What are the best financial software programs, banking and investment accounts, products, and services?
That is a tough question to answer. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance; what works for one person may not work for another. Some people have highly specific and specialized needs, and others prefer a minimalistic approach. This article will show you some of the products and services my wife and I use to manage our money, and later in the week I will share an article that walks you through how we manage our money on a daily basis.
How We Manage Our Money – Products and Services
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how we manage our money, I’d like to state that not all of these products or services will meet your needs. Be sure to research your options and make decisions based on your needs.
Financial Software & Money Management Tools
The best place to start is with the financial software tool we use to track our budget, income, spending, accounts, and net worth. My favorite money management program is Personal Capital, which helps you aggregate all your financial accounts in one place. With it you can view your banking, investment, and credit card accounts in one place. You can use it to budget, but more importantly, you can use it to see a top-level overview of your investments. The best feature is the ability to see your overall asset allocation across all your linked accounts. This makes it easier to manage a large investment portfolio. You can read our full review here.
Another good option for managing your money is Quicken, which is one of the most robust money management software programs around. Quicken makes it easy to track, categorize, and analyze your income and expenses, financial accounts, investments, and depending on which version you use, health care costs, rental properties, a business, and more. The biggest downfall to Quicken is that it is a desktop program which ties it to one computer. If you use multiple computers, travel often, or otherwise don’t want to use a desktop solution, then consider using Mint.com, a free online money management system which offers many similar features as Quicken, though it is less robust. (Mint.com is owned by Intuit, the parent company of Quicken).
Quicken and Mint aren’t the only good financial management tools though. Here are other great options, depending on your needs.
Other Money Management Software Solutions:
- Free online money management programs.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB): for creating a budget.
- You Need a Budget and Quicken Comparison. Budgeting vs. full money management.
- Mvelopes: envelope budgeting software system.
Banking – Savings & Checking Accounts
My wife and I primarily use two savings and checking accounts, though I have actually opened quite a few savings accounts in the process of writing savings account reviews. We primarily use USAA, which is an institution that limits membership to military members (past or present) and their families. The interest rates at USAA are not always the highest, but their customer service and other features are great. USAA also offers investments, financial planning services, and various kinds of insurance, including vehicles, homeowners, life, and more. We also use Capital One 360 and I recently opened a savings account at Discover Bank to take advantage of their high interest rates. We do not use a local bank for our personal banking, though I do have a local bank for my business checking account.
Other Savings/Checking Options:
- Here is a list of some of the best online banks and the highest interest rates.
- Free checking accounts.
- PerkStreet Financial offers a checking account with a rewards debit card.
- Be sure to check local credit unions which often have better interest rates and services than many banks.
This is where we are a bit fractured. My wife and I currently have our investments spread over multiple accounts with several companies. A few months ago I consolidated one of my 401K accounts by doing a 401K rollover. That account is now a Rollover IRA housed at Vanguard.
We currently have an account with Vanguard that holds IRAs, taxable investments, and our Solo 401K from my small business. My wife and I each have Roth IRAs with USAA (we may move these to Vanguard in the future to further consolidate our accounts), I have a 401K plan through my day job, and I have a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account from my days in the military. My wife has 2 TSP accounts, one from her military service and one from civilian government service. I have an active brokerage account with TradeKing. The long term goal is to consolidate as much as possible under one or two roofs, making asset allocation and money management much easier on us.
Note about TSP accounts: One the surface it would seem like a good idea to roll these over into an IRA at Vanguard, but it is actually better for us to maintain all 3 accounts. The TSP has the lowest expense ratios I have been able to find, and my wife and I also have tax exempt contributions that were made in a war zone, meaning a portion of our withdrawals will be tax free in retirement. (The TSP functions the same as a 401K plan – contributions are made pre-tax and withdrawals are taxed. The tax exempt status of some of our contributions means some of our money will grow for 30+ years and never be taxed on the way in or on the way out.) You can read more about the pros and cons of rolling over a Thrift Savings Plan account in this article at The Military Wallet: Should You Rollover Your TSP Account Into an IRA?.
Other Investment Options/Resources
- How to Compare Brokerage Accounts.
- Best Places to Open an IRA: from mutual funds houses like Vanguard or Fidelity, to discount brokers, and more.
- Best Online Brokers.
My wife and I use rewards credit cards for almost every purchase and pay them off each month. Credit cards have many benefits when used correctly, including buyer protection, fraud protection, cash rewards, and more. But I don’t recommend using credit cards if you don’t pay them in full each month.
I currently use a Chase Freedom® Visa and the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express for most purchases and my wife has a Discover® More® Card and Discover Open Road, one of the best gas rewards cards on the market. These cards offer some of the best cash rewards that are currently available and are featured on a list of the best cash and points rewards credit cards. I also use a business credit card for my small business purchases – here is a list of the best business credit cards.
Car, Home, and Life Insurance
We currently have almost all of our insurance through USAA, including our auto insurance and homeowners insurance. We currently have our life insurance policy through my employer, but I need to add another policy because we are under-insured. Once or twice a year I go shopping for lower auto insurance premiums but I haven’t been able to beat USAA. In fact, I recently received quotes from an independent agent who told me he couldn’t come within a couple hundred dollars of our current rates. Insurance rates vary based on many factors, so shop around.
Additional insurance resources:
We recently switched from a group health insurance plan to an individual insurance plan in order to save a couple hundred dollars per month (compare group and individual health insurance). We used eHealthInsurance.com to find our individual health insurance plan. Again, plans, prices, and availability have many variables, so shop around.
Customize Your Own Financial System
These are the products and services we have found that work the best for us. There are many great products, services, and financial institutions that are as good or better than what we are using, and there are others that don’t offer as much. I recommend defining your needs and shopping around for the best products and services that will help you reach your goals. Then customize your financial plan to your needs.
Did I miss anything? If there are other products or services I missed, feel free to add a comment and I will address it in the comments section or add it to this article.