Updated: 03 January 2021 - 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.

 

#1). 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, Marcus, 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. Once they were offering more than 3.0%, but they've since dropped significantly into the 0.5% range.

Recommendations

  1. Marcus savings (0.5%)
  2. Ally savings (0.5%)
  3. Barclays savings (0.5%)
  4. RobinHood checking (0.3%)

 

#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. This is perfect for those that don't want to keep a chart for credit card purchases.

Also, do yourself a favor and never use a debit card. With a credit card, your maximum loss on any transactions you report as fraud is $50; with a debit card, that protection only extends for within two days of the unauthorized transaction. After that, the maximum consumer liability can increase to $500 within 60 days, and to an unlimited amount after 60 days.

  • Sign up for Citi Double Cash
  •  

     

    #3). 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.

  • Sign up for RobinHood Investing
  • Referral Link (optional, but highly recommended)
  • #4). 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 $32,107.43 + dividends (as of August 2019).

    [2020 Update] You would have earned $60,999.61 + dividends over the previous six years.
    [2021 Update] You would have earned $95,287.75 + dividends over the previous seven years! That's nearly double your original investment!

    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. A 95% increase over seven years is certainly not worth ignoring!

    Feel free to make a copy of the sheet and play around with the weights / investment numbers.

       

    #5). Check Your Phone Bill

    Cable and mobile phone bills are typically the two largest drains on everyone's wallet. If you're spending over $100/mo. for your phone because it has 'unlimited everything', you could certainly be doing better.

    Rule #1: Don't sign up with a contract.

    Paying for mobile service month to month will save you a ton of money and will allow you to switch carriers on the fly. There are many options available, like T-Mobile for $40/mo., Google Fi's $30 +$10/per GB, and AT&T for $40/mo. I'm a huge fan of simple, so I stick with Google Fi. It's clear what you're paying for, and they don't have hidden nonsense fees.

    Rule #2: Buy your phone. Don't pay for it with a contract.

    A new, sensibly priced, phone will run ~$400-$600. If you get a contract and pay for it over the next couple of years, the price of the phone skyrockets. Back when I did that with new iPhones, I ended up spending $2,400 for a $650 phone over the course of two years. It's simply not worth it.

  • Google Fi Plans
  • T-Mobile Prepaid Plans
  • AT&T Prepaid Plans
  • Verizon Prepaid Plans
  • #6). Use Keepa.com

    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.

  • Keepa Extension for Chrome
  • Keepa Extension for Firefox
  • Keepa HomePage
  •  

           


    Changelog - Click to Expand
    • 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.