Talking about money and how we manage it shouldn’t be taboo. There I said it.
But growing up, my parents rarely spoke about money. My friends didn’t talk about money. I grew up in Long Beach, CA, a city where you might walk by multi-million dollar homes one minute, and on the same street a couple blocks down, you’ll be in a low-income housing neighborhood.
I was fortunate that my parents, refugees from the Cambodian rouge humanitarian crisis, were able to make a living into a middle-class family for me, my brother, and my sister.
Despite all that hard work to build up cash reserves to support us, we didn’t talk about money at all.
Now I’m at a point in my financial journey where I’ve even built out a financial backbone for my business. I think I’ve come a long way,
My personal financial journey really started with Ramit Sethi’s book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich which opened me up to a world of other financial resources. Nowadays, I peruse forums like r/personalfinance and r/fatFIRE.
That all led me to speak about money more openly with friends, family, and even coworkers.
It felt awkward to ask, but those early conversations started as simply as, “Just curious… how much are you making? I’m making $50,000.”
Their response? “Wait, I’m making $70,000, you should be making as much if not more than me. You should negotiate.”
That made me realize that open conversations about money help us put our financial situation in context with others and decide whether or not we’re happy with our financial situation.
Sometimes those conversations might help us realize we could make more if we wanted to.
Now, when I hear a friend got a promotion or changed jobs, I’ll ask, “That’s awesome. Did you get a pay bump? How much? Amazing! Are you happy with it?”
It catches people off guard, but it also opens it up to have a candid conversation about money and how it fits into our lives.
And if I want to prod further, I’ll ask, “How much do you want to make?” Which also surprises folks. Most people I’ve spoken to have never been asked this. Most people don’t even think about this.
We’re taught to expect that what’s out there is what’s available.
I’ve found that most people I’ve spoken to don’t consider these questions because it’s not something we’re taught to ask. If anything, we’re taught to avoid these kinds of topics.
As I’ve spoken to more friends about finances, the conversation quickly gets tactical. While I try to zoom folks out to the larger picture about their financial strategy, they’re always curious about what banks and tools I use.
So that’s what I’ll cover here.
- None of this is financial advice. It’s simply a list of tools and services I use that might be helpful for you. Make sure to do your own research before investing your money into an asset.
- Some of the links in this blog posts are affiliate links. That means I may get compensated if you sign up using my link.
Checking Account: Charles Schwab
I will happily sing praises all day for Charles Schwab bank. Their customer service has always been helpful and top-notch.
I once had an issue with my debit card and they mailed one to me overnight.
On a few occasions, I was traveling outside the US and I couldn’t pull cash out of an ATM. My debit card was locked. I called Charles Schwab and they fixed that on the spot. It was an inconvenience, but I was happy that their system is so secure. Even better that they quickly made the fix for me so I could carry on with my travels.
Schwab has no foreign exchange fees and they reimburse all ATM fees. That means if I get charged a $3.00 fee for using an ATM, they will reimburse me that $3.00 at the end of the month.
One downside is they have few in-person locations. But who goes to banks nowadays anyway?
I don’t think that’s a true downside.
For a bank, their mobile app is always getting updated and becoming sleeker and easier to use.
I opened my first checking account with Bank of America in high school with my dad. They’re horrible. As soon as I learned about Charles Schwab, I opened an account and deposited all my money with them.
If you want to get started with Charles Schwab, sign up here. You’ll get $1,000 after making a qualifying deposit. I don’t get anything, except the satisfaction that you’ll be banking with a better bank.
Savings Account: Capital One
My favorite feature of the Capital One savings account is that I can create as many savings accounts as I want. I have one account for each big goal:
- Home down payment (I don’t use this anymore because I already bought a home. More on that in a future post.)
- Wedding (I actually moved this into Betterment.)
- Rainy day fund
Their mobile app is easy to use and makes it easy to move money between the different savings accounts and to my checking account with Charles Schwab.
They also give a regular update on your credit score so you can keep an eye on how that changes in case you’re opening new credit cards regularly.
Roth IRA and Investment Accounts: Betterment
Some people will scoff at this. Why use Betterment when you can use something like Vanguard to manage your investments for an even smaller fee?
Well, those people are right.
According to NerdWallet, Vanguard’s average expense ratio is 0.06% and Betterment’s average expense ratio is 0.11% with an account management fee of 0.25%.
The thing is, I don’t want to manage my own portfolio and rebalance it every quarter. It probably doesn’t take a lot of time, but I’d rather just have Betterment do that for me.
And the way I think of it is, if I’m making so much money that a fraction of a percent is a big deal, then that fraction of a percent probably isn’t my biggest concern.
So I keep it simple. Deposit money into Betterment, set my risk level, and let the robo-advisor take over. I’m happy with it.
I know this isn’t an account you’d typically open yourself, unless if you’re a business owner, but I’ll include it here anyway because it’s an important part of your financial health.
I’ve used three different 401k services through my employers: Fidelity, Guideline, and Empower My Retirement.
I never truly figured out my Fidelity account. It was very annoying to navigate, though that might’ve changed. Empower My Retirement also looks like it’s from the early 2000s. Both services are great for 401k, but the user experience isn’t enjoyable (that’s the product manager in my speaking).
