These are a many investment and financial services out there. This is a list of various products we use and endorse. Further, we’ll make notes on ones we have heard of which have high reviews and good products as well.
Is there a service here that you love but don’t see? Leave a comment and we’ll check it out and add it to the list.
As a disclaimer, some but not all, of these links are referral links. As always, we try to remain as impartial in our recommendations and advice as we can. Obviously, no one is immune from having a slight bias but we will make note of the services we use and ones we don’t.
Stocks and investment:
If you have read other posts by our website, you’ll see M1 Finance listed at the bottom for various posts. There’s good reason for it. M1 is one of my favorite apps for investing as it forces you into a long-term investor (limiting trading to two trading opportunities per day, or only one with the free version). I generally support this because our view is long term investing and buying and holding strategies are a better way of investing than frequently trading is.
Further, M1 Finance is similar to Robo investors except you have far more control over which funds and stocks you put your money into. You can set up an allocation of funds – like the two/three fund portfolio or the funds from our high/ultra-high risk newsletter. Further, M1 charges no fees for the free version of their platform. M1 makes long-term investing easy and with the ability to throw money into one of your custom-built pies and have Auto Invest purchase and allocate your money into your desired portions is really great. Once you set up your pie, turn on auto invest, and auto withdrawals from your bank account and you never have to think about it again.
Another benefit of M1 is their “Borrow” feature. If you maintain 10k or above in a taxable account, M1 will let you borrow up to 35% of your taxable account. With extremely low interest rates to boot. With a premium membership you can borrow for as little as 2%, while a free account has a borrow cost of 3.5%. Still, extremely cheap lending costs. The paid membership has borrowing costs that exceed Robinhood now.
A third benefit of using M1 is they have a checking with extremely great interest rates for premium members, of 1%. Which is higher than even high yield savings accounts.
If you sign up using this referral link you’ll get $10 when you invest $100 within 30 days of opening a taxable account or you’ll get $10 when you invest $500 dollars in an IRA account.
Overall, M1 is highly recommended because it’s meant for long term investors and it gives you more freedom than robo investors.
Robinhood is another recommended financial service. Robinhood lets you buy stocks and ETFs with zero commissions. Robinhood has some unique assets not available on M1, notability things like Cryptocurrency or various penny stocks, if that’s your thing.
Besides, the ability to purchase stocks and cryptocurrency Robinhood lets you easily trade options for no fees. The nice thing with Robinhood is it doesn’t require you to have an insane net wealth before you can get access to option trading on the platform. Options are riskier than simply buying and holding but offer the ability to hedge positions and provide relatively cheap leverage. We have a Robinhood account for trading options and purchasing cryptocurrency. Further, Robinhood also a cash account which is offering variable interest, but right now its offering 0.30%. Can’t speak to the cash account as we have never used it.
But if you’re interested in opening a Robinhood account use the referral link and you’ll get a free stock. There’s a 2% probability of getting one worth over $200.
If you already have a SoFi money account – it’s just a checking account that offers 0.25% interest – you can use SoFi invest, which much like robinhood offers cryptocurrency. One nice thing with pairing a SoFi Money account with SoFi invest is you can automate your investments directly from your checking account. I have not done this because I am using M1’s automated deposits and investment features. But it’s a feature they offer.
Further, SoFi money offers the ability to create up to 20 “Vaults” on the platform. These are just ways to visually allocate your money it doesn’t actually leave your account. Although, you could decide to separate the “Vault” money from your normal checking money by removing the ability for “Vault” money to cover any over spending. We use the vaults for various short term savings goals or a place to keep our $1,000 emergency fund.
However, SoFi does offer free unlimited over the phone advice on investment and budgeting which is pretty cool. we’ve never used it but it has decent enough reviews from the subreddit.
While we don’t personally use Schwab, we know several people who do, and they generally recommend them. More so now when they dropped their commissions to zero. we’ve heard the website is fairly easy to use as well.
Any financial services list that doesn’t mention Vanguard is doing something wrong. They are the premier driver of low-cost index funds for investors in the entire industry. Vanguard comes highly recommended. Although, we personally find their website to be old and rather frustrating to use. But we don’t think this diminishes their overall goal and impact they have had. At least, if you don’t use them as a broker, we do recommend looking into their funds and ETFs, as they often have the lowest fees. Further, we’ve heard that option trading is difficult to obtain at Vanguard and requires a rather high net worth.
Fidelity is another excellent option for a traditional broker. Some things we really love about fidelity is the research tool they have is really good. It breaks assets and ETFs down and gives you how diversified they are, where they are located, and even allows you to compare ETFs against each other on a variety of indicators like expense ratios, performance, etc. However, much like Vanguard, I also find their website to be a little lacking and difficult to use. But their trading platform and ability to purchase fractional shares is quite nice. Further, one really nice thing with Fidelity is they offer Zero cost mutual funds which is a killer deal. If you’re using the three fund or two fund portfolio you should definitely check out Fidelity as it’s likely the cheapest option for you.
Robo investing is somewhat similar to M1 but with less control. Further, these are appealing because they are much cheaper than your traditional human advisor. At both Wealthfront and Betterment you take a short survey to assess your risk tolerance and investing goals. Then they pick a plan and allocation of funds which they believe will help you meet those goals in the best way possible. Then, you just deposit money and that’s it. It’s very hands off and you set it and forget. We prefer M1 to these platforms because Wealthfront and betterment force you into their own picks for ETFs and we like to have some say in ours – even if they are pretty similar to what we recommend at Informed Financials.
