I get constantly asked the best tools to get out of debt, start a budget, open a Roth IRA, and keep track of your portfolio.
No more stressing required. Everything you need is below.
Below you’ll find the best of the best in various facets of the financial industry.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a commission if you end up opening an account.
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Don’t worry, we don’t let the potential of a commission get in the way of telling you about the best in the industry. And we’ve turned down opportunities to promote tools that didn’t line up well with our readers’ best interests. No commission is worth losing your trust.
If you read through this list and don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, or you just aren’t sure which option to pick, drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be glad to help out.
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- The Bad Habit Destroyer- Learn how eliminate bad financial habits in 21 days
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- The Situation Report – Got some debt to take down? This guide will help identify where you need to start.
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“Rose is particularly good in explaining how to establish and keep good credit; the need for having clear, specific financial goals; how to learn from your mistakes when you go off track; and the best ways to eliminate debt.” -New York Times
- Investing and Retirement: Scottrade
- Get Insured: Free Life Insurance Quote
- Managing Investments: Personal Capital
- Managing Bills and Budget: Finovera
- Get Out of Debt: Ready for Zero
- Peer-to-Peer Lending: Lending Club
- Tracking Credit Score: Credit Karma
- Day-to-Day Banking: Capital One 360
Investing and Retirement
First let’s look at one of the most financial task orders you must complete: saving enough money to retire. The following are investment brokerages and other companies that let you open investment accounts and IRAs.
We want to hit on retirement first because you likely already have a savings and checking account. It might not be as good as the ones we have listed below, but you’ve got one.
Some individuals have done nothing for retirement at all, so we want to show you what your options are here first.
Our #1 Pick: Scottrade
Scottrade is an online and brick-and-mortar discount brokerage firm, which is one of the reasons why we like it so much.
Not only do you get inexpensive trading costs, but if you ever want to sit down with a live human being you can at one of Scottrade’s 500+ branches around the country.
The firm has kept their trade costs steady at $7 per stock and ETF trade for years.
Mutual fund trades vary based on the type of fund with a maximum trade commission of $17. (But you shouldn’t be doing a ton of trading in mutual funds anyways; use Vanguard for that — see below.)
Jeff likes Scottrade so much he even created an account there himself with a video that takes you step-by-step through the account opening process with Scottrade: Opening a No Fee Roth IRA with Scottrade.
Our #2 Pick: TradeKing
Tradeking is an online discount brokerage firm with some of the least expensive trade fees available. $4.95 for stock and ETF trades is crazy talk. Plus no-load mutual funds are reasonable at $9.95 per trade. If you want to get funky with your investing you can trade options with Tradeking for just $0.65 per contract (plus the $4.95 base).
The company is a strong competitor to bigger firms with brick-and-mortar stores thanks to a merger with another smaller discount brokerage firm, Zecco. The two companies combined forces to bring low prices to every customer. The firm was rated #1 for Customer Service by Smart Money from 2010 to 2012 as well.
Give Tradeking a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
3 Other Great Options:
TD Ameritrade – An all around great brokerage with especially easy Roth IRA rollover tools (they say it takes 15 minutes or less to set up your IRA), with one glaring problem: $49.99 trade commissions no-load mutual funds. Yikes.
Betterment – A different twist on investing. Instead of hitting you with trade fees and confusing investing options you select from two options (a basket of stock ETFs versus a basket of Treasury bonds) and are charged anywhere from 0.15% to 0.35% of the total assets you have invested with the firm.
Vanguard – Slow and steady wins the race, and automatic investing into low-cost index funds is about as steady as it gets when it comes to investing. Vanguard is known for having incredibly low fees on its index mutual funds and ETFs, so building a portfolio through automatic investing is a great and inexpensive choice.
It’s reported that over 55 million households don’t have enough life insurance coverage. Are you a statistic? We don’t want that…. Going without the right levels of insurance puts you and your family at great risk.
