Identifying SavvyResources

So what tools are in your financial toolbox? Recently I noted that understanding your Social Security benefits is a Savvy use of your time. The Social Security Administration web site can be a useful tool as you prepare for retirement and during the period you spend in retirement. The advice I gave then still holds; if you have not already done so, I highly recommend you visit the site and create a my Social Security Account.

Financial ToolboxContinuing the theme of identifying SavvyResources, below are a few websites/tools that can assist in helping you achieve fiscal fitness and better prepare for retirement.

Like the my Social Security account, the MoneyChimp compound interest calculator is a tool I have identified in a past blog post.  Understanding compound interest is essential for growing a portfolio and accumulating wealth. The story of Ronald and Robert Smith nicely illustrates the phenomenon of compound interest.

When considering opening a new checking account, a new savings account – perhaps for an emergency fund – or comparing Certificates of Deposit (CDs), you want to identify the institution that offers the best terms and rates. A good site for just such a chore is RateBrain, which updates rates on a daily basis.

SavvyReaders know that I am a firm believer in educating yourself and actively managing your own investment portfolio. One key to managing your own money is to keep fees to a minimum. Two reputable financial services companies that offer a wide range of services (e.g. brokerage accounts, IRAs, Rollover IRAs, etc.) and products (e.g. index funds) at low costs, are Fidelity and Vanguard.

If you have children – or grandchildren – and are looking for a useful tool in assisting you with teaching personal finance concepts, Money As You Grow is a great site that highlights personal finance concepts, spread across numerous activities, covering five age groups (3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-18, 18+).

Another great site for kids is The Secret Millionaires Club. As noted on the site,  it is an animated series that features Warren Buffett as a mentor to a group of entrepreneurial kids whose adventures lead them to encounter financial and business problems to solve. The program teaches the basic of good financial decision-making and some of the basic lessons of starting a business. The animated series has 26 online short webisodes and TV specials featured on the HUB cable network.

Looking to check your credit report without paying for the privilege? A great resource is Annual Credit Report. Created by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – in order to comply with their obligations under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to provide a mechanism for American consumers to receive up to three free credit reports per year – this central site allows you to request a free credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies.

Your debt-to-income ratio can be a valuable number — some say as important as your credit score. It’s exactly what it sounds: the amount of debt you have as compared to your Financial Calculatorsoverall income.

Lenders utilize a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio calculator when considering issuing loans or extending credit. A low DTI shows you have a good balance between debt and income. The lower your number, the better. Two sources for a calculator to check your ratio are the Oak View Law Group site and Bankrate.

If you are looking for tools to help with the development of a personalized, self-directed debt elimination plan, consider PowerPay.

There is no doubt that there will always be someone trying to separate you from your money; in unscrupulous ways far too often. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a government agency tasked with making markets for consumer financial products and services work better for Americans. If you are looking for guidance with respect to applying for a mortgage, choosing a credit card, or using any number of other consumer financial products, this site is worth a visit.

The Department of Labor’s Lifetime Income Calculator shows individuals their retirement plan account balance as level monthly payments for their lifetime which helps them assess their retirement readiness and plan for their retirement. This calculator illustrates an annuitization approach to estimate the monthly lifetime income streams based on both the participant’s current account balance and on the projected value of the account balance at retirement. For more details about how the calculator works, please visit the Lifetime Income Calculator Overview page.

I would love to get feedback from SavvyReaders noting their experiences with any of these websites and recommendations for other websites/tools that will help all of us become a little more savvy and improve our fiscal fitness.

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14 comments on “Identifying SavvyResources
  1. Karen says:

    These are GREAT sites! I personally have used moneychimp and Fidelity, but will definitely check out the others. I think the Money as you Grow site is one of the best. I have a lot of friends with children that could certainly make use of that site.

    Keep it up SavvyJames!

  2. Great list of sites! Money as You Grow will be helpful for me with my son. He is at the stage now where he loves the look and feel of money (coins mostly) and asks for money. I’m trying to begin teaching him that mommy and daddy work hard for our money and it is not just something we are given.

    I am also a big fan of Vanguard. We use them for retirement savings as well as their brokerage services and I’ve been very happy with them. Vanguard has some of the lowest cost mutual funds and ETFs out there.

    • SavvyJames says:

      Great to have you stop by. While I do not have any accounts with Vanguard – mine are with Fidelity – I appreciate their low fees, stellar reputation, and I am a fan of John Bogle.

  3. Al Rosser says:

    James,

    Great resources and I created the My Social Security account! Question for you, what do you think about using the Sharebuilder.com web site for managing your own stocks?

    • SavvyJames says:

      I used ShareBuilder years ago and do not recall any negative experiences. I do not personally trade a lot of individual stocks as I am more of a mutual funds [index funds specifically] type of investor. However, a quick check of the ShareBuilder site indicates that they charge $6.95 for trades which seems reasonable to me. My overarching suggestion – when conducting business with any financial institution, discount online brokerage or otherwise – is to always mindful of fees…all potential fees.

      Out of curiosity, have you had a chance to use the Simple Retirement Planner? I would love to get your feedback. Glad you have found the resources useful, Al. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for being a SavvyReader.

  4. Taz Bright says:

    Now I have several more sites I need to research. You have a habit of increasing my “to read” list James. Thanks for the really good info!!

    • SavvyJames says:

      Thanks, my friend. There really are some good sources there. It is gratifying as I have received feedback from individuals that have used some of the sites – I just heard from a reader that used the “my” Social Security Account recently and viewed their benefits estimate for the first time – and found them very useful. My plan is to update that particular post whenever a good source of information is brought to my attention.

  5. Scott Thomas says:

    I have counseled dozens of individuals and couples on the 9 ways to claim your benefits and the 2800+ rules and I employ two think tanks to try and stay current.
    Here is free resource that many have found helpful to see what is at stake and is it really worth my time and effort to talk to someone about my situation.

  6. Mark Ross says:

    Nice list of sites James! Thanks for sharing those.

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