Most of us use a lot of tools to manage our money, budget, investments, and so forth. So I thought I’d pull together a list of the tools I use nearly every day. Hopefully you’ll find some options here that will help you make the most of your money.
1. Personal Capital: Without question this tool is THE way to track your investments. You can link all of your 401k, IRA, and taxable accounts. Personal Capital will track your investments in real time, offering charts and graphs on everything from performance to asset allocation. It also gives you a picture of the fees you are paying in your 401k and other retirement accounts. Oh, and it’s totally free.
2. Morningstar: This free resource is hands down the best place to research mutual funds and ETFs. Its portfolio tracker (requires free membership) can slice and dice your portfolio in terms of cost, asset allocation, and a million other criteria. If you upgrade to Morningstar’s premium service, you’ll get additional analyst reports and details on your investments.
3. Betterment: For those looking for a low cost, low minimum, and easy investing solution, Betterment is the answer. It’s extremely easy to use, and they offer both taxable accounts and IRAs. I’ve had an account with Betterment since 2011, and contribute to it automatically every month.
4. Vanguard: For lost cost index funds, Vanguard is the clear winner. I’ve rolled over my old 401k accounts into Vanguard IRAs, and I have most of our taxable accounts here. It’s free to open an account and very easy to use.
5. Scottrade: If you are looking to trade stocks, ETF, or bonds, Scottrade overs ease of use and very low costs. I’ve had a SEP IRA at Scottrade for several years. One of the big benefits is the ability to go into a Scottrade office and actually talk to a real life human being.
Listen to the podcast where I describe how these tools have helped me manage our finances
Budgeting & Money Management
6. YNAB: This software is hands down the best budgeting tool I’ve ever used. And I’ve tried all of them. The video tutorials that YNAB has produced not only show you how to use the program, but they also provide invaluable tips on how to budget effectively.
7. Capital One 360: This is one of two online bank accounts I use. Cap One 360 offers extremely competitive interest rates and virtually no fees. Its website is also very easy to use.
8. Synchrony Bank: Synchrony consistently pays one of the highest interest rates on FDIC-insured savings accounts (1.05% APY as of June 22, 2016).
9. Excel: With all of the available online tools, it’s easy to forget about some of the basics. Excel is where I track our net worth, updated monthly.
10. Citi Double Cash: I use a credit card for every purchase I can for several reasons. First, it’s the safest way to spend money. Second, it makes tracking my spending very easy. I just download the transactions into YNAB. And third, I earn cash back on every single purchase. The Citi Double Cash is my primary card because I earn 1% on every purchase + 1% when I pay for those purchases. Check out this and other cash back cards at CardRatings.com.
Credit & Debt
11. myFICO: The place to go to get your official FICO score is the company that created the score in the first place, myFICO. If you sign up for FICO’s score monitoring service, you get access to your FICO score for a small fee.
You can also get access to your FICO score for free with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. Barclaycard is one of the few credit card issuers that provides its card members with free access to their FICO score.
12. Annual Credit Report: This is the place to go to get your free credit report. Note that you don’t get your credit score here, just your report. But it’s essential to make sure there are no errors on your report. I’ve created a video walking you through the process, which you can find by clicking here.
13. Credit Karma: For monitoring your score and getting an idea of where you stand, there are two great options. And I use them both. After all, they are totally free. No “free” trial. No credit card required. Free! The first is Credit Karma.
14. Credit Sesame: The second is Credit Sesame. Both tools do an excellent job of telling you exactly where your credit stands, what is helping your score, and what is holding you back.
15. 0% Credit Cards: My wife and I used 0% balance transfer cards to help us get out of debt. The no interest cards reduced our interest payments (obviously), which not only saved us money, but also got us out of debt a lot faster. Two of my favorites are Chase Slate (0% for 15 months; no transfer fee) and Citi Simplicity® Card (0% for 21 months; 3% transfer fee). You can find other current options in our list of the best offers by clicking here.
16. Debt Reduction Calculator: This is one of my favorite calculators when it comes to getting out of debt. You can enter multiple debts with different rates and terms. It allows you to set up extra payments and customize the order of the debts you’ll pay off first. The result is the length of time it will take you to get out of debt and how much it will cost.
17. Mortgage Rates: The best place to compare rates is at LendingTree. The site is easy to use for both mortgages and refinancing.
18. Zillow: If you are looking to buy, or just looking to kill an hour or two, Zillow is a great option. You can easily search for available properties anywhere. Most listings have photos and loads of details about the property.
19. HUD Homes: Every single investment property I’ve ever purchased was a HUD home. HUD foreclosures are also a great place to find a home you plan to occupy. Start by researching on the HUD website, but make sure to use a realtor who has a lot of experience with HUD.
20. Karl’s Mortgage Calculator: Simply put, it is the best most comprehensive mortgage calculator you’ll find anywhere. It’s also really easy to use.
21. Retirement Nest Egg Calculator: From Vanguard, this calculator lets you easily run simulations to determine if your retirement savings will last during your retirement.
22. The Flexible Retirement Plan: Arguably the most comprehensive free retirement calculator available, the Flexible Retirement Plan is the place to start if you want a DIY plan.
If there are other tools that you find helpful, share them in the comments below.