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 so far. 

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.

I recently transferred some ETFs to Interactive Brokers to take advantage of their $1,000 sign up bonus for $100,000+ transfers. I like the set up so far and a free $1,000 (paid in IBKR shares) is pretty awesome too! If you are interested, you need a referral to get the $1,000 bonus (here is my referral link). I may receive a referral bonus if you sign up through that link (and I thank you if I do!). If you transfer less than $100,000 then you will get a bonus of 1% of whatever amount you transfer in. 



Online Shopping Portal and Deals

Rakuten 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. When you sign up through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Rakuten, you’ll get at least a $10 gift card (and this bonus often increases to $20 or $40!).

In addition to Rakuten, 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)!

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

Root of Good Recommends:
  • Personal Capital* - It's the best FREE way to track your spending, income, and entire investment portfolio all in one place. Did I mention it's FREE?
  • Interactive Brokers $1,000 bonus* - Get a $1,000 bonus when you transfer $100,000 to Interactive Brokers zero fee brokerage account. For transfers under $100,000 get 1% bonus on whatever you transfer
  • $750+ bonus with a new business credit card from Chase* - We score $10,000 worth of free travel every year from credit card sign up bonuses. Get your free travel, too.
  • Use a shopping portal like Ebates* and save more on everything you buy online. Get a $10 bonus* when you sign up now.
  • Google Fi* - Use the link and save $20 on unlimited calls and texts for US cell service plus 200+ countries of free international coverage. Only $20 per month plus $10 per GB data.
* Affiliate links. If you click on a link and do business with these companies, we may earn a small commission.


  1. 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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

    1. 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).

    1. 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.

  3. 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

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. I haven’t read that but I’ve seen it referenced a ton and agree w/ the underlying premise – much of making money on Wall St is randomness.

  5. 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?

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. I am curious how you handle healthcare. We are both 50 this year and do not have any real medical issues at this point, but no one knows what the future holds. How do you account for this? My partner has done well investing and can retire but she is afraid of the medical part and what could happen. Still, I am ready for her to be home all the time.

  8. Some time in the past, and just recently, Vanguard wants me to “transition” from my existing account, to a brokerage account. Right now the only funds I have with them are a traditional and Roth IRA, both invested in mutual funds. Is there anything bad, undesirable or more risky in switching to the brokerage account? Insured by different agencies, but I see the brokerage could come in handy in the future for non-retirement investments. Thanks for any comments !!

    1. I don’t think it’s a big change. I made the switch several years ago and it’s not a huge difference. You get access to ETFs through the brokerage account so it’s a decent upgrade in my opinion, since some of those funds are better than the mutual fund equivalent.

  9. Over the last 20 years I have procrastinated for the most part when it comes to investing. A lack of knowledge held me back. Thankfully, I found your site and have spent a tremendous amount of time absorbing it and others. I am forever grateful! Despite my procrastination, I’ve hit FI and am currently still working. My current portfolio breakdown is 19% in real estate, 27% in taxable accts and 54% in cash (which is crazy, I know). Given the height of the market and being at FI, what do you recommend as best next steps with the cash?

  10. Hi, awesome information. We’ve saved a bunch of money but health care in the US is so expensive. That’s one thing keeping workers in the market til 65 until they can get Medicare. What are some reasonable health care options? Traditionally as an employee you buy a group plan through your employer and the employer helps subsidize the cost.

  11. Hello Justin,
    I am 70 and did well financially- I invested in vanguard post your 2015 dividend blog.
    Thanks for the info on your blogs- help managing my own finances.
    Is it possible to post or email me the selection of current 2019 investment holdings?
    In your portfolio/asset allocation especially in Vanguard as you have posted in 2015 blog…please
    I’ve learned a lot, my goal is to consolidate my entire asset in one account in the vanguard with limited 2-3 funds
    For long long -long term
    Moderate conservative growth or mod-growth.
    Any suggestions?

  12. Hi – once upon a time I saw a weekly/monthly planner calendar that you had developed. Is that posted somewhere on your site?

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