We review a lot of products here at Consumers Confidence and rather than making you scan through multiple, articles, we figured we would bring you the best tool and services all in one article. So take a look and definitely consider these “Must-Use Financial Tools” if you aren’t already using them.
Must-Use Financial Tools for Investing
- Personal Capital: This is without a doubt the most convenient way to manage all your investments. Everything from your 401(k), IRA, and taxable accounts can be linked to this single platform where you can monitor, analyze, and plan all of your assets and get financial advice as well. There are tools for graphs and charts to check your portfolio’s performance or check your asset allocation and cash flow. You can also see how much you are spending on fees and other charges on your investments. Oh, and it’s free for assets below $1 million.
- Morningstar: This is the go to site when it comes to stock, mutual funds and ETFs. Their site is packed full of top ranked ‘Must-Use Financial Tools’ and allows for easy analytics. Get research and data on different markets and various financial instruments. There is a portfolio tracker available for members, where you can analyze your portfolio almost any way you want. There are also news, reports and recommendations from analysts about your investments.
- Betterment: This is a low cost, low minimum and easy investment management service that offers diversified, fully automated products and services. Both taxable accounts and IRA’s are available.
- Vanguard: They are the largest provider of mutual funds and are second for ETFs. When it comes to low cost index funds, Vanguard beats them all. I have actually rolled over my 401(k) accounts into Vanguard IRAs.
- Scottrade : If you are interested in trading stocks, ETF, or bonds, Scotttrade is a low cost brokerage firm that is very convenient to use. They have 503 offices around the country, so I can just as easily go online or visit one of their offices to manage the SEP IRA account I have with them.
Budgeting & Money Management
- YNAB: This is a program for personal and household budgeting that happens to be the most easy to use. It also contains lots of features and they also provide great tips on how to budget effectively.
- Capital One 360: This is the online banking site for Capital One. The bank offers extremely competitive interest rates with virtually no fees at all. The website is also very easy to use and full of convenient features.
- Ally Bank: Ally is another online banking site I use. I do all my banking needs on their online platform for both my savings account and CDs.
- Excel: With all of the available tools online, I still use this spreadsheet for basic data tracking, computation and instant updating.
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®: I use my credit card as much as possible for purchases. It’s a convenient way to monitor my spending by linking it to my YNAB account. I also earn points that I can use for other purchases and this card has the best rewards program bar none.
Credit & Debt Tools
- myFICO: This is the credit scoring model used by majority of financial institutions. It collates and compiles the consumer credit files of the three national credit bureaus :Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you want to check your credit worthiness, you can sign up and get your score for a minimal fee.
But I get to access my score free through my Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. Barclaycard is one of the few credit card issuers that provide its card members with free access to their FICO score.
- Annual Credit Report: This is the platform where the three national credit bureaus have centralized their data in order to provide a free credit report. The law requires these companies to do provide a free credit report for anyone that requests one securing this as a must-use financial tools. Take note that your credit score is different and it is not available here.
- Credit Karma: This is one of the sites to get your credit score for free. You can actually get a weekly updated credit score form two of the three major credit bureaus here. They also have a Credit Score Simulator that would show you the possible effect of certain financial decisions to your credit score.
- Credit Sesame: The second is Credit Sesame. Both sites help in telling you exactly where your credit stands, what is helping your score, and what is holding you back.
- 0% Credit Cards: These credit cards are very helpful in getting you out of debt and staying out of it. I used a 0% balance transfer card to reduce the interest payments I was accumulating with an old card. This not only saved me money, but it also got us out of debt faster. After I cleared the debt I stuck with the card and still use it today.
- Debt Reduction Calculator: There are different versions available online, but most allow you to set up multiple debts with different rates and terms. You can also customize which debts you plan to pay off first. The result is a clear schedule on when and how much you would need to become debt free.
Real Estate Tools
- Zillow: This is one of the biggest property listings online. You can search for listings almost anywhere. There are lots of details about the property and most listings have photos as well.
- HUD Homes: HUD foreclosures are a practical way to start investing in property. The website has all the information you would need in purchasing a house. When it’s time to reach out to a realtor, make sure to contact one that has a lot of experience with HUD.
- Karl’s Mortgage Calculator: Simply put, it is the best most comprehensive mortgage calculator you’ll find anywhere. These must-use financial tools are also really easy to use.
- Retirement Nest Egg Calculator: From Vanguard, this calculator lets you easily run simulations to determine if your retirement savings will last during your retirement. You can easily manipulate the contents of your portfolio to predict what combination would best work in the long run.
- The Flexible Retirement Plan: This is by far the most comprehensive free retirement calculator available. It even lets you input ‘what-if’ scenarios to show how it would affect your finances.