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Finding the Best Banking and Investing Accounts

One of the best ways to keep your money working for you is to make sure it is stashed in the best bank and investment accounts. Every couple has their particular preferences on what they are looking for, but there are some basic requirements that you no doubt want to keep in mind so your money stays with you instead of lining a bank or brokerage’s pockets.

No matter how you handle finances, it is helpful to review  your accounts every now and then to make sure you’re earning the money you deserve. You may find that there is  a better deal out there for the two of you.

Getting the Right Checking and Savings Account for You

Having the best checking and savings accounts for your family can be a huge boost to your finances. We learned this firsthand when we opened our first joint accounts.

When we were married, we picked Bank of America to be our home for our joint accounts. It made to us – it had plenty of branches and ATMs in the area and I had a student checking account that I was fine with.

I’ve about it before, but long story short, it was not the right bank for us. For all the hassles, we were really getting anything. Every quarter they’d show the interest we earned in our savings account and it was a joke – literally pennies.

Fed up, we switched and have been happy with our joint accounts at Capital one 360. We have fantastic service with them, earn more interest on our savings, and more importantly, it’s easier to stay on top of our finances. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for a new bank. Whether you go with them or not, you two should be using a bank or credit union that fits your goals.

Make Your Accounts Work for You

The first step is probably defining what essentials the accounts need to do well and what you’d like the accounts to have.  For our primary checking account account we needed a place that was:

financial independence capital one 360

  • Reliable (FDIC or NCUA insured)
  • No maintenance fees
  • Pretty fast (and free) bill pay system
  • Conveniently located ATMs
  • Good customer service

We also wanted a place where our savings could actually earn us some real money. When it came to making a choice we went with Capital One 360 (back when it was ING Direct).

We started by moving over our savings and we very pleased with the interest we were getting every month. Next we moved our checking account, keeping some buffer money in our old account for a little bit in case we forgot any semi-annual bills.

Even if you’re already a member, there are some great bonuses out there for you:

Finding the Best Accounts for Your Investments

It can be easy to accumulate several different investment accounts, especially if you’ve changed jobs over the years. Rolling over your 401(k) can be fantastic way for you to consolidate your accounts and have more control over your money.

Besides your retirement accounts at work, if you don’t have them already, consider opening up an IRA for each of you.  These accounts can be powerful assets as you make your contributions. One of their biggest advantage is that you have more freedom in what investments you choose unlike a 401(k) where you may only have limited options.

When looking at where we wanted to stash our money, we chose Vanguard and Betterment.  I like Vanguard for a few reasons:

  • Lower Fees: Vanguard’s index funds are some of the lowest in the industry. If you register for e-delivery of account documents, Vanguard won’t charge you an annual account service fee.
  • Free ETFs:  Being with Vanguard means I can buy their ETFs free. Since I already buy these it would save me some money.
  • Solid Reputation: Vanguard is known for having great customer service and being a valuable resource when it comes to investing. They offer investing advice in an understandable language.

For my husband, Betterment was a practical solution. Like Vanguard, Betterment makes index investing simple and easy to set up and manage.

  • Saves Money: Betterment is very reasonably priced. There are no transaction fees, no deposit/withdrawal fees, and no fees to rebalance your portfolio.
  • Saves Time: Keeping your portfolio on target with your asset allocation is easy with Betterment as it’s done automatically for you. You don’t have to stress out about where to invest. Once you’ve set your plan, Betterment automates the process.
  • Easy to Navigate: Going through the set up process was a snap. In addition to asking me for personal and funding information to open the account, Betterment also went ahead asked about financial goals we had.
  • Encourages Contributions: The easiest way to stay on target for your investment goals is to go ahead and automate your IRA contributions. With Betterment, it’s quick and easy to set-up so you don’t have to remind yourself to make your monthly contribution.

We’re really happy with both companies and recommend them for anyone who needs a a place to build their investments.

Get a Free Portfolio Check Up Today

If you want to keep tabs on your money, there are some wonderful and free options like Mint and Personal Capital. Mint allows you to pull all the data from your various accounts into one place. We’ve used them to quickly set-up and adjust our budget.

