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.
At the beginning of this month I had the chance to do a live, on the ground test of T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan just outside of Frankfurt, Germany. I travel to Germany and other European Union nations for about a week every month or so for business, so finding cheap international roaming plans is really important to me.
I used to buy cheap (15 Euros) local sim cards with data/txt/minutes included in whatever country I landed in, but when you’re travelling across borders frequently even that can become a hassle.
I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for almost two years now and it’s been the best mobile experience I’ve had with a US cell phone company. In the past 6 years I’ve been a Verizon customer (Blackberry), an AT&T customer (iPhone 4), and now a T-Mobile customer (cheap Android, followed by Galaxy S4, which is what I’m currently using).
Both Verizon and AT&T consistently treated me not as a customer, but as a hostage. Since I was in a two contract and paying their outrageous prices, I was a hostage. T-Mobile is the first US carrier that’s treated me with respect and fair prices.
T-Mobile customer support has always been extremely friendly and helpful to solve my problems. Three times now they have unlocked my phone within a week of purchasing, rather than waiting the usual 2 months. All I’ve had to do is explain I’m travelling internationally, make an advanced payment on the phones, and I receive the unlock code within 24 hours.
The New Simple Choice International Plan
Recently, T-Mobile started offering the Simple Choice Plan. For $100/month for two lines, you get:
- 2.5 GB of 4G LTE data (and then unlimited 3G data afterwards)
- Unlimited talk
- Unlimited text
- International roaming
International roaming you say? I wonder what’s included in that. How about:
- free international texting
- unlimited free international data
- and $0.20/minute phone calls in 115 countries*
I was grandfathered into a 1000 min/unlimited txt/2GB data plan but when I saw what the new Simple Choice Plan offered, I jumped on it. With the military discount, it worked out to be about what I was currently paying.
So for a negligible price difference we gained:
- Unlimited minutes (not that we used more than 500/month)
- An extra 500 MB of high speed data (2 GB -> 2.5 GB 4G LTE)
- The best international data package offered in the US
Using the T-Mobile Simple Choice International Roaming in Germany
Welcome to Germany. Unlimited text incl with your global coverage. Talk $0.20/min. Wi-Fi call charges are: Free to US, $0.20/min locally. Unlimited web included as part of your global coverage.
Alright! While everyone else was bumbling around the airport trying to find a free WiFi signal, I was sending texts back home and checking my email. It couldn’t have been easier. My buddies used my phone to send texts back to their family when they couldn’t find an open wireless network.
Of course the question will come up: “but how is the wireless speed?” It’s definitely not 4G. Here’s what the SpeedTest app showed:
In practical terms, Google Maps was definitely usable and brought up directions and maps quickly enough so as not to be annoying. Web browsing was just like using 3G speeds back in the states a few years ago. Certainly useable for looking up nearby restaurants or attractions.
You definitely won’t be watching streaming HD movies over this speed, but when you have a few days off in Germany and want to drive to Oktoberfest, this is a cheap and easy way to get directions and web access.
If you travel internationally frequently (as many military servicemembers do), I highly recommend T-Mobile’s unlimited talk + text + web plan starting at $50/mo. It offers an excellent mobile package at home in the States and abroad for those quick trips when it’s not worth purchasing a local sim card.
Countries Included in the Simple Choice International Plan, Alphabetical Order
Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
Curacao (Netherlands/Dutch Antilles)
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
United Arab Emirates
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.