Here's an interesting little application for your iPhone, iPod or iPad that takes a simple concept and makes it completely horrifying, though I'm sure that's not exactly what the fine folks at OwenMobile were going for.
Before You Buy is a financial calculator that will run you $0.99. The premise goes like this: when you're about to make a purchase, of literally any size, you can whip out your iOS device and enter a few parameters in order to see what sort of long term ramifications the product will cost your retirement fund. This app makes the assumption that you already have a retirement account, so don't forget to take that into account should you decide to pick it up.
You'll enter your current age, your retirement age, your retirement fund growth rate and both the cost and frequency of your purchase. With that information, this app crunches the numbers and returns the exact amount of money said purchase will drain from your retirement fund. That's how you'll be able to find out exactly how much that daily trip to Dunkin' Donuts is hurting you in the long run. For me? That's about $752,632.36.
Consider the financial slam dunk above and you understand exactly what I meant when I said that this application has the potential to be positively terrifying. Yes, you could get the same results with a calculator and an easy formula, but Before You Buy makes it all too easy to find yourself scared of buying anything.
As I said, not having a retirement fund renders this application nearly useless. Then again, it's probable that the only people considering this app in the first place are the types that currently have retirement accounts. For those folks, Before You Buy may be an absolutely perfect source of reminders and gentle nudges.
Rather than making this application one dimensional by focusing on what purchases do to retirement accounts, why not let users build a simple savings engine? Most 25 year olds, despite the advice given by financial advisors, don't have retirement accounts. Let these people customize the time frame and nature of their savings account. This application will instantly go from limited to well rounded.