22 Apr

Bruno Recommends!

On our path to financial independence, a number of services have been invaluable in helping us reach our goals: Vanguard, Personal Capital, and Mint.

1.) Using Vanguard to Manage your Investments

If you’re new to investing and are intimidated by the stock market, be afraid no more – Vanguard is here to save the day! Vanguard is the bees knees. Their fees are amazingly low and they are owned by the investors in the funds (you and me). If you have no clue what you’re doing with investing, you can’t go wrong by opening an account and putting all your money in Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund (VASGX). This is a well-balanced low-cost fund that roughly reflects how Amanda and I have our portfolio setup (as well as the majority of financial independence bloggers online).

If you currently have a number of investment accounts with mutual funds sitting around, I can almost guarantee you that they are charging you higher fees than Vanguard does. Open a Vanguard account and transfer all those accounts over – you won’t regret it! We don’t make an money from recommending Vanguard, we simply love them!

 

vanguard

 

2.) Managing your Expenses and Investments with Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a FREE service that helps us keep track of both our expenses and our portfolio investments.

Without a doubt, the most important step to controlling your finances is having an easy-to-understand overview of all your income, your expenses, and all your savings & investments. Personal Capital has some excellent graphics, where you can dig into categories of spending.

Here is a screenshot of our credit card expenses for the last six months:

pc_spending

 

Personal Capital also provides extremely useful tools to help you manage your investments. When you first log in, you’ll be able to pull the information from all your different bank accounts, credit card accounts, and investment accounts into one central dashboard.

Here is a summary screenshot of our portfolio:

pc_prot_allocation

Capture1

If you link more than $100k of investable accounts, Personal Capital may contact you to offer their investment advice for a fee. This is optional and you can simply ignore them, if you’d prefer.

 

3.) If you don’t like Personal Capital, try Mint

Personal Capital is a service for US-based accounts only. Since we also have retirement funds in Canada, we also use the FREE service at Mint.com, which can accommodate foreign accounts. After trying Personal Capital, if you’re not completely satisfied I would recommend checking out Mint.com – it’s a very similar service, but with less of a focus on managing your investments, and more of a focus on managing expenses, budgeting, etc. We don’t make an money recommending Mint, we’ve just been big fans for over 4 years now.

Here is a screenshot of our credit card expenses for the last six months:

mint

Both Personal Capital and Mint are safe and secure online tools that anyone can use for FREE. They pull summary data from your bank accounts, your credit card balances, and your investment accounts, displaying it all on one screen to summarize your net worth. It will also estimate your home value through Zillow.com and any cars with their Kelley Blue Book value.

I hope the above recommendations help someone! If you have any questions, please ask!

 

  • I use Vanguard and Personal Capital as well. PC has been frustrating me lately with it’s double counting of certain expenses, but other than that is useful for expense tracking.

    • Travis

      Yeah, oddly enough sometimes this happens in Mint as well. Another one of life’s great mysteries? On the upside, it does encourage us to scrutinize our expenses each month and look for inconsistencies!

  • Interested in financial indepe

    Thank you for putting together a blog of your story. Here’s my question, is the one million that you saved all in regular investment accounts? What I mean is, we have 400k or so in IRA, 403b, etc accounts. Should this count toward our goal of 1.25 million or not, since we can’t access the money without penalty until retirement age?

    Thanks so much!

    • Travis

      Hi there! We include all types of retirement accounts to be part of our portfolio. The only thing we exclude is our Social Security entitlements. You can see a breakdown of our entire portfolio in this post here: http://freedomwithbruno.com/early-retirement-with-zero-income-taxes/

      Note that there are methods to access your Traditional IRA/401k savings before retirement age, without paying the 10% penalty. One method is called the Roth Conversion Ladder, the other method is called 72t “Substantially equal payments” methods – if you’re interested, feel free to Google these methods to learn more!