The world of personal finance isn’t something you have to navigate all alone. Thanks to the Internet and lots of creative advancements in technology, there are tons of great apps and software programs that you can use to enhance every aspect of how you manage your money.
But with so many to choose from, how do you know which ones are the best? In this post, we’ll go through the top 10 financial tools that we recommend every household CFO (chief financial officer) should be utilizing.
1. General Investing: Vanguard
If you’re looking for a place to make your first investment, then without a doubt Vanguard would be my top recommendation. Vanguard’s brokerage services are not only one of the highest regards, but they are also easy to use and much cheaper than what you might find with their competitors.
Vanguard’s claim to fame is its wide variety of index funds. Popularized back in the 1970s by Vanguard’s founder Jack Bogle, the index fund approach was a way to offer clients a simplified, low-cost way to capture the return of the entire market without a lot of overhead. This is a strategy that has proven year over year to be one of the most efficient ways for the average consumer to invest their money.
If you’d rather not pick your own funds, then you can now let an app do it for you. Robo-advisors have made an impact on the financial world by finding ways to automate investment recommendations for their clients.
If you’d like to give one a try, then check out Betterment. Betterment not only has ready-made portfolios for each type of investor, but they also charge much less than the average mutual fund. Plus, you can get started with as little as $10.
2. Budgeting & Tracking Expenses: Buxfer
When it comes to budgeting, one of the best ways to do this is to use an app that keeps track of all of your transactions and then organizes them into one convenient place. However, most conventional budgeting apps are pretty rigid in what they can do or any customizations that you may wish to make.
That’s where Buxfer steps in. Buxfer is a platform that offers you everything other budgeting apps do plus a whole lot more! You can fully customize your budget with personalized rules and tags, connect with over 20,000 different banks, and then get real-time alerts whenever you exceed your preset limits.
In addition to budgeting, Buxfer’s platform offers a lot of other useful tools and features. For example, you can plan for major purchases, consolidate your investments into one dashboard, and even run forecasts of your future spending and account balances.
With plans starting at just $3.99 per month, that’s a lot of fire-power packed into one helpful app.
3. Micro-Savings: Acorns
Are you looking for a creative way to save more money? Acorns takes the old-school practice of saving your spare change in a jar and puts a digital spin on it.
The way it works is simple. With every purchase you make with a linked credit and debit card, the purchase is rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. This additional “change” is then transferred to your Acorns account where it then gets invested in a robo-advisor style portfolio.
Acorns is especially great for teaching children about the power of saving or if you’d like to slowly build up towards a long-term goal like a new car or down payment. Plus, since the money gets invested, it has the potential to grow the longer you keep it up.
4. Stock Trades: Robinhood
Long gone are the days of having to pay your broker $20+ commissions. Robinhood is a bare-bones stock trading platform that allows clients to buy and sell as many securities as they wish commission-free!
Not only do they have a $0 account minimum, but you also can trade fractional shares, ETFs (exchange-traded funds), and stock options. You can even purchase cryptocurrency if you’d like.
5. Retirement Planning Calculator: SmartAsset
Most retirement planning calculators you’ll find on the Internet are either too simplistic or so confusing that you won’t know where to start. That’s why we like this one from SmartAsset.
By answering just 10 or so simple questions about your finances, this retirement calculator will crunch out a report that’s customized just to you. You’ll gain valuable insights about what your anticipated retirement income will be, if you’re on track, and what you can do to catch up. And best of all, it’s free!
6. Early Retirement Planning: FIRECalc
If you have any ambitions of retiring early, then you’re going to want to run financial simulations that aren’t generally available with most standard retirement planning calculators. For that, you’ll need FIRECalc.
FIRECalc essentially takes the same method that was used to develop the 4 Percent Rule and gives users the ability to run their safe withdrawal rate scenarios. You can test your own numbers or add some customization to your plan by factoring in things like Social Security and reducing inflation-adjusted withdrawals.
The best part is that instead of using Monte Carlo simulations, it relies on actual historical stock and bond returns. Though history is never a prediction of the future, this does give you some confidence in how your hypothetical retirement plan would have fared during some of the most turbulent financial times over the past century.
7. Credit Check: Credit Karma
There’s no denying the role your credit score plays in all of your other financial matters. That’s why it’s absolutely vital to make sure both your FICO score and credit history are on point and error-free.
That’s why so many people turn to Credit Karma. Unlike a lot of other credit services that claim to give you your FICO score after giving them your credit card number, Credit Karma is legitimately free. They’ll get both your credit score and report with no strings. Plus, you’ll also get some helpful recommendations on how you can make improvements to your credit situation.
8. Debt Management: Debt Payoff Planner
If you’ve got several debts that you’d like to pay off, then one of the most helpful apps around is the Debt Payoff Planner.
This simple and easy-to-use tool lets you create a free account where you can input the details of your loans. From there, you can experiment with different payoff strategies such as adding more money to the principal and arranging your payoff order by balance or APR.
Once you’ve decided on your preferred course of action, you’ll start making payments and tracking them in the app. Month after month, you’ll strategically progress your way towards achieving your goal of becoming debt-free.
9. Mortgage Calculator: Bankrate
Much like retirement calculators, some mortgage calculators can get pretty complex with details like the loan types, points, escrow, etc. When you’re thinking about buying a house, you want something simple … and that’s why we like this mortgage calculator from Bankrate.
You can always count on Bankrate to get straight to the point, and that’s exactly what this one does. By simply typing in the inputs, the calculator will automatically update with your anticipated monthly principal and interest payment. And if you’re interested in more detailed information such as your full amortization schedule, then you can click on a different tab to review that too.
10. Financial Education: Investopedia
Hands down, if there’s one place to find great information about literally anything related to finances, it’s Investopedia. Investopedia is like a massive database filled with articles, videos, and tools for just about every money-related topic you can imagine. You’ll find everything from basic questions like “what is a stock” to more advanced topics like how hedge funds and cryptocurrencies work.
Whether you’re new to personal finance or have been involved for years, there’s always something new to learn on Investopedia. Navigate to their Education section to browse a wide variety of topics. Or if you’d like to become an expert on specific subjects, you can opt for one of their paid pre-made courses.
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