Recommendations

Personal Finance Software

Root of Good's Monthly Expense for September 2013

I recently switched to Personal Capital.  Why?  Easy to set up, easy to use.  You can have all your investments, income, and expenses summarized in one place online with one login ID instead of having everything spread across the whole internet.  And it is free!  What’s not to love?

Setup takes 10-20 minutes, and you can see for yourself whether you like it better than Quicken or Mint.  I know Personal Capital is better than my old fashioned spreadsheets!  Here’s my review of Personal Capital.

 

Book on Investing

My top recommendation for beginner or intermediate investors is The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing.  It’s concise and to the point.  At just under 300 pages and 23 chapters, you can easily read a chapter per night and in under a month become well-versed in investing in a common sense manner.  They focus on asset allocation, diversification, tax efficiency, ruling your emotions, investment expenses, and insurance.  I have a copy and loan it to my friends if they show a genuine eagerness in setting up their investments in a simple, low cost, tax efficient manner.

 

Brokerage or IRA firms

Vanguard and Fidelity are the best I have dealt with.

Vanguard is better for Vanguard mutual funds or if you only want to buy Vanguard exchange traded funds.

Fidelity is better if you want to trade stocks and exchange traded funds.

Honorable mentions:

Motif Investing (review here).  Get $150 when signing up for a new account.  Trade a basket of up to 30 stocks (or ETF’s) centered around a particular theme or asset allocation for a single $9.95 commission.

Betterment (mentioned in this article) – A great option for those wanting a money manager instead of going completely DIY for their investments.  For a fee as low as 0.15%, they will professionally manage your investments according to a fine tuned asset allocation.

 

Online Shopping Portal and Deals

I go through the Mr. Rebates shopping portal for all of my online purchases and pick up an extra 2-6% on just about everything I buy online.  Sometimes the percentages are much higher.  In dollar terms, I get a buck or two for smaller purchases of a few items, $4-5 for reserving a hotel room for a few nights, and $20 or $30 if I buy something significant like a television or computer.  I shop at whatever online retailer provides the best deal, and I just remember to click through Mr. Rebates right before I check out.  10 seconds of work for a buck or $30 is a great use of my time I think.  Sign up for Mr. Rebates through Root of Good and get a bonus $5.00 to get your savings started.  Updated 3/3/2015: Many Root of Good readers have signed up for Mr. Rebates and they are already getting hundreds of dollars in cash back.  

Ebates is another great shopping portal.  They offer a slightly different assortment of stores than Mr. Rebates, and offer higher cash back percentages at some retailers.  I just noticed they pay 7% cash back at Travelocity for cruise purchases (for example) which sounds like a great way to get back $50-200 on a typical cruise or other travel purchase.  When you sign up through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card.

Groupon is another great option to save money on places you already shop or to try something new. Tons of local restaurants and entertainment options offer a 40-50% discount when you buy a Groupon voucher.  Watch out – it’s easy to go crazy with the deals they offer and spend more on dining and entertainment than you do today. And beware buying good deals and forgetting to redeem them.  But try this – next time you’re planning on going out to eat, check out Groupon first to see if your choice of restaurant offers a discounted certificate.  If you want to help out Root of Good, consider signing up for Groupon through this link.

 

Web Hosting

I can’t recommend Hostgator.com enough.  They have a simple sign up process that only takes a few minutes to get your domain registered and you on your way to building your own hosted website, blog or e-commerce site.  All the tools you need to develop a site are available through their “cPanel” access page.  Makes website building or blogging incredibly easy.  WordPress for blogging is one click away.

So far, they have had excellent up time and consistent speeds and access times.  I set up this site for $87 total including hosting for one year and domain registration.  If you want to start a blog or website of your own, consider signing up through my referral link if you want to support the blog.

 

Credit Cards

I have 3 different cards in my wallet at any given time to maximize cash back and travel rewards.  I apply for new cards when better rewards programs become available.  It’s silly not to accept free money when the credit card companies offer it to you (find out why)!

Cash Back Cards

Travel Rewards Cards

 

For more details on credit cards I recommend, check out my complete credit cards recommendation page.

8 comments

  • Awesome website. I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve checked out your articles. I have to thank Retireby40 since I found you off his site. Anyway, I’m a teacher in Raleigh and have been looking recently to get into investing besides my 401k and pension, but I keep getting turned off by rentals and don’t know a lick about stocks. I’ve been thinking about REIT investment, but I’m not sold yet. I’ll keep reading and hope you have the answers! Thanks!

    • Hey Christopher! I’m here in Raleigh too. We probably know people who know each other.

      If you want to invest even more than the 401k allows, you’re eligible for the 457 plan here in NC. You can max out both the 401k and 457. Although that would be $35,000/yr.

      I have a category here on “investing”: http://rootofgood.com/category/investing/

      REITs are an easy way to get real estate exposure without having to know anything about real estate investing. We hold 11% of our investments in US and international REITs.

  • Justin,

    I see you recommend fidelity for brokerage. Do you have a blog post on how you decided to go with fidelity versus scottrade, etrade, or alike? How did you compare them before you chose fidelity? I’m looking for a taxable brokerage account to mirror my 401k funds for annual re-balancing. I really don’t know how to compare them other than by trade price which I do not plan to do very often. Any suggestions?

    • We were more or less stuck with Fidelity due to having a limited set of choices since Mrs. RoG works for a FINRA-regulated bank. We could pick from Fidelity or Schwab, or invest in house at the bank (with really crappy fund options). I already had my 401k at Fidelity at the time so I went with them. We also have accounts at Vanguard.

      I don’t have a blog post on it. They are all probably decent, but I can only vouch for Fidelity today (I was with scottrade 15 years ago but closed the account back then).

  • If you have the opportunity to pay off your mortgage should you owe 100.000. payoff 2028

    • I usually say if you have debt at 4% interest or less, it probably makes sense to go ahead and pay it off. Of course you have to consider whether you’ll lose out on a valuable tax deduction, and what you would do with the money if you don’t pay off the mortgage.

  • Hello ROG,
    New to your site just last night. Thinking of purchasing your recommended bobble head guide book however, there is now a 2nd edition when your link takes me to Amazon. Do you recommend still getting the original one or going with the 2nd edition?

    Thx,
    Matt n Erin

    • Might as well get the newer edition. It probably has more up to date investment returns and discussion of interest rates that are lower now. I’ll update the recommendation to point to the newer edition. Thanks!

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