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App Chat: Three apps that want to help you solve some of life's problems

Portfolio allocation screen in the Acorns app.
Portfolio allocation screen in the Acorns app.
Portfolio allocation screen in the Acorns app.
Examples of the Worry Watch app.

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It's a bold claim to make that an app on a smartphone could save your life, your mind or your money, but the three apps that I came across and tested out for this week's edition of app chat, all purport to do one of those things. Let's call them "Super Saver" apps, in the spirit of needing things in our lives that help us out a bit.

So, let's run down the list:

1) Acorns - To help you get into saving and investing money.

Acorns is a micro-investing app that lets you build an investment portfolio of different combinations of stocks and bonds, without any commissions or account minimums. It seems like the hope is that they can pull in people who aren't adept investors, but who would use technology to manage their cash. Millenials come to mind. They save money at a higher rate than Baby Boomers did at their age, but they aren't on top of investing in stocks. This app makes investing easy, accessible, and it has one killer feature,which is that the app will take the change off each purchase and put it in your account and invest it for you. 

So, if you spend 3.50 on an ice cream, it’ll take fifty cents and put it in your Acorns account and that goes into the money that they invest for you. So, the idea is that you’re saving without trying too hard.

However, even though you're saving money, this money is still being invested in places like the stock market, so if the market tanks, you could lose some cash. And depending on what your tolerance for risk is, you can choose more aggressive or less aggressive portfolios. Honestly, all of the fees associated with this app are similar to other brokerage services, so your probably not saving much money there, but a lot of people seem to be getting behind the convenience. Also, of course, you assume some risk by sharing and accessing your money online.

2) Worry Watch - To help you keep track of your worries, and to keep them in perspective.

When you're stressed out, or anxious, you open up the app and put in information, including, what you're anxious about, when the worrying started, the context of the worry, and eventually, the outcome of the worry

The idea is that by logging your every day worries you can keep track of the different things that you're stressed about and figure out the patterns, and when you look back on the outcome of your different worries - you'll regularly see - and I speak from personal experience - that the outcomes were either pretty neutral, or not nearly as bad as you thought that they were going to be at the time.

The downside to this app and every health app that you have to constantly enter information is that there's little incentive to do so over and over... and really it just takes up a lot of time. But if you were diligent about it, it seems like it could be an effective anxiety journal.

3) Bike Shield - To help you avoid getting hit by cars while on a bike or a motorcycle.

I've been hit by cars quite a few times, all when I was just riding along in a straight line in a bike lane or a back country road. The drivers all claimed that they hadn't seen me, so when I heard about this app I got excited.

If you're on a bike or a motorcycle, and you have the app installed, and a driver nearby has the app installed, it'll alert the driver to your approach. The company claims that it's about 5-10 seconds before they can even see you.

The problem's clear... that everyone everywhere would have to download this for it to be effective.