After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
Over the summer, Chase Bank sent me an offer in the mail to open a checking account with them. The sweetener? $150 cash bonus, just for opening the account. Any strings attached? Sure, but they were relatively easy to cut.
Chase is not a military friendly bank that offers no-BS fees. Their checking account comes with a lot of “gotchas” and I definitely DO NOT recommend banking with them day to day. However, a free $150 is hard to turn down. What were the stipulations?
- $100 minimum deposit
- If account closed within 6 months bonus withdrawn
- $12 per month “service charge” (this is the BS part)
The $12 per month service charge could be avoided if:
- You have monthly direct deposits of $500 of more
- OR you keep an average daily balance of $1500 or more
- OR you have an average daily balance of $5000 or more in other Chase checking or savings accounts
A good bank does not have account minimums or charge any fees for normal daily usage of the accounts to their customers. Therefore, I was not interested in keeping this account past the minimum required time.
I decided to look at opening this checking account as an investment. If I deposited $1500 into the account for 6 months, I would be rewarded with $150. I could then close the account, withdraw my $1650, and gain a 20% annual return on investment. Not bad!
I deposited my $1500 in June 2013. The $150 bonus was paid within a week of opening the account. Since then, I’ve done no transfers in the account except yesterday (3 January 2014) when I withdrew the full $1650. I sent a secure message to Chase to close the account and I’m just waiting now for their confirmation.
In total, about 15 minutes of work for a very nice return. While it’s not going to change my life, it’s still nice to put cash to work for a FDIC backed 20% return.
Getting an FDIC insured return above 1-2% is difficult these days. However, if you look for opportunities (like the SDP or account opening bonuses) to maximize your risk free return, you can realize a greater return on your emergency fund and cash assets. Increasing your return on your cash will put you that much closer to achieving your financial goals, whatever they may be.
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.