Two months ago, The Markup — a big-tech watchdog site — published a piece about how Amazon prioritizes its own "brands" first above better rated (and/or cheaper) products. This came as no surprise to me.
I've found Amazon increasingly useless over the past few years. Its search results are cluttered with ads. Sometimes my searches fail to show products I know the company stocks and sells. And Amazon Prime has lost its luster as shipping times have lengthened and Prime Video has become increasingly superfluous.
So, to learn that Amazon cheats search results by crowding out better and cheaper products in favor of it own stuff was no big shock. Yet another reason for me to take my business elsewhere, when possible. From the article:
Every Monday morning, Tom and I have a Zoom call to discuss the coming week's priorities for this site. For the past couple of months, we've been focused on behind-the-scenes stuff as we prepared to launch the redesign. (That, and I was working on my course for Audible.) Now that the redesign is (mostly) finished, we've begun talking about content. What sorts of articles do we want to write in coming weeks?
"You know," Tom said this morning, "it wouldn't kill you to write about the financial tools you use. You love your credit card, right? And you use Personal Capital? If you were to write about this stuff, we could make more money."
As I've mentioned many times, Get Rich Slowly earns little compared to other sites its size -- especially other financial sites its size. Expected earnings for GRS are probably on the order of $20,000 per month; we bring in about $5000. (And right now, because of the coronavirus, our revenue is lower than this even.)
My girlfriend recently bought a new car. After 23 years, she sold her 1997 Honda Accord to a guy who's more mechanically inclined than we are. Kim upgraded to a 2016 Toyota RAV4, and she loves it.
One of her primary considerations when searching for a new car was the cost to drive it. In her ideal world, she would have purchased a fully-electric vehicle but it just wasn't in her budget. The RAV4 hybrid was a compromise. According to fueleconomy.gov, it gets an estimated 32 miles per gallon. (And actual users report 34.7 miles per gallon.)
Last year wasn't good for me. Depression and anxiety reigned supreme. By objective standards, my life was pretty good. But subjectively, life sucked. Going into 2020, I decided I needed to make some changes. I'm pleased to report that the first five weeks of the year have gone swimmingly. Life is grand.
I've made three specific changes that I believe have contributed to this improvement:
- I've rented office space outside the house. My office is for work only. I do not allow myself to play games (or engage in other shenanigans) at the office. Zero tolerance.
- I've begun getting up early. I tend to be an early riser anyhow, but early for me means about six o'clock. This year, I'm generally rising at 4:00 or 4:30, which means I'm at the office by five.
- I've curtailed my drinking. In fact, I didn't touch a drop of alcohol during January. I've had a few drinks in February, and it's been interesting to see how it affects me, both in the moment and then for days after.
Taken together, these three changes have mitigated my mental health problems and made me more productive. I love it. Over the next six weeks, I plan to integrate two additional changes into my life: I'm going to begin exercising regularly and I'm going to cut back on videogames. I expect this to provide an additional boost to my well-being.
It has never been easier to invest.
In only a few years, the rapid advancement of mobile technology has placed the power to invest at our fingertips and ushered in a wave of fintech startups, armed with new and innovative solutions for investors. Names like Acorns and Stash are now competing head-to-head with traditional brands such as E-Trade, and TD Ameritrade. (Imagine E-Trade being considered a "traditional" brand!)
With so many great options to choose from, it can be downright difficult to decide which investment app is right for you. To take out the guesswork, I’ve compiled a list of the best investment apps for 2021. From beginner investors to advanced traders, there’s something here for everyone.
Over the past week, I've shared two terrific retirement planning tools. First, I explored the pros and cons of Personal Capital. Next, I looked at OnTrajectory, which is the best traditional retirement calculator I've found.
Today, I want to talk about NewRetirement. Since I discovered it two years ago, NewRetirement has become my favorite tool for retirement planning.
I like NewRetirement because it offers amazing levels of customization. Plus, it explains its assumptions and offers ample information about every subject it tackles. And it does all of this without ever becoming overwhelming. It's comprehensive and customizable, yet clear. Most importantly, NewRetirement is more than just a retirement calculator. When I say it's a retirement planning tool, I mean that.
My colleagues, who are money nerds just like me, know that I'm obsessed with finding the best retirement calculator. I've been on this quest for years. As you'll learn later this week, my favorite retirement tool is (and has been) NewRetirement. But there are other great tools out there.
"You really need to try OnTrajectory," Jillian from Montana Money Adventures told me last summer. "It's great." She's been telling me that over and over ever since. (Meanwhile, Gwen from Fiery Millennials has also been pressuring me to try OnTrajectory.)
Last week, at long last, I had a chance to chat with Tyson Koska, the founder of OnTrajectory. During a 30-minute call, he walked me through setting up an account and playing with the tool's features. I'm impressed. NewRetirement is still my favorite tool, but OnTrajectory is damn close. And I can see how for some people, the latter may actually be a better choice.
If you've read money blogs over the past five years, you've heard about Personal Capital. Personal Capital is a free money-tracking tool with a beautiful interface and -- gasp -- no advertising. (One of my big complains about Mint is that it shoves ads in your face.)
Many of my friends and colleagues promote the hell out of Personal Capital because the company pays good money when people sign up. (And yes, links to Personal Capital in this review absolutely put money in my pocket. But any Personal Capital link you see anywhere on the web puts money in somebody's pocket.)
I sometimes wonder, though, if any of my pals actually uses Personal Capital, you know? All of their reviews are glowing. While I like Personal Capital, I've been frustrated by the app in the past. Even today, I find that it's not as useful as I'd like.
After my rant about how dumb it is to base your retirement needs on your income rather than your spending, you might guess that I hate most online retirement calculators. You are correct.
The vast majority of online retirement calculators use your current income to compute how much you need to save for retirement. It's dumb when financial advisers do this, and it's even dumber when automated programs do it. Retirement calculators tend to be dumb in lots of other ways too.
When computing how much to save for retirement, they tend to focus on current income rather than current spending. Plus, many of them have other problems -- like arbitrarily deciding that you shouldn't save more than 40% of your monthly income.
As a personal-finance blogger, it's my responsibility to keep up-to-date on the latest in the financial industry. Whose advice is worth heeding? (And whose advice sucks?) What are the current tax rates? Where's the best place to save for the future?
In the Olden Days, it wasn't tough for me to stay informed. I paid attention. I read books and magazines and blogs. PR agencies sent me buckets of email. Plus, GRS readers constantly sent me tips and recommendations.
But I've essentially taken the past couple of years off from the world of personal finance. I'm out of touch. I no longer know which credit cards are best, where I ought to have my savings, or how to best track my investments.