Updated: 10 September 2022 - Changelog at bottom
Disclosure: The only affiliate link is a RobinHood suggestion
I've had many people come to me and ask "what stocks should I buy?", "what bank do you use?", and "what credit card is best?" This post is for them. Suggestions are in order of importance.
Table of Contents
- Check your phone bill
- Get 2% Cash Back on all Purchases
- Earn Easy Money with High Yield Savings
- Use Keepa
- Stock Investing
- What Should I Invest In?
#1). Check Your Phone Bill
Cable and mobile phone bills are typically the two largest drains on a wallet. If you're spending over $100/mo. for your phone because it has 'unlimited everything', you could certainly be hemorrhaging far less money.
Rule #1: Don't have a contract.
Paying for mobile service monthly will save $$ and will allow you to switch carriers whenever. There are many options available, like T-Mobile for $40/mo., Google Fi's $30 +$10/per GB, and AT&T for $40/mo. However, the best bang for your buck would be Mint Mobile at $15/mo for 4GB ($20 for 10GB).
Rule #2: Own your phone.
A new, sensibly priced, phone will run ~$300-$600. If you get a contract, the ownership cost goes to the moon 🚀. Back when I did that with new iPhones, two years took $2,400 out of my wallet for a $650 phone. It's simply not worth it.
#2). Get 2% Cash Back on all Purchases
CitiCards "Double Cash" credit card will earn you 2% on every purchase with no restrictions or maximum. Other cards come close with "rolling discounts," but they're not worth the simplicity trade-off.
Also, do yourself a favor and never use a debit card. With a credit card, your maximum loss with fraud is $50. With a debit card, fraud protection is limited to two days of the unauthorized transaction. After that, the maximum consumer liability can increase to $500 within 60 days, and unlimited after 60 days.
I've had my credit details used for random purchases in Detroit (gas, train tickets, movie tickets), and Citi took care of the issue with zero issue.
#3). Earn Easy Money with High Yield Savings
If you have money just sitting in a checking account somewhere, you need to put it to good use. High yield savings accounts will give you a return, and it requires zero effort.
Barclays and Ally are all great options with a high market "APY". Barclays also has 60-month CDs, but I just stick with their savings because it's easy, and I don't have to think about it.
If you have a look at this page's changelog, you'll notice that savings accounts have changed drastically over the last two years. Pre-lockdowns, they were offering more than 3.0%, but they've been bouncing around from 0.5% to 2.0% since.
#4). Use Keepa
If you shop on Amazon, installing the Keepa Chrome / Firefox extension is a must. They provide "detailed price history for over 800 million Amazon products [...] and send price alerts when a product has dropped below your desired price." I have saved a considerable amount of money using this tool.
For example, the following shows up directly under Amazon products. In this case, I would set my price alert for ~$300 and wait for them to notify me. Waiting a little longer for this product would easily return a 10% discount.
#5). Stock Investing
When you're ready to invest, RobinHood is by far the best place to start. Financial institutions like Fidelity and Schwab have a transaction fee for every stock trade. They will charge you coming and going at $7 for purchase and sale. RobinHood does not.
Opening an account with the referral link below gives us both a free random stock. If you don't use the link below, please do yourself a favor and use anyone's referral. It's free money. Don't pass that up.
#6). What Should I Invest In?
Avoid purchasing individual stocks and go with ETFs. An ETF is like a mutual fund, but with none of the heavy fees. If you continue reading, I'll assume you pinky swear never to invest in a mutual fund.
An ETF is a collection of stocks centered around a particular theme (more info). For example, they can be a collection of tech, real estate, dividend-based stocks, or emerging markets. Each ETF has a management cost measured in %, but are often very low. They are for long term, set it and forget it ownership, that will give you a return when the market does well. ETFs.com is a great place to start your search.
These are what I suggest beginners start with:
- US Broad Market: SCHB, VTI, VOO
- Foreign Markets: SCHF, VEA
- Dividend: SCHD, VIG
- Emerging Markets: VWO, IEMG
- Misc: VDE, VTEB, VTV, VOE, VBR, MUB, BNDX, EMB, AGG, VTIP
Aim for a portfolio concentration that looks like this:
If you began investing five years ago with, let's say $100,000, and followed the above methodology, you would have earned $66,504 + dividends (as of September 2022).
- [2020 Update] You would have earned $60k + dividends over the previous six years.
- [2021 Update] You would have earned $95k + dividends over the previous seven years! That's nearly double your original investment!
- [2022 Update] Clearly the economy has taken a massive dump (for obvious reasons), but the impact hasn't brought us back to 2020 levels... yet. We still have a $66k + dividends return. This demonstrates how effective diverse investing in ETFs will keep your $ strong. Go heavier on energy producers (VDE) over the next few years.
Now, not all ETFs go up, but over time they tend to do very well. Do yourself a favor and start investing as soon as you're able to. Hint: Now is a good time after that inflated nonsense called "2021."
Feel free to make a copy of the sheet and play around with the weights / investment numbers.
Changelog - Click to Expand
- 29 August 2023: Updated APY on High Yield Savings Accounts
- 10 September 2022: Mint Mobile is smarter than Google Fi. Moved some things around. Updated Savings APY%. Updated header image. Added table of contents.
- 03 January 2021: Removed Personal Capital as a suggestion. Updated stock investing / ETF suggestions for 2021 returns. Updated APY on savings accounts.
- 18 December 2020: Updated & removed savings accounts that weren't worthwhile. Updated ETF investing results for 2020. Removed credit monitoring suggestions as there are no good places to do so. Updated phone with Rule 1 and 2.
- 28 May 2020: All savings accounts lowered their APY.
- 09 March 2020: All savings accounts lowered their APY. Re-ordered list based on combination of instituation and APY %
- 25 February 2020: Removed Credit Karma as a recommendation
- 30 December 2019: Ally % down
- 12 December 2019: Updated Savings account APY %
- 25 November 2019: Added debit v. credit card details
- 23 November 2019: Ally savings account % dropped
- 10 October 2019: Barclays, Ally, and Marcus down 0.1% (again). Added RobinHood
- 05 October 2019: Added Keepa suggestion
- 21 September 2019: Wealthfront lowered their savings from 2.32% > 2.07%
- 18 September 2019: Added Phone Bill suggestions
- 05 September 2019: Barclays and Marcus lowered their savings APY again!!
- 01 August 2019: Added 5 year historical investment chart
- 28 July 2019: Added pretty pictures
- 15 July 2019: Barclays lowered their 60-month CD from 3.1% to 2.85%
- 11 July 2019: All high yield savings accounts lowered their APY -0.1%
- 22 April 2019: Added link for TurboTax shadiness.