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 Social Security Account.
While I am generally not a fan of life insurance, there are times when it is a prudent addition to your financial portfolio, as I noted in Insurance as Part of Your Financial Plan. Once you have determined that you do require life insurance, the SmartAsset Insurance Calculator is a good tool for helping to decide how much is right for you.
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.
As I noted in Preparing for Homeownership, there are a number of steps that should be taken once you have made the decision to buy a home. The SmartAsset site offers a great calculator to help you determine how much house you can afford.
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 overall 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. A good site for a calculator to check your ratio is Bankrate.
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.