independence.


Barbara Trombley, MBA, CPA is an owner and financial consultant with Trombley Associates. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Trombley Associates, a registered investment advisor and separate entity from LPL Financial. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA tax, legal, or investment advice. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.


To Contest or Not to Contest?

Benjamin Coyle, Esq.


None of us want to think that, after we pass away, our loved ones may someday fight over an inheritance. But as we all know, family relationships are complex, and can be particularly so when finances are involved. Add in the grief of losing a loved one, and suddenly, relatives who have always gotten along well may find themselves at odds. Keeping peace in the family is often a vital consideration in estate planning.

One of the most important components of a person’s estate plan is the document that ultimately directs the final disposition of their property, both real and personal, upon their passing. In most circumstances, that document is either a last will and testament or a trust. A question that often arises during the drafting process is: “what can I do to make sure that no one fights over my estate?”

Benjamin Coyle

Benjamin Coyle

“Family relationships are complex, and can be particularly so when finances are involved. Add in the grief of losing a loved one, and suddenly, relatives who have always gotten along well may find themselves at odds. Keeping peace in the family is often a vital consideration in estate planning.”

While an attorney can never guarantee that heirs or beneficiaries will not fight, there are provisions that can be made to deter an interested person from contesting the terms of a will or trust. For wills, Massachusetts law recognizes a provision purporting to penalize an interested person for contesting the will or instituting other proceedings relating to the estate. For trusts, the courts in Massachusetts have upheld the enforceability of ‘no-contest’ (or ‘in terrorem’) clauses.

In 2012, Massachusetts adopted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC), a model code adopted by 18 states in order to standardize probate laws. However, in adopting the UPC, Massachusetts did not incorporate the model’s no-contest provision, which essentially allowed for challenges or contests where probable cause exists. Rather, Massachusetts determined that the Commonwealth would maintain its historic baseline regarding no-contest provisions, and, in doing so, the Legislature provided that such clauses are enforceable as a matter of law, subject to some limitations as determined by the court.

Generally speaking, a no-contest provision is a clause within a will or trust with specific language stating that any person who challenges the estate must then forfeit their share. One of the primary purposes of including such a provision is to deter an interested person from bringing a challenge against the estate.

Typically, if an interested person believes they are not receiving what they may consider to be their fair share of the estate, that perception can provoke a desire to fight the terms of the will or trust. Emotions tend to run particularly high if a sibling or family member may receive a larger portion, or if someone is left out of an estate altogether. These challenges are not often successful, so long as the creator of the will or trust complied with all statutory requirements, was not subject to undue influence or duress, and had the appropriate mental capacity to execute the document.

Occasionally, though, when an interested person is able to present evidence of duress or incapacity, a successful challenge to a will could result in the entire document being invalidated, which would naturally include the no-contest provision. If the no-contest provision is eliminated as a result of the challenge, the contesting party may then be eligible to receive a share of the estate or trust, depending upon the other circumstances at hand.

When administering any will or trust, whether a no-contest provision is included or not, the fiduciary in charge (that is, the trustee of a trust, or the personal representative under a will) must still comply with all the other terms of the document, and the fiduciary is still responsible to beneficiaries. They are required to account to the beneficiaries for the assets under their control, as this is a matter of public policy that the courts have determined cannot be avoided with a no-contest provision.

Typically, we might see no-contest provisions enforced within the discretion of the fiduciary, for frivolous matters involving the administration of the will or trust. Occasionally, a beneficiary may ask the court for an interpretation of the provisions of a will or trust, to make sure the fiduciary is complying with its terms. Provided they are not trying to challenge or change the provisions in the document, the court is unlikely to invoke the no-contest provision when a request for interpretation is made by an interested person.

If you are a beneficiary of a last will and testament or a trust, it is extremely important to review the document to see if it contains a no-contest provision. If it does, and if a challenger comes forward, the court is likely to uphold the no-contest clause, which could result in the forfeiture of an inheritance. One must carefully weigh the options and potential outcomes before asserting a challenge.

On the other hand, if you are preparing your own estate plan and are concerned that disagreements may erupt among beneficiaries, you may wish to consider including a no-contest provision in your documents. Keeping the family peace in the future is certainly worth spending some time and effort today.


Benjamin Coyle is a shareholder with Bacon Wilson, P.C. He specializes in matters of estate planning and administration and also has extensive experience with real estate, business, corporate, and municipal law; (413) 781-0560; [email protected]