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.
What is the one device you can purchase that will save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars in time, gas, and wear and tear on your car? A CAC Reader for your home computer. With a CAC Reader, or Common Access Card Reader, you can log into many DOD computer networks, check your email, use your CAC login to myPay and perform many other routine tasks that would normally require you to drive to work.
The easiest way to setup your CAC Reader is by following the steps on MilitaryCAC.com. Mr. Danberry has put together THE definitive guide on getting your CAC running on your Windows or Mac PC at home. You can pick one up from AAFES (free shipping) or a SCR3310 at Amazon.com.
I recommend the SCR3310. I’ve used it for over 2 years and it’s worked flawlessly. It doesn’t even need drivers with Windows 7 – you simply plug it in and it works (you might need to download and install the DoD Certificates). So how much could a CAC Reader really save you?
Here’s our scenario:
Airman Johnny lives in Seattle, WA and commutes to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It’s a 44 mile one way trip, so if he’s going in to check his mail, he’s got an 88 mile round trip. Let’s say he has a fuel efficient car that gets 30 miles to the gallon. That’s still going to be about 3 gallons of gas, or, in the Seattle area, $12 worth of gas. If he checked his email from home just once a week and didn’t drive into work 1 day a week, he could save over $600 a year! Not only that, but he’ll spend over 90 minutes in his car doing the commute, plus however long he spends at work checking his email. Ninety minutes of your day back for a simple $10 purchase.
I bought my CAC reader back in 2010 and it has paid me back 100 times in reducing stress, cost, and increasing my free time. I really can’t recommend it enough for people who just go into work to check their email.
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence Faster
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.
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.