I highly recommend using Guideline if you get the chance. I’ve rolled over my various 401ks into Guideline because their app is simple and sleek and they have low fees.
Additional “Fun” Investment Accounts
If you’re just getting started in your personal finance journey, I recommend you don’t pick stocks as your first foray into investment.
Focus on getting your 401k and Roth IRA maxed out (and get that 401k match with your employer), before you go on to take bigger bets.
Those of you who are okay with taking risks, do as you please.
I occasionally like to pick stocks, though can’t say I’m the best. I made a couple thousand dollars on Slack, but I also took a bet on Peloton and held on for longer than I should’ve so now I’m stuck holding until it (hopefully) works out.
If you aren’t already on Robinhood, get started here. If you sign up using that link, Robinhood will give me a small piece of stock.
Ah yes, this was inevitably going to come up. I began investing in crypto in 2017, but regrettably, my risk tolerance wasn’t high enough to dump much more than a couple thousand dollars.
Coinbase is my go-to exchange for purchasing crypto. Their interface is beautiful and mostly easy to use.
I also use the Coinbase Wallet for storing crypto though many will recommend story on a cold wallet like a Ledger Nano S.
I’ve bought a few NFTs on Opensea, some with the intent of reselling and others just because I wanted to. For example, I bought a Nas NFT just because I thought it’d be cool to have one, not because I expect to resell it or make any money off the proposed percentage of royalties (it’s literally pennies). I also bought this Leveling Up Heroes Epic Tier NFT because of my belief in the founder, Eric Siu, and his ability to build communities.
That being said, be very wary of investing in NFTs.
Fundrise is a way to get into real estate investing without buying a property. You can invest in real estate investment trust (REITs), which are companies that purchase and operate real estate. I investing a couple thousand dollars using Fundrise as a test to see what the returns would be, but don’t put any more money into it.
Again do your research before investing.
There are plenty of crowdfunding platforms to invest in startups. Though I would be wary of these. Similar to crypto, you should only invest money if losing that money doesn’t significantly impact your livelihood. Most startups go to zero and even if they’re successful, you won’t see a return for many years.
Net Worth Tracking: Personal Capital
Personal Capital has met my needs for net worth tracking. It makes it easy to connect all my financial accounts and see how net my net worth changes over time and what categories I spend the most on.
Budgeting: Google Sheet
I love spreadsheets and honestly used to spend too much time on them. But it’s helpful to do a check on how much spending should change as I make more money and where to put that additional cash. For example, should I build up my emergency savings or dump that cash into index funds? Or can I spend it on more “fun” things?
Get my budgeting template here.
Advanced Personal Finance
Insurance Broker: Policygenius
I’ve used Policygenius for condo insurance, auto insurance, long-term disability insurance and more. The service is hit or miss depending on the rep that’s helping you but it has made it much easier to get quotes across multiple providers. I once couldn’t get a quote through Policygenius so I had to reach out to various providers on my own which took much more time and effort than working with Policygenius.
Financial Advisor: Facet Wealth
I’ve worked with Facet Wealth for financial advising for three years now and have found them very helpful. They charge a flat monthly or annual fee that’s based on the complexity of your situation. For example, if you own real estate, have stocks or stock options, and make over 6-figures, your financial situation might be more complex than someone with a W-2 salary and no other assets.
They recently provided estate planning services as well which I’m taking them up on.
Accountant: Trusted Tax Services
I work with Nick Jackson and am happy to pay him a premium. While it would be cheaper to pay an accountant to do my taxes every February and get my return quickly, Nick provides a white glove service and takes the time to explain the process. For example, when I purchased an investment property in California, he spent an hour explaining the tax implications of it, not just on the purchase, but over the long-term. He doesn’t have to do that and that’s exactly why he’s amazing to work with.
The list above are just tools and services but to figure out what’s best for you, I recommend doing your own research and education to figure out your preferences.
Here are some resources that have helped me.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
This book started it all for me. Ramit doesn’t just give broad overviews of finance. He gives actional steps to improve your financial situation over the course of weeks.
How to Win the Game of Advanced Personal Finance Course by Ramit Sethi
As I developed in my financial literacy, there cames a point when I kept asking “What else?” What else am I supposed to invest in? What else do I do to maximize my earnings? What other hacks or tricks are there?
That’s when I decided to take Ramit’s advanced personal finance course which teaches you to view yourself as the CEO of your finances.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast with Ramit Sethi
Ramit (finally) started a podcast where he speaks with couples about their financial troubles and digs into the psychology of money. The big takeaway is most of the time, our reactions and behaviors around money aren’t actually about money.
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko
This book doesn’t explicitly provide actionable tips but dispels myths of what wealth “looks like.” They explain that most millionaires aren’t flaunting their wealth with expensive cars, big houses, and jewelry. They’re silently investing and accumulating wealth.
The Billionaire Who Wasn’t by Conor O’Clery
This isn’t a book about personal finance but rather about how one person, Chuck Feeney, accumulated a ton of wealth in the billions and has been giving it away. It’s provided a reminder that money is a powerful tool for building a rich life, but also for empowerment and making the world a better place.
Hope this catalog of my financial stack helps you develop a set of tools and services that work for you.
Anything you’d recommend?