Mobile apps help shoppers save

Deferring gratification is no longer a personal matter as financial institutions are intentionally putting savings on the frontal lobes of their customers. Putnam Investments is helping its 401(k) plan participants save money for retirement with a new Apple iPhone app.

Consumers use their iPhone to scan bar codes and check prices. The app combines comparison prices with retirement account information, calculating how future retirement income can benefit. For example, if the customer is shopping for an HDTV priced at $1,738.64, the app will find the same product at $1,299.99. You would save $439 by purchasing the less expensive tv, and if you put that amount into your 401(k), you’d reap an additional $11.16 per month in retirement.

Todd Barnhart, director of retail deposits for PNC Bank, says that people need “a visible reminder” to save. PNC offers customers an online virtual wallet with a mobile banking app. When participants have a little extra cash, they can tap the pig icon and transfer money automatically from checking to savings.

The apps offered by Putnam and PNC attempt to make saving for the future (college, vacations, retirement) simple and habitual. And you can expect more mobile apps that encourage delayed gratification to hit the market soon.