With Personal Capital you can get a financial snapshot of all of your accounts and you may qualify to get a free portfolio check-up to make sure your investments are aligned with your personal goals.

Thoughts on Banking as a Couple

Every couple is different, so I’m very curious to see how you handle your finances. How many accounts do you have between the two of you? How do you stay on top of what you have? Which banks, brokerages, and credit unions do you love to use?

Photo Credit: Renee Barron

Dealing with Rising Vet Bills

Our cats are a part of our family and we enjoy their company. My little girl loves to help out with taking care of them. Even though she is a toddler, we give her responsibilities like helping with feedings and keeping the water bowl full.  It’s an easy way for her to learn that pets require love and attention.

Lately our older cat has been having some problems and that meant  extra vet visits and with it bigger bills.

Taking Our Cat to the Vet

It appeared that our grumpy old cat is starting to run into some problems. He’s always been an anxious cat so several years ago after trying behavior modification and diet change, he was prescribed medicine to calm him down. It has helped immensely and he is more pleasant to be around.

But now he’s starting to have urinary tract, thyroid, and possible kidney complications that have involved time and money as we’ve had to get exams and tests done to diagnose and treat them.

Looking over the past year, expenses for our buddy is a whopping $943 for this year so far. That total includes vet visits (and tests), medicines, and typical expenses like cat food and litter.

Can We Afford the Increasing Veterinarian Bills?

It’s reaching the uncomfortable point of having to discuss whether or not we can keep this up.  While running tests is important, it can quickly add up. In addition to how expensive x-rays are, we also have to pay extra so our cat is sedated as he is highly anxious.

Fortunately our vet listened to our concerns and agreed that we have to look at the different options and start with treatments that are both likely to work and fit within our budget. Since it seemed that our cat has a stone we went with the modified diet treatment. If the stone is made of a particular material, it should be enough to help break it down.

We’ve been keeping him on the special diet these last few weeks and we’ve noticed a big improvement. We are taking him back to the vet soon for a follow-up and x-ray to make sure that it has been removed.

So it looks like our budget has been squeezed, but not broken. We’ll be keeping an eye on him to make sure that if anything changes we catch it sooner than later.

Thoughts on Taking Care of Furry Friends

While we have a budget for pets, this has taught us to add some buffer for the future.  We hope we won’t have to use it, but with our older cat it may be necessary. If you’re think about adopting a pet and want to get an idea of how much to budget, the ASPCA has a great source of various animals’ costs.

How many of you own a pet? Have you gone through something similar with your pets? How did you handle it?

Photo Credit: www.sunsetseo.com

Coin Jars and Our Toddler

As parents we hope that by the time our daughter leaves the house she has a healthy view of money. She’s a toddler now, so  we want to keep it fun and help her as she learns the fundamentals of math. Piggy banks are a big part part of that right now.

Counting Pennies in the Piggy Bank

My husband and I grew up with coin jars and piggy banks. I remember going on walks with my grandma and searching for coins on the ground. We either competed to see who could find the most combined our found change to grab some candy (back when it was cheap, lol).

For our baby daughter we have two little banks in her room – one was a gift from a dear friend and the other is my old piggy bank that my mom saved all these years. They are cute and our little girl enjoys ‘feeding’ her piggy some coins every now and again.

Having  piggy banks gives us a chance to have some fun with money and learn about numbers. She loves to count coins (not too concerned with explaining the differences between a nickel and a quarter – that’ll come later) as she put them in.

When the banks fill up we take the money out and deposit it into her savings account. Basically it’s where we keep her gift money from family and friends for future use. Hopefully as she gets older we can help her find ways to stash her cash and grow it faster. For now, though, it’s tucked away and slowly accumulating with each contribution.

Thoughts on Kids and Money

I’d love to hear from you guys about how you introduce money with your kids. How many of you have coin jars at home? When did you start? Growing up, what things do you remember your parents teaching you about money?

Have an eBay Account? Change your Password

Yesterday morning eBay announced that they had been hacked and customers information such as’