Want to know the tools I use? Here they are.
They're not complicated. It's not a laundry list of services. It's super simple.
In fact, I've made an emphasis on making it far easier to manage our finances.
This page is a work in progress, updating and expanding as I remember the resources and tools we use and how to best present them.
Here are the different categories:
If you're looking for a new bank account or credit card, companies will pay you hundreds of dollars to use their products.
Tracking My Finances
I track our net worth with a spreadsheet, specifically Microsoft Excel. It's a spreadsheet I've tweaked and tailored over 14+ years and it's served me well. A spreadsheet won't pull a Quicken and start charging me an annual fee, which is nice. (here are some top Quicken alternatives if you're in that conundrum)
I use Personal Capital to collect the data and help plan for the future, using its Retirement Planner. You can read more about what I think of Personal Capital in my review as well as most people's biggest concerns, security at Personal Capital.
If you are interested in the broader methodology for our financial setup, this post on Building a Rock-Solid Financial Foundation forms the basis of our setup. In addition to the spreadsheet, I also maintain a Treasure Map that explains, in plain English, what every account is for and how they relate. A spreadsheet is good for numbers but bad for explaining the logic behind each number.
Ally Bank is my main bank and is the hub of my Financial Network Map. They have high-interest rates on their checking and savings account, their iPhone app has everything I need, and I don't see myself changing banks anytime soon.
Bank of America is a regular checking account that I use to deposit (rarely) and withdraw cash.
CapitalOne360 is still around because it used to be ING Direct and I use that as my bank account firewall with Paypal and other payment services. With a minimum of just $1, no fees, and a comparable interest rate to Ally Bank, there's no cost to keeping this around.
I use Vanguard and Ally Invest.
I never moved my holdings over to Vanguard from Ally Invest because it's a good platform, charges no fees and I didn't want to deal with transferring assets. I have my bank account there too so it's still pretty consolidated.
Vanguard is where I hold everything else because Vanguard has the best funds. I have a few stock holdings there too but the bulk of money is in mutual funds or ETFs. Vanguard has a Personal Advisor Service as well as a robo-advisor-like Digital Advisor Service.
AcreTrader is a real estate platform I've been geeking out on (and one where I've made three investments as of January 2021). They invest in farmland, which is a nice asset class that I don't otherwise have exposure to.
In other real estate news, I've dabbled in real estate investing through a crowdfunded real estate platform – I've looked at AcreTrader and Fundrise as the two interesting players in this place. Fundrise is a bit different in the setup because you invest in a fund, rather than directly in properties. AcreTrader is fun because you invest in farmland. 🙂
Our three main credit cards are the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card, The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi.
We love the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Credit Card because it's our primary engine for earning a Southwest Companion Pass each year. The Companion Pass is one of the best frequent flyer perks out there and the card helps us get the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points you need to earn each year to maintain it. What's powerful is that you can get 50,000 Rapid Rewards points with a referral, more details here, plus you can earn up to 50,000 points in referrals each year.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is the cornerstone idea behind visiting Disney for free, since you can use the SPG Points at the Swan and the Dolphin. They're Disney-ish properties – you get perks like Extra Magic Hours, transportation and FastPass+ reservations but you don't get transport from the airport and complimentary Magic Bands.
Finally, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi is our basic cashback card linked to our Costco membership.
This area is for all the financial tools we use that don't fall into a nice convenient “money” category.
One tool that I don't use, and doesn't qualify as a free service, is You Need a Budget. We're at the financial point in our life when budgeting is no longer an important piece of our finances but we know how powerful it can be. You Need a Budget is a paid budgeting tool that will get you on track and has been used by thousands of people to build a budget they can stick with. I met the founder Jesse Meacham many many years ago and I've always been impressed with their service.
Insurance is critical and this is how I think about insurance.
If you need life insurance, I recommend checking out our list of the best life insurance companies. We briefly discuss companies like Bestow, Fabric, Ladder, and more – you will be able to find an affordable policy through one of these providers.
If you don't have major debts (like a home mortgage) or dependents (those who rely on your income, such as kids or elders), you may wish to get disability insurance. It can replace a percentage of your income if you become disabled for some reason – here's why you may or may not want disability insurance.
This page is a work in progress and will be updated and refreshed with the latest and greatest resources and tools I use or recommend.