What are the best financial accounts and tools available?

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.

That’ll change in time, of course, but I’m hoping the collective brainpower of the Get Rich Slowly community can give me — and other readers — a sort of crash course on the current state of the financial union.

Savings Accounts

Let’s start with that old favorite, the online savings account. When I first started this blog, savings rates were respectable. Online banks offered yields of five and six percent, and it was fun to find hidden gems.

Nowadays, the landscape’s very different. Things have looked bleak for savers since the market crash five years ago. My savings is still in the ING Direct account I started in 2008. (Except it’s not ING Direct anymore, is it? It’s Capital One 360!)

I used to have several targeted savings accounts at ING; today, I have only two. I carry a more-than-adequate $5000 emergency fund. Plus, Kim and I have a shared “Dream Fund” that currently has a balance of $22,273.07.

Sidebar: Kim and I aren’t sure how we’ll use this Dream Fund. Most of the time, we say it’s for our “beach house” — a hypothetical second home in a warm-weather climate. But maybe we’ll use it for an RV. Or to fund a year of travel around the world. Who knows? Right now, it’s a place for us to dump our windfalls. When I sold my comics (about which more soon), for instance, this is where I stashed the cash. When we turn in our change jars, that money goes here too.

So, tell me: What’s the best place to save nowadays?

Credit Cards

I’m also out of the loop on credit cards.

When I first started Get Rich Slowly, I was anti-credit card. With time, though, both Kris (my ex-wife) and you the readers helped me to see that credit cards aren’t necessarily evil. They can be dangerous, sure, but so can a chainsaw. Just as you’d treat a chainsaw with respect, you need to treat credit cards with respect. And used carefully, they can even be a valuable tool.

Based on your advice, in 2007 I picked up a Capital One No-Hassle Cash Rewards card. That’s still my main card for personal expenses. (I also have a Chase card that earns British Airways miles — documented here — and two cards for business, including a Costo Amex card.)

At gatherings of personal finance bloggers, I’ve heard my colleagues chatting about new, improved cards. What are they? What do financially savvy folk keep in their wallets in 2013?


Next, I’d like to know what sorts of apps people are using to track their money.

I’m still stuck in the stone-age, or so it seems. I’ve been using Quicken for almost two decades, warts and all. Like most folks, I loathe the most recent Mac versions (WTF, Intuit?), so I cling to Quicken 2007 — a seven-year-old desktop app. Sure, parts of it have been “sunsetted” (WTF, Intuit?), but otherwise it does the job.

I’ve never found a web-based app that works for me. I was a fan of Wesabe before it went under. I’ve tried Mint, but it doesn’t work for me. It chokes on my Fidelity investment accounts.

The only other money app I use is a tool called Personal Capital, which is available for iOS devices like the iPhone and the iPad. (There’s also a web version.) I haven’t used Personal Capital for account management; I use it only to see all of my accounts in one place. I like it. If it would sync with my credit union, I’d love it. (Maybe I should do a review…)

Tom recently reviewed a bunch of investment apps. What about you? What sorts of financial apps are you using, whether on the desktop, web, or mobile device?


Lastly, I’ve also let my personal finance reading decline. That’s a shame because I receive constant requests for book recommendations.

Because good financial advice never gets old, I don’t mind suggesting old favorites like Debt is Slavery, The Four Pillars of Investing, and Your Money or Your Life. But it’d be nice to have some modern weapons in my arsenal.

I know two of my colleagues recently published books: Jeff Rose wrote Soldier of Finance and Carrie Rocha wrote Pocket Your Dollars. Plus, I’ve received some other books in the mail, including The Story of Rich, The Power of Passive Investing, and All The Money in the World.

But what books have you been reading? Which do you recommend? Which were disappointing?

Sidebar: Blogs? Like everyone else, I’m a fan of Mr. Money Mustache. (In fact, Pete and I will be seated next to each other on a flight to Ecuador later today.) Plus, I really like Paula Pant’s Afford Anything. What else should I be reading?

So, that’s it.

I, your humble guide, am requesting help. Give me a crash course in what’s current. Tell me what I’ve missed over the past two years. Help me rediscover the modern world of personal finance.

More about...Apps, Books

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