I am asked all the time for my favorite tools, books, and websites. So below are my top picks for the most powerful tools and sites to speed you to financial independence.
Personal Capital – Free Net Worth & Expense Tracker
This is my number one tool recommendation on this list, and it happens to be free. I’ve been using Personal Capital for about two years. You make what you measure, so it’s critical to have a single consolidated view of your net worth, income, and expenses. Personal Capital helps me do all that. It takes less than five minutes to connect all your accounts and have a bird’s eye view of your finances. For a little bit more on how I use it and other competitors I’ve tried, here is a more in depth discussion. If you’re ready to take your finance game to the next level, you can get signed up over here. Seriously run, don’t walk to get started with this. If not this tool, you need to make sure you have something to track your finances asap.
Betterment – Easy, Automated Investing
Betterment is probably the best option out there amongst the low-cost robo-advisors, services that use rules and algorithms to help hundreds of people invest automatically. One of the chief advantages of using Betterment is that they will help you automatically rebalance your portfolio and help you harvest losses for tax advantages you probably are not going to remember to do yourself (i.e. when a stock has fallen, it can sell that stock for you to capture a loss on paper and purchase a very similar security immediately; you then get a loss which you can deduct against your taxes). I have not used them myself, but I’ve had many beginner investors say positive things about their experience. It’s a good option for those looking for an easy to use, set it and forget it investing strategy.
TD Ameritrade – Best Low Cost Online Brokerage For Buying Stocks and Bonds
I love the UI of TD Ameritrade. It was the vendor I used for my first online brokerage account and they still have ⅓ of all my assets (I have to split my assets across brokerages because there is a maximum amount insured by FDIC/SIPC per person per brokerage). TD has really competitive trade costs ($6.95 per trade – that’s as good as it gets) and great customer service. Also, if you’re moving a significant amount of money, you will get a sign-up bonus when you fund your account. Amounts change so check for the latest offer, but it’s currently $100 for $25,000 of assets and $600+ for $250,000+ of assets. Sign up through the link and you’ll also get free trades for the first 60 days.
Booking.com – Best Travel Booking Site Inventory
I kind of have a love affair with Booking.com. I start all my searches there for accommodation. They have a ton of options that are cancellable up until 24 hours of check-in, and I am a person who likes to have options. They have the best UI and search functionality of all the major sites, and I really value the review repository they’ve built.
Hotels.com – Best Travel Booking Site Based on Price/Free Nights
While I start every search at Booking.com, I end every search at Hotels.com. Their UI isn’t as great as Booking.com and their review community is not as large or as helpful (I generally find more reviews per hotel on Booking.com over Hotels.com). That said, the reason I end every search here before I book is that Hotels.com offers one night free for every 10 nights you book on the platform. That equates to roughly a 10% discount! So if I’m down to one or two hotel options, I check the pricing on hotels.com vs booking.com and book on hotels.com if it’s competitive.
Your Money Or Your Life – YMOYL was one of the most influential books in leading me to the path of early retirement. It’s focused on life philosophy and one of the most impactful exercises they walk you through is dividing how much you earn by the number of hours you work. You now have a way of converting each purchase to a number of life units rather than just money you must spend. Seeing that a new phone purchase will cost you 50 hours of your life will do a lot to curb unwise purchases. It also ignited my interest in investing, because you can send those dollars to work for you and buy yourself your time back. A few of the chapters especially around recommended investment strategies are a little outdated, but it’s still one of my favorite personal finance books of all time and well worth the read.
The Millionaire Next Door – If you’ve been in the FIRE movement for a while you’ve probably already heard of this. If you haven’t, it will blow your mind and cause you to rethink all your unconscious spending behaviors. By interviewing thousands of millionaires, Stanley Thomas debunks all the myths of how a millionaire actually spends his/her money. If you want to be a millionaire yourself, you’d do well to read this book.
The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need – Spoiler: it is not in fact the only investment guide you’ll ever need, but it’s a pretty great start. This book walks you through the basics of all different kinds of investment options and also talks about who they might be appropriate for. I don’t agree with all the advice, but it’s a well-rounded, simple and clearly written book to introduce you to possible investment strategies from real estate investing to stocks to treasury notes.
The Bogleheads’ Guide To Investing – The Bogleheads community follow the tenets of Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard. There is a focus on passive investing strategies and investing in low cost index funds. I don’t agree with everything in this book either and I don’t believe passive investing is the only way to make money (I personally know several active investors who have beat the market consistently for over 20 years). That said, it is an excellent primer on passive investing which I believe is appropriate for at least 75% of the population in the tradeoff of time/knowledge/stress/risk.
Retirement Researcher – Wade Pfau is THE guy to follow if you’re interested in early retirement withdrawal strategies and retirement planning. His stuff can get pretty technical, but you will find yourself building huge amounts of knowledge quickly. He covers the importance of the sequence of returns when retiring early, different dynamic rules to change your spending in retirement to increase the probability of its success, and a whole host of other optimizations that could shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off your target nest egg and give you back years of your life. That’s worth learning more about firsthand.
Bogleheads.org – The Bogleheads community espouses passive investing in low cost-index funds. It’s not the only strategy, but it’s a great strategy for the majority of investors, and you’ll find a great outline of the why and the how on this site.