Typically for auto and home insurance we just go with the least expensive national brand. I got really frustrated on the life insurance side of things. Life insurance is one of the most critical insurance policies you can buy, but most people don’t. That’s what I started the Life Insurance Movement (see video below) to bring attention to a need that many families ignore.
If there’s any doubt that you don’t have enough life insurance to protect your family, get a free quote here.
When it comes to your day-to-day banking needs you don’t have to make it complicated. Have a checking account, a savings account, and maybe some certificates of deposit. Thanks to the technology there is absolutely no need for you to rely on brick-and-mortar banks. You can keep a local free checking account with a brick-and-mortar institution if you cash a lot of checks, but for the most part you can take a photo of a check and it will be deposited in your online bank account within a few days.
Our Pick for Daily Banking: Capital One 360
Capital One 360 is by far our favorite choice for internet banking. Formerly ING Direct, Capital One purchased it and has kept everything but the name and colors the same. Same great service, same great accounts. You can get Capital One 360 Checking offers a fair interest rate, a debit card, and ATM access like you would expect. Capital One 360 Savings has a higher interest rate that is competitive amongst the other online banks, plus our favorite feature: the ability to set up multiple sub-accounts for various saving goals.
For example, you can have your main checking and savings account and under the savings account set up sub-accounts for goals like “Emergency Fund”, “Next Vacation”, or whatever you need. You can then set up automatic transfers from your other accounts directly into those sub-accounts to make saving money as painless and effort-free as possible. Plus they have Certificates of Deposit as well. It’s a one stop shop for your banking needs and you get awesome customer service to boot.
Our Pick for Certificates of Deposit: Discover CDs
Discover — the credit card company — also has a banking side that offers savings accounts and certificates of deposit. I’d stick with Capital One 360 for the savings accounts due to the ability to set up sub-accounts, but for something like a CD that you plan to never touch throughout the year? Discover is a great choice because they offer above-average interest rates on their Discover Bank Certificates of Deposit.
Other Banking Options
Manage Your Money
When it comes to managing your day to day spending you have a system in place currently. Whether or not that system is ideal we can’t tell you, but you’ve got something that you’re doing.
Instead of trying to convince you to use an Excel spreadsheet to track your spending or to stuff money in envelopes and store them throughout your house, we’re going to focus on two big wins that should make managing your finances a lot easier.
Our Pick for Managing Your Investments: Personal Capital
Personal Capital is by are our most favorite tool to manage your investments – and it’s free!
Once you have learned about asset allocation and annual rebalancing you hit the frustrating wall of trying to track a portfolio that is shared across some or all of the following:
Your or your spouse’s Roth or Traditional 401k, your or your spouse’s Roth or Traditional IRA, any pensions you have, or in normal taxable investing accounts.
You can manage the asset allocation within each of those individually, but seeing things on a large scale has been nearly impossible…
…until now. Personal Capital lets you tie in all of your investment accounts into one clear dashboard. Seeing the big picture with your whole portfolio has never been easier (unless you’ve been paying high fees for a financial advisor to handle this for you).
You can read our full review of Personal Capital, but we also did a video walk through of the tool:
Our Pick for Managing Your Bills: Finovera
Raise your hand if you love sorting through paper bills to see when the next due date is so you can drop a check in the mail
That’s why we thought.
Finovera is a free online service that will track all of your bills, remind you when the due date is near, and store all of your statements digitally. No more having to file everything into a filing cabinet. Finovera doesn’t do bill pay, but if you click on the bill and want to pay it the site redirects you to that bill’s login page.
It’s a simple service that we think has a big impact on how you manage your finances.
Get Out of Debt
Paying high interest on a credit card balance is no way to get ahead financially. Yet tracking your debt load and how best to pay it down has always been a bit of a guessing game (or requires extensive use of a calculator or spreadsheet). Just like everywhere else with finance we am a big believer in using tools to make your life easier when getting out of debt.
Our Pick for Getting Out of Debt: Ready for Zero
Tracking what your various interest rates are, your minimum payments, and figuring out which debt should be next in line to get your extra payments hasn’t been easy.
That is until Ready for Zero came along.
Managing your getting out of debt process with multiple creditors is very similar to tracking your investment portfolio. Ready for Zero solves this problem much in the same way that Personal Capitalsolves the problem of tracking a portfolio over several brokerage firms.
All you do is input your debts, interest rates, and so on and the tool creates the fastest payoff plan for you then helps you track your progress as you pay it down.
Best of all? It’s free.
We love it.
Peer-to-peer lending (or P2P Lending) is, in our eyes, a phenomenal new idea in the financial industry. Instead of going to a bank or a credit card for a loan with a high interest rate, you use a website and other people lend you money on better terms.
As we mentioned above, we’d rather you not borrow money to get out of debt — it just sounds weird since you are adding to your debt with that borrowing — but sometimes it is necessary AND can save you a ton of money. If you are able to take $35,000 in credit card debt at 20% and drop it to the same amount at 11%, you are going to save a ton of money in interest.
Likewise as a potential investor, the returns are risky but definitely higher than other options readily available to you. A majority of investors earn anywhere from 6% to 18% returns on their money lent out to other individuals.
Our Pick for Peer-to-Peer Lending and Peer-to-Peer Borrowing: Lending Club
Lending Club wasn’t the first P2P lending website, but we think it is the best.
Lending Club has a solid collections process that doesn’t guarantee investors will recover any funds from loans gone bad, but it is significantly better than what Prosper does.
Underwriting on the loans seem to be better as well.
Lending Club was the first P2P lending company to give investors the option of trading your loans with other users just like you would any other other financial device.
You can make money flipping loans or simply cut your losses if you notice a borrower’s credit score dropping on one of your notes.
Prosper was the company that really brought the idea of people lending money to people without a bank involved to the public.
For the longest time their collections process left investors with just about nothing when a loan went bad, but that is slowly improving.
Prosper also is currently available for investors in a few more states than Lending Club, although that may change if either company goes public with an IPO.
Still not convinced? Be sure to check out my Lending Club vs. Prosper experiment. I opened accounts with both companies and have been tracking my returns. Thus far the returns have been rather salty. You can find out more here.
What about Peer-to-Peer Borrowing?
Technically we could fit this section under “Getting out of debt”, but we’ll leave it here since it relates to P2P lending.
All of those P2P lenders have to have borrowers to lend that money to. If you are up to your eyeballs in debt, barely making your minimum payments, and unable to make progress on getting your balances down then a peer-to-peer loan might be the best option for you.
It’s just like any other loan: you apply, go through underwriting, provide income and employment documentation, and get approved at a certain interest rate. You write up your story as to why lenders should want to fund you. Then you list your loan and wait.
With P2P you could take $20,000 in credit card debt at 20% interest and replace it with a $20,000 P2P loan at 12% with a 3-year fixed payoff payment.
No more wondering how long it will take you to get out of debt. One loan, one payment, and you could be debt-free in 3 years or less.
The key with Peer-to-Peer borrowing is taking the borrowed funds and applying them to your credit cards (or other debts) and cutting up the cards. Don’t close your accounts unless they have an annual fee — you can lower your score by closing credit accounts — but cut up the cards so it is physically impossible for you to get back into debt.
If you don’t do this you have a huge risk of paying off your credit cards, getting the P2P loan at the same amount of debt, and then racking up a new section of debt back on the cards leaving you with double the debt you had to begin with.
Track Your Credit
Your credit score is one of the most important numbers tied to your financial success.
A bad score can result in you spending tens of thousands more in interest over your life time on home mortgages, auto loans, and even non-loan related expenses like car insurance.
The only way to know your true FICO credit score is to purchase it from myFICO.com.
The tools below give you proprietary credit scores that are similar to your FICO score but aren’t exactly the same.
However, tracking these related scores and changes made to them can still help you keep tabs on your credit history.