A journey to financial freedom is impossible without the right tools. Through our own journey, we have come across some products that have really facilitated the process.
(This is not an affiliated or sponsored post!)
Here is a list of the top 8 products/tools we use and recommend!
Mint is a great tool to keep you on track of your spending. It allows you to set monthly budget goals within each category and provides visual charts to show where most of your spending went and how spending varied each month, over time.
Mint links to all of your accounts (personal banking, credit cards, and loans) to show total debt and a calculation of your net worth. It also provides your most recent credit score and allows you to track upcoming bills. You can access it through the web or through a phone app.
2. Personal Capital
Similar to Mint, Personal Capital is another great tool to help you keep track of your net worth and spending by linking to all of your accounts. It also allows you to manage investments and plan for retirement on multiple devices.
Acorns is a tool that allows you to invest your spare change. It links to a checking account or credit card account and rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar, accumulates all of the change to $5 and then invests that amount. You can select a set amount you want to invest each month, in addition to the spare change. It also shows you the potential earnings over time, based on your contributions. You can change your portfolio from conservative (lowest risk) to aggressive (highest risk), and withdraw any of your contributions back into your checking account at any time!
Acorns charges $1 per month which is pretty reasonable for an automatic investing account. If you are a college student, it is free if you sign up with your school e-mail up to 4 years! If you shop certain sites through Acorns, you also get a percentage of your purchase automatically invested into your account. For example, if you shop at Groupon, 2% of your purchase will automatically be invested into Acorns. That is free money just for shopping through the Acorns site.
It is difficult to achieve financial independence without setting goals and making lists. In fact, setting goals and creating daily or weekly steps to achieve those goals are habits of the wealthy.
Wunderlist is an app that allows you to create to-do lists. You can create any category you want and set reminders. If working on a joint project, you can share your list with others. It's accessible from anywhere and syncs to your laptop's calendar.
5. Online Banking: Checking Account
Online banks have lower fees and higher interest rates than banks with local branches. This is because they don't have the costs of renting or building property and paying their employees salary. It may seem inconvenient to not have a local branch, but online banks allow you to withdraw cash from many ATM's without charging fees and allow you to transfer money quickly from one account to another. You can pay all of your bills online and deposit checks using your phone.
We like Capital One 360 for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to set up multiple sub-accounts and automatically have a set amount deposited at the frequency that you choose. For example, you can create an emergency savings account or travel account, set a goal for how much you want to have in that account and by when, and then automatically have a certain amount transferred from your checking into the savings account every week, bi-weekly or monthly. You can track your goal at any time and if you want to transfer money between accounts for any reason, you can do so right away without needing to wait.
6. Online Banking: Savings Account
There are several online savings account's with higher interest rates than local branch banks. However, one we personally use and like is American Express Savings. Currently, American Express Savings offers 1.15% APY (annual percentage yield) with no minimum requirements and no monthly fee. You can transfer money automatically between accounts and it is usually available the next business day. An APY on an online savings account can be significantly higher than banks with local branches. For example, a savings account with Chase only offers 0.01% APY. This means that if you have $30,000 of emergency savings in Chase, you will gain $3 in interest versus $345 with American Express!
It is not possible to build wealth without building knowledge. Audible allows you to listen to a book directly from your phone. You can do so while commuting to/from work, while going for a walk, while getting ready, etc. There are many opportunities in your day to listen to a book. While we both prefer to read books (and do so regularly) we also listen to books as this allows us to continue building our wealth of knowledge much faster. With Audible you can keep your books even if you cancel your membership, and can swap a book at any time if you don't love it. Audible has a monthly subscription but you can cancel at any time.
The Podcast app is one of our favorite free tools to build wealth. So much of what we have learned and have been influenced by has come from great Podcast shows. We listen to a variety of shows weekly while driving, some of our favorites are Money Girl, Afford Anything, So Money, and Bigger Pockets.
There are other tools we recommend for building wealth, not listed on here. Credit cards (used responsibly) are important to building credit. Benefits of a credit card may differ according to your rewards preference (cash-back versus travel rewards).
Retirement accounts through your job or independently through an IRA are also important. The best option is to invest in a company 401k or 403b and a Roth IRA to get both pre-tax and post-tax contribution benefits.