Along the way to Financial Independence, I’m sure I’ll add or drop products that I find are more or less favorable to reaching my goals. I’ll make sure to keep a record of them, even if I cancel some along the way, so that others can understand the reason for the changes.
Vanguard – Full service, low cost investment brokerage. It doesn’t get cheaper than Vanguard, when it comes to investing. However, it’ll require you to take a little time to become familiar with choosing funds and initiating the orders. It’s really easy to get lost in choosing the right fund, account types, and order types, but after you get your feet wet, you’ll realize it’s not too scary to make sound investment decisions. In truth, many of the funds that other brokerages sell (including Wealthfront, Betterment, Fidelity, Schwab, etc) are Vanguard funds. You can save yourself others’ management fees by buying directly from the source with a Vanguard account.
Wealthfront – A low-cost/free robo-advisor. I’ve used Betterment, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, and Wise Banyan before, but Wealthfront is my favorite, because of the interface, cost, and performance. You can get started with just $500. Wealthfront charges 0% in management fees for the first $10,000 you invest, then 0.25% for the remaining balance. If you sign up with my link, we both get an additional $5,000 managed without fees. Robo-advisors work by asking questions about your financial goals, timelines, and comfort with different risk factors. Then they pick and buy the funds that match your profile. They’ll execute trades on your behalf to reduce your tax-liability (on taxable accounts) and keep your portfolio balanced with the right asset allocation. Robo-advisors are as close as you can get to “set it and forget it”, while still ensuring your balance doesn’t get abused with fees.
Robinhood – A FREE stock-trading app. In recent years, companies like Fidelity and Schwab have reduced their trading commissions down to about $4.95; however, Robinhood charges $0 for trades. If you sign up with my link we’ll both get a random stock for free. Pros: Free, quick setup, built by tech company so interface is top notch, frequent app improvements. Cons: Only on mobile devices, limited trade type options, hard to track performance.
Chase Freedom – At times, this is my primary spend card. Use my link, and you’ll get $150 statement credit after spending $500 in the first 3 months. No annual fee. Standard 1% cash back on all purchases. 5% cash back on bonus categories that change each quarter. 5% categories for 2017 were: Q1 – Gas stations and public transit, Q2 – Grocery and drug stores, Q3 – Restaurants and movie theaters. Q4-Walmart. I have been spending more on this card lately, because I also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The Reserve and Freedom both utilize the Ultimate Rewards program. When redeeming Ultimate Rewards for travel with the Reserve Card, each point is worth 1.5¢. Having both cards allows you to transfer points from Freedom to Reserve. So those 1% back, become 1.5%. And the 5%, become 7.5%.
Chase Sapphire Reserve – Spend $4,000 in the first 3 months and get 50,000 points, which can be redeemed for $750 worth of travel (points are worth 1.5¢) OR transfer points (1:1 transfer) to Southwest, Hyatt, United, or several other partner programs. This card has a hefty $450 annual fee, but there is a lot of value and perks that come with it. My take is that if you do any regular travel, this card is worth having, especially with the big sign up bonus. They provide a $300 annual travel credit. Chase will automatically give statement credits for travel transactions totaling up to $300 per year. This card also grants you free membership to Priority Pass Select airport lounges. So if you have a long layover in an airport with a lounge, you can get free access for you and your guests. 3x points on travel and dining purchases. Up to $100 reimbursement for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry application. This is what gives you expedited service through airport security and customs. If you already have it, use the freebie application for your spouse/family member. There are a handful of other benefits like car rental insurance, price protection, travel insurance, hotel program status, and concierge services.
AMEX Delta Platinum SkyMiles – Spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and get 70,000 SkyMiles and a $100 statement credit. $195 annual fee. Gets you and everyone on your itinerary a free checked bag on Delta flights. 2X points on Delta purchases. I’ll be honest, I’ve cancelled this card more than once, and I’ll reapply when Delta sends me an invite for a new sign-up bonus. Highest bonus I received was 80,000 miles. AMEX Offers often has good deals worth checking out too.
ONLINE SHOPPING DISCOUNTS
EBATES.com – Sign up for ebates and use their links or browser extension to collect cash back. ebates will send you a check every quarter with the cash back you earn. The browser extension is awesome. When you land on a website where ebates can give you cash back, a button pops up and tells you about the deal. Click the button and you’re registered to get extra cash back. For awhile, hotels.com offered 10% cash back through ebates and we earned loads of cash back when we traveled. Try it out using my link and get $10 back after your first $25 purchase through ebates.
Retailmenot.com – This site is full of discount codes you can use both online and in store. Whenever I’m shopping online (outside of Amazon or Walmart), I’ll check to see if there are any extra promo codes or deals I can use. You can also post codes on there as you find them to build the couponing community.
Disclaimer: for some products, I’ll receive some sort of referral bonus if you sign up through my links. That being said, I’m not going to sell myself out and post any products I don’t feel good about using myself. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.