If you’ve spent any time at all reading this blog, you know I’m very selective when it comes to the companies that get my hard-earned money. That applies to everything from choosing an investment service to picking an auto insurance carrier. When it comes to achieving financial independence, these types of decisions are crucial, and because so many readers ask me about which companies and service providers I use, I thought I’d put them all together on this page for your convenience.
Some of the companies listed do happen to provide commissions in exchange for online referrals. However, this never influences my recommendation. In such cases, I’ve made sure to use a personalized link that will ensure this blog gets proper credit if you decide to become a customer. It’s a totally optional way that you can support this blog if you decide you want to try any of these services.
If you want to skip down to a certain section, just click on that link below. Otherwise, you can scroll down to see my full list of recommendations.
Top Robo Advisor
When it comes to investing your money, nobody makes it easier than Betterment. With Betterment, you don’t need a traditional financial advisor to start investing. You get investment guidance delivered in an automated fashion. In other words, Betterment invests your money for you into a diversified portfolio designed around your level of risk tolerance and your specific investing goals.
The best part? Betterment’s fees are dirt cheap, especially when compared to using a traditional financial advisor. With a regular advisor, you can be paying up to 3% each year in fees by the time you add up their management fees, custodial fees, trading commissions, and so on. But with Betterment, your annual advisory fee will be between 0.15%-0.35%, depending on how much money is in your account. That could save you thousands of dollars every year!
Another thing I love is there are no account minimums at Betterment. You can literally open a Betterment account and start investing with just $10 if you wanted to. It’s great for the person who’s looking to get the ball rolling so they can start working toward true financial independence.
Top App for Personal Finance Tracking
A lot of people have called Personal Capital “the Mint of investing.” And that’s true, but it doesn’t give you the full picture of everything Personal Capital can do.
With Personal Capital, you can get a holistic overview of your financial picture, including insights into how you can better manage your investments to get greater results. The free app links all of your accounts together into one place. That includes everything from your checking and savings accounts to your 401 (k) and Roth IRA. The app also includes a ton of reporting capabilities that are simply unmatched by anything else I’ve seen out there. The bottom line is this is a tool that can make you a better investor and a more prudent steward of your money.
Personal Capital also offers a premium service for those with over $100,000 in their accounts. This includes two dedicated financial advisors to help you with your investment planning needs and some robo advisor features, like automatic portfolio rebalancing, tax loss harvesting, and more.
Top Peer-to-Peer Lending Platform for Investors
Peer-to-peer lending has gone from a little-known investing strategy to a practice embraced by countless new investors every day, thanks to its possible high returns. And when it comes to peer-to-peer (p2p) lending, no company does it better than Lending Club.
Here’s how p2p lending works. A borrower needs a loan, for anything from refinancing debt to a business loan. Rather than get the loan through a bank, he uses a p2p platform like Lending Club. If approved (most loans aren’t approved), the individual loan is financed by a large group of investors who are each putting up small amounts (typically in $25 increments) to limit their risk. As the loan is repaid with interest, the investors see a return.
The great thing about p2p lending is that investors are able to limit their risk by spreading out their funding in small increments across a large number of loans. So, if a single borrower defaults on a loan, it doesn’t hurt the investor too much because he or she has invested in many other loans that are being repaid on time with interest.
The reason I love Lending Club is their platform is very easy to use, and they have pretty strict guidelines for approving loans. In fact, I’ve seen it stated that over ⅔ of all loan applications get rejected on Lending Club. This helps manage risk and ensure investors have the best chance of seeing a good return.
Top Discount Broker
Cost and customer service — these are two areas where TradeKing excels. At just $4.95 a trade and with no hidden fees, TradeKing is among the cheapest brokerages out there. They have great tools for investors, making it easy to trade stocks, options, or ETFs.
Another great thing about TradeKing is the amount of educational resources they provide for investors. Every week, there are free webcasts, their reporting is superb, they have a number of great tools available for both long-term investors and active traders, and there are many other learning resources provided, helping investors make smarter decisions.
As customer service goes, TradeKing has been rated #1 by SmartMoney. They are very fast to help you if you ever have any issues, empowering you to be the best investor you can be.
Top Online Savings Account
Savings accounts are notorious for having pitifully low interest rates. In general, they are not a good way to make your money grow and work for you, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely useless. Savings accounts are still useful for some purposes, like building up an emergency fund. However, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the best possible return from that savings account, despite how meager it might be overall.
Discover Bank offers an online savings account that offers over “five times the national averages APY for interest bearing savings account with balances over $500.” Consider this — a Chase savings account gets you just 0.01% APY. An online savings account with Discover Bank, on the other hand, offers a rate of 0.95% (as of 10/16/2015). On a $10,000 balance, the difference in annual interest is nearly $100. That’s a difference worth noting!
Top Auto Insurance
Auto insurance is one of those things that just about everyone needs but few understand how to shop for it. On one hand, there are people who, largely out of fear, get the most robust auto insurance policy filled with all sorts of features that far exceed anything they will ever need or us. They throw away hundreds, even thousands of dollars every year. On the other hand, there are some people who are so obsessed with getting a rock bottom premium that they drop too much coverage and put themselves in a risky position should they get in an at-fault accident.
I’ve found that Allstate has affordable car insurance policies that offer great coverage without breaking the bank. In fact, they say drivers who switch to Allstate can save 45% or more on their premiums. This can be an easy way to trim your monthly expenses and have a little extra money you can put to work for your financial independence.
Top Renters Insurance
The average renter owns about $30,000 worth of various things. It’s important that you protect your stuff in the event that it gets destroyed, stolen, vandalized, etc. That’s where renter insurance can help. With Allstate’s renters insurance, your belongings will be covered in the event of fire, theft, or vandalism. You’ll even be protected if someone were to get injured while at your home.
I recommend Allstate for renters insurance because their policies are affordable, their coverage is extensive, and their customer service is great. You can get a renters insurance policy through Allstate for as little as $4 a month if you add it to an auto policy through the company. That’s about the cost of one coffee. A small investment to protect the things that matter most to you.
Just about everybody can benefit from having a side hustle. Creating an additional income stream by working on the side can give you more money to reach your financial goals (paying off debt, building up your emergency fund, investing more, etc.), improve your skills and open the door to new career opportunities, give you a chance to make money doing something you actually enjoy, and a whole lot more. Here are some of my favorite side hustle ideas:
I love disruptive technologies that put pressure on old, inefficient business models, and Uber takes the cake in this category. On the off chance that you don’t know what Uber is, it’s a ridesharing service that offers a cashless way to hail rides with your smart phone. Drivers use their own cars to take passengers to their destination. Uber is making the traditional messy, shady taxi service a thing of the past.
If you’re looking for a way to make extra money on the side, becoming an Uber driver is a great choice. You can turn your car into a source of income. Uber drivers are independent contractors who get to set their own hours and work whenever they feel like it. There’s no office to go to and no boss. Whenever you feel like driving and making a little money, just turn on the app and accept a ride request. It’s that easy. A lot of Uber drivers make anywhere from $20-$40 an hour easily. That extra money can definitely come in handy.