Personal finance, investing and retirement planning tools can help you make the most of your money. From budgeting to investing, saving to improving your credit, the resources below will empower you to take back control of your finances.
Unless noted otherwise, I use each of the tools listed below:
Tools I Use
Empower is a comprehensive free financial management tool. It can do just about everything. You can connect your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts. Once you link your accounts, Empower can track your budget, cash flow, and upcoming bills. But it's much more than a budgeting app.
The app tracks your net worth over time. It also tracks all of your investments, including retirement and brokerage accounts. Empower then provides automated analysis of your asset allocation, investment fees, and retirement planning.
Empower also offers a high-yield cash account. It's FDIC-insured and offers a competitive rate.
I've used Empower for years. Based on my experience, I created a Empower Review and User's Guide if you want more details.
Unlike Personal Capital, New Retirement is a paid tool. It's worth every penny. In my opinion, it is the most robust retirement planning software available directly to consumers. You can use the tool to model everything from retirement spending to Roth conversions to social security and medicare premiums.
There is a learning curve to New Retirement, but it's worth the time and effort. They also give you a free 14-day trial to check it out.
You can also check out this Q&A session I held where we walked through many features of the software.
Wealthfront is an automated investing service often referred to as a robo-advisor. It's similar in theory to a target date retirement fund, however, it gives you more control over your asset allocation. It also offers excellent tools to understand your investments.
Wealthfront also offers a high-yield cash account, which is what I use Wealthfront for. I don't use its robo-advisor services (see Betterment below).
I should add, however, that Wealthfront doesn't offer the absolute best rates. Today, the best deposit rate I can find is through SaveBetter. This company partners with FDIC-insured banks to allow its customers to pick and choose from multiple banks all through one account.
Vanguard is a mutual fund company that popularized index fund investing. You can set up just about any type of account, including IRAs and taxable accounts. From there, you can invest in target date retirement funds and low-cost index funds. I've used Vanguard's funds and brokerage services for years.
Fidelity also offers low-cost index funds and any account type you'd need. If I had to pick one broker to use, it would be Fidelity. There are several reasons for this:
- Technology: Fidelity's website and app are easy to use and provide a wealth of information about your accounts and the markets.
- Full View: Powered by eMoneyAdvisor, Full View is a free tool that enables you to track all of your accounts, including those held outside of Fidelity. While it doesn't compare to Personal Capital, in my opinion, it's still a useful tool.
- Customer Service: I've never had a bad experience with Fidelity. No company is perfect, but Fidelity offers some of the best customer service I've experience with any investment platform.
Betterment is a robo-advisor, similar to Wealthfront. They both offer a simple way to start investing, but they both do charge a fee. While the fee is modest, we know from Retire Before Mom and Dad that every basis point in fees costs us a lot of money over our lifetimes. Still, I think robo-advisors are a reasonable choice for those who want a service that can handle your asset allocation and rebalancing.
I use Betterment to invest our credit card rewards. You can check out my video on Betterment, which shows you my account and some of Betterment's features.
This free tool is one of the best I've found at evaluating the historical performance of a portfolio. You can add specific investments (stocks, ETFs or mutual funds) and Portfolio Visualizer will return the historical returns of the portfolio along with a wealth of data (e.g., CAGR, standard deviation, worst drawdown). You can also evaluate portfolios using asset classes rather than specific investments.
Another feature I use is its Monte Carlo simulation. It's particularly useful for modeling retirement spending scenarios, like the 4% Rule.
Here's a video guide to Portfolio Visualizer.
FI Calc App
FI Calc is a free tool that models retirement spending based on a specific drawdown strategy. You can easily set your years in retirement, nest egg balance, first-year spending, and select one of several drawdown strategies. The tool also allows you to model other retirement income and one-time large expenditures.
The results, based on historical data, show by year (from 1926 to the present) whether your money would have lasted through retirement. Importantly, it also shows those years when you would have almost run out of money.
Morningstar is arguably the best source of information on stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. Enter a ticker and Morningstar returns a wealth of information including a fund's expense ratio, investing style, historical performance and volatility, and top investments.
Morningstar Investor is its new portfolio tracking tool. I'm still testing it, but my initial impression is that it is a step in the right direction but still needs a lot of work.
Tiller Money combines an automated budgeting app with the power of a spreadsheet. Once you connect your bank and credit card accounts to Tiller, it downloads your transaction data and balances into either Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. From there you can evaluate and categorize your spending.
A password manager is a must. It enables you to use complex, lengthy passwords without have to remember them. I used LastPass for years, but after its data breach issues, I switched to 1Password. It's very easy to use, works on all my devices, and I can share passwords with anybody I choose without actually revealing the password to them.
Other Tools Worth Considering
YNAB, short for You Need a Budget, is the budgeting tool I use every day. It automatically downloads all of your transactions from bank accounts (checking and savings), as well as credit cards. You can categorize your expenses, run reports, and understand where your money is going.
It is a subscription model, but the cost is reasonable. I've found it to be the best tool to manage your money.
I used Mint for many years. It's a free online money management tool. You connect your financial accounts to Mint. The app then downloads your transactions and categorizes them for you. It's not perfect, but it's right more often than not. You can then see where your money has gone and plan your budget going forward.
While Mint offers a decent product, there are some really good Mint alternatives worth checking out.
Rob Berger is a former securities lawyer and founding editor of Forbes Money Advisor. He is the author of Retire Before Mom and Dad and the personality behind the Financial Freedom Show.