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).  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.


Online Shopping Portal and Deals

Ebates is a great shopping portal.  They offer a slightly different assortment of stores than Mr. Rebates, and offer higher cash back percentages at some retailers.  For example, they pay 7% cash back at Travelocity for cruise purchases 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.

In addition to Ebates, I also use the Mr. Rebates shopping portal for 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.  Sign up for Mr. Rebates through Root of Good and get a bonus $5.00 to get your savings started.  Many Root of Good readers have signed up for Mr. Rebates and they are already getting hundreds of dollars in cash back.

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

If you have a blog and need to migrate to new hosting soon, or want to start a blog at a reliable host where real people provide tech support, check out Rockaway Hosting (that’s my referral link – if you sign up I might make a commission on services you buy). And use coupon code ROCK10 if you want to save an extra 10% off their low rates.  The code generally stacks with their promotions on multi-year packages, too.

So far Rockaway works flawlessly.  Things are running smoothly and their tech support is amazing.  I’ve received email responses on tech support issues from the owner at 4 am and 8 pm on weekends (when does he sleep?).  Other hosting companies might be slightly cheaper and work just fine until you have a technical problem you need help with.  


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 Credit Cards

Travel Rewards Credit Cards


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


  • 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”:

      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

  • 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?

    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!

  • I’ll have to read the bogleheads. Have you read “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”? That was the first investment book that I read, it’s a good one.

  • Hi ROG,

    Thanks for the info on your blogs. I’m just reading up today and a little overwhelmed by all the information. I’m currently 31 and have no current investments for retirement or stocks, etc. I would like to get started by managing my own finances as you have suggested, but not sure where best to begin. Being in Canada, could I open an account with Vanguard as you have suggested and start putting money in to investments? Also, I saw on your post about Personal Capital that you had about 8 IRAs. Why so many IRAs, how to open/manage them, and what options steps would you recommend for a beginner like me to open and get started on investing in future retirement?

    • I’m not sure about the Canadian account set up, but I’m pretty sure you can buy vanguard ETFs (or their Canadian equivalent) through any brokerage firm. Might want to check out Millennial Revolution as they also retired very early and are Canada specific.

  • I have a question about dollar cost averaging … I have about $100K to invest in a taxable account (already maxing 401k, 457, backdooring the max into a Roth and saving $10K a year for kids’ college funds). I started depositing into VTSAX in early March with $20K. At what interval would you recommend I make the next purchase? Monthly? Quarterly? And would you do $20K each time? Thanks.

    • Mathematically it’s usually best to get into the market sooner rather than later, but the schedule is up to you. You’ll kick yourself if you’re wrong no matter what you end up choosing, so pick a plan and stick with it.

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