I love FinTech because I value efficiency, simplicity, and technology. I will usually throw a few hundred dollars into a FinTech product to try it out. Below are reviews of products I have tried. Referral links are noted where this blog would benefit from you using the product.
These essential FinTech services address pillars of financial independence: spending, investment allocation, debt reduction.
I use Personal Capital to track my net worth in one place.
You have to get out of debt in order to start your financial independence journey. You need a net worth of $0 or more to start.
If you have student loan debt, get over to Sofi to see if you can lower your student loan interest rate. Getting your rate lower than ~6% is essential. Don’t delay because interest accrues daily.
Once you have a student loan refinance, you can get access to Sofi Wealth and other loans including a mortgage.
I saved over $40,000 in interest and my sister (who had medical student loans) saved over $100,000 in interest by consolidating with Sofi.
My first question to people when they come to me about money is, “Well are you using Mint?”
If they stare at me blankly, there is hope. If they say, “That is too much work,” well, financial independence, or adult life really, may not be for them.
Mint will tell you (and your spouse if applicable) exactly where your money is going. You can’t plug your spending leaks effectively until you don’t understand where they are.
Put on big boy and big girl pants and hook your spending accounts up to Mint.com.
What should my asset allocation be? Which low cost index funds should I invest in?
Don’t waste your mental energy overthinking this.
Use FutureAdvisor (www.futureadvisor.com) to get optimal asset allocation and fund selection using Modern Portfolio Theory.
FutureAdvisor works just like Mint does for your spending accounts. You hook up your investment accounts and FutureAdvisor analyzes all your holdings to recommend what trades to make. If you do the trades in your brokerage account, the service is free (so do that as long as you have a discount broker).
Travel and adventure are important to your financial independence journey. If you don’t see the world, you may not be able to imaging how you will spend your life once you are financially independent. Click here to get a $40 travel credit when you book with Airbnb.
We use Airbnb when we are looking for a local experience or when we go to places without commercial hotels. We use travel rewards to stay in cities for short, non-immersion trips.
Get $5 from Acorns to sign up (this blog will also get $5 from Acorns when you sign up).
Here’s the deal with Acorns. It is an automated, fun way to squirrel (get it?) away savings.
Acorns invests in fractional shares of each fund so your money goes to work right away. For example, say there is a $100 index fund in your portfolio and you invest $10 in Acorns. It will buy 1/10th of a share of that fund. This is not possible at a traditional brokerage.
Acorns gives you several ways to automate your savings:
- You can round up your spending For example, a $15.75 gas spend will set aside $0.25 for your Acorns account. You can also set a multiplier to these savings. Using the same example above and a 10x multiplier, that $0.25 round up would set aside $2.50.
- You can make automated savings on a weekly basis for as little as $5.
- Companies will invest money into your Acorns account for trying their products or for buying products on their website.
College and graduate students, note that Acorns is free for you with a valid .edu address for up to four years from date of registration. This is a huge advantage for students starting to save.
The issue with Acorns for non-college students starting to save is that it charges a $1 a month fee resulting in $12 a year. If you only save $120 in the account that is a hefty 10% fee. I’d say you want to aim to get around $2,400 to get the fee in line with most robo advisors.
Recently, Acorns announced a retirement account feature, Acorns Later. Users can open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that will deduct an amount as little as $5 from their paycheck.
So what is the difference between Stash vs. Acorns? In some ways, Stash is Acorns’ younger, sexier sibling. While there are lots of similarities, there are some alluring features to Stash that may or may not be better for you.
Like Acorns, you will receive $5 to invest (and so will this blog) when you use this link.
Stash does not use a round up feature like Acorns. Instead, you can put in weekly amounts or use their Smart-Save feature which “finds” spare cash for you to invest. I simply contribute the same amount each week.
What I like about Stash is the broad and simple value-based investment themes it offers savers.
Want to invest in an index fund of companies that support reduced carbon emissions, LGBT rights, clean energy? Note that these ETFs are likely available at your brokerage. However, Stash makes it easy for you to buy fractional shares of those indices made up of companies with those values.
Stash also charges $1 per month (Stash Retire is $2 per month) so use the $5 to try it out for free for five months and/or get your account balance up. When your account is above $5,000, Stash charges 0.25% which is very competitive.
Stockpile seems to be geared toward kids and teens based on its user interface and gift card push. I would set up a custodial account for your kid(s) using Stockpile. The user interface is fun for kids and it is a good learning tool. You can also get grandma and grandpa to gift the kids stock or to buy them a physical gift card as a stocking stuffer or instead of putting a $20 bill in a birthday card. It’s an interesting concept that I think is best used for education of “second generation FIRE.”
Remember the moment of anticipation right before you would tear open a pack of trading cards? The possibilities were endless in the moment.
I am including Robinhood in my review simply to give you that feeling. You see, if you sign up for Robinhood you will get a free stock. You could get a star like Apple or a common like…well a lot of other stocks. You are most likely to get a common but it is really fun to have that moment of anticipation again.
Once you sign-up, refer your friends to get more free stocks.
Aside from the free stock aspect, Robinhood does not charge commissions. That would be great to a high-frequency trader but those pursuing FI are not high-frequency traders (and high-frequency traders need lighting fast execution that brokerages have access to).
So sum up, have fun getting your free stock and trying to get others to sign up so they can get one too. Takes you back to the good ‘old days of trading cards.