Craig Recommends

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Welcome to my financial tool box.  On this page you’ll find products that meet the following criteria:

  1. I pay for (or have paid for before being offered a free copy/subscription) the product.
  2. I have personally used and tried the product.
  3. I think it is a good product.

The problem with the items on this page is that you and I are not financial clones.  Thus, in a couple of places I do refer you to other products that don’t meet the criteria above.  These are products that offer alternative options based on your financial needs and preferences.  I’ll clearly mark those products with an *.

Please note, some of the links below are affiliate links so I will receive a commission if you purchase them via a link on this blog.  If you prefer not to use this method just Google the product name and go directly to the product.

Investing

Top book suggestion:  For beginners, I recommend The Sound Mind Investing Handbook.

Lending Club

Over the last year and a half, my Lending Club returns have yielded between 9-11% . Of course, my returns are no indication of what returns you could expect.

What is Lending Club?  Lending Club is a people to people lender where individuals can loan money to others who need a loan. Sounds crazy, right? Well, Lending Club lets you view important lender credentials, such as their purpose for borrowing the money and their credit rating and history. If you choose wisely, Lending Club can be a good way to diversify your investments outside of traditional stock, index fund, and mutual fund ownership.  Personally, I wouldn’t put a substantial percent of my investment dollars in Lending Club, but as a tool to diversify investments, it can be a great addition.

Read my people to people and Lending Club review and my guide on how to invest with Lending Club.

You can join Lending Club as a lender, or you can get a loan through Lending Club as a borrower. You might want to consolidate loans or lower their interest rate.

Sound Mind Investing

About a year before I started blogging, I signed up for the Sound Mind Investing Newsletter. I think their information is very valuable for anyone who is interested in handling their own investments via an online broker. They provide recommended mutual funds as well as index fund investing options. Here is my review of the Sound Mind Investing Newsletter.

Here’s a list of discount online brokers if you trade online.  Right now I use the following online brokers: TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab.  I recommend Schwab if you’ll be buying some of their fee free ETFs, but I think the rates at TD Ameritrade are high (I have a special discount through a program that no longer exists).

Banking

Capital One 360

I’ve been an ING Direct customer for over eight years.  In 2013 ING Direct became Capital One 360.

I’ve had about 10 banks in my lifetime, and this bank is my favorite. You can read more about ING Direct by clicking on the link below. The four things I love most are: (1) I’ve never paid a single fee to ING. (2) Their Electric Orange Checking account allows me to sign into their account and send a paper check for free (they even pay for the stamp). (3) They have a competitive interest rate (4) I can use my smart phone to deposit checks.

Personal Finance Software

Personal Capital

If you’re looking for a free online tool that can track all your investments, spending, and account balances then Personal Capital would be my recommendation.  I’ve been using them for a short time, but I’ve been very impressed with the product.

You Need A Budget

For budgeting there is not a better product than YNAB.  It’s a one trick pony – budgeting.  If you’re looking for a product to help your budget I’d recommend it and if you’re wanting software to do something else then I wouldn’t suggest YNAB.

Read best personal finance software to find what product is right for you.

Credit Score

You can read my thoughts about credit scores here and here.  Basically, I’ll monitor it in a general way, but I won’t obsess over it.  I use Credit Sesame and Credit Karma (a free tool) to get a general idea of my credit activity and credit score.

Taxes

For the last seven or eight years, I’ve used Turbo Tax Home and Business to file my taxes.  Of course, if you don’t have a business you wouldn’t need the same product version of Turbo Tax.  I like knowing what is happening with my taxes.  Here’s why I file my own taxes.