We used Wealthfront to begin my investment journey and, while we don’t like it as much as M1, it does still come recommended. We really like the cash savings account, investment tracking, and retirement calculator. Wealthfront offers a Cash savings account with a 0.35% interest and they are pretty consistently adding features, they recently released a debit card to go along with it. Further, they are good investment tracking software and a retirement calculator. You tell it your goal amount and any major expenses you have coming up and it will give you a good idea if you’re on track for your retirement goals. One benefit I see with Wealthfront’s calculators is that they stay connected unlike Personal Capital which has difficulty staying connected to various other services like M1, SoFi, and sometimes even fidelity.
If you plan to invest with Wealthfront’s investment platform please use one of the referral links from reddit as you’ll get an extra $5,000 managed for free (the first $10,000 is managed for free). Or open a savings account with Wealthfront and get $10 dollars
We don’t personally use betterment but we have good things about Betterment. One thing I found interesting about betterment was its ability to split your money into various savings goals. However, if you opened a SoFi money account you can easily do the same thing there as well. But with Betterment you get slightly better interest than with SoFi at 0.40%. The one downside with Betterment is you can’t avoid fees on investing like you can with the other platforms mentioned here.
While not a Robo Investor, it’s an automatic transfer bot. This transfers money between accounts based on rules that you set. It’s free for now so it’s a decent deal. But if it ever became a paid app, we won’t be using it simply because transferring things manually between our various checking accounts isn’t that difficult.
Schwab has a robo investor which is “Free.” Free is in quotes because they have a fairly high cash allocation which earns zero percent for you, even on the very high-risk tolerance scale they have 6% invested in cash. But Schwab needs a way to pay for these services so keeping an investor in some cash helps to pay for it. Further, Schwab has a $5,000 dollar minimum which is a far bigger minimum than the other robo investors here.
Personal Capital comes recommended and it gives you a lot of tools for free. They have net worth tracking, budgeting, cash flow analysis, performance tracking across all linked accounts (and they compare it to various types of allocations like American stock, International stocks, etc), retirement planning, savings planners, and investment checkup analyzer. We think a lot of their information here is quite good and allows for sophisticated planning and insight that is difficult to get elsewhere. Personal capital comes highly recommended. There are two things we dislike about personal capital. Keeping various accounts linked is difficult and sometimes impossible if you enable second factor authentication to your investments (which you should be doing). Secondly, Personal Capital recommends a “smart” weighting of 20% across all sectors in the market. We’ve never seen any research that says equal weighting across sectors provides any benefit and if you hire personal capital to do it, you’ll be paying a 0.89% fee. A whole lot for something we aren’t sure of the benefits of. However, Personal Capital still comes very highly recommended because of all the tools it gives you access to.
Status money is also another wealth tracking website. We think it’s less useful than personal capital. The useful nature of this one is you can compare yourself to your peer group – and either feel a small amount of pride or cry depending upon how you compare. It’s interesting. But generally less useful than Personal Capital.
Checking and Savings Accounts:
We mentioned this above but we like SoFi money because of its interest rate of 0.25% (better than most checking accounts), no fees, no overdraft fees, and free ATM withdraws. We also like the fact that you can separate your money out into vaults which help you understand how much money you have.
CIT Bank offers a savings account with 0.45% interest but we’ve never used their services before.
Citi High Yield Savings account:
Citi’s Accelerate Savings account has 0.50% interest right now and is quite good. However, we’ve had issues trying to withdraw money from their savings account and as such, we don’t recommend this for money that you may need immediately in the case of an emergency. It took many phone calls, while spending a lot of time on hold to get our money out of that account. Further, you have to either have a credit card with them or open up a normal bank account in order to access their high yield savings account.
Offers 0.50% with zero minimum balance. We have not personally used this but it’s a similar interest rate as the Citi high yield account.
YNAB is budgeting software which comes highly recommended. There’s few other software within the budgeting market that are as good for personal finance as YNAB. It comes highly recommended. Use the referral link to get a 34-day trail plus a month free on a paid membership. Further, check out our article on budgeting.
Opinions on credit cards reward programs are numerous. Our general rules are fairly simple: stick to credit cards with cash back and ones with no annual fees. These rules are meant for the majority of people and you cannot go wrong with these two rules. However, if you have highly specialized needs – like you’re traveling a lot, then other cards might be better for you.
No annual fee, no limits, no rotating categories, no redemption options, no confusing variables that need to be sorted through. Just simple 2% cashback on your credit usage. We personally use Citi’s card all the time. And unlike the savings account, we’ve never had an issue with the credit card account.
PayPal’s credit card is similar to Citi’s no fees, no limits, no rotating categories, no odd redemption options, etc. Just simple 2% cashback. The only barrier is opening a PayPal account. But that’s not a huge barrier.
Likewise, there’s no annual fee and there’s cashback. Unfortunately, you have to choose the category you want to receive cashback on. And you can update this every month if you choose to do so. However, the other downside is you get 3% on the category of your choice and 2% cashback at grocery stores and wholesale clubs – but after the first $2,500 is spent on the combined categories, it drops to 1% on which you get 1% on everything. We use this car simply for gas as it’s the chosen category and we get 3% cash back.
Amazon Prime 5% Cash Back:
If you have a prime account, this is another no-brainer. Plus, we prefer the way this card reports Amazon purchases (when compared to a normal credit card) – it notes in the transaction description precisely what was purchased. It makes reconciling accounts much easier.
Disclaimer: InformedFinancials.com is not a registered investment, legal, or tax advisor or a broker/dealer. All investment/financial opinions expressed by InformedFinancials.com are from personal research and experience of the owner of the site and are intended as educational material. Although, best efforts are made to ensure all information is accurate, up to date, and reliable, occasionally unintended errors and misprints may occur. The content is intended to be used as informational purposes only. You should take independent financial advice from a professional and independently research any and all of our claims. The website does not accept any liability whatsoever for any loss or damage you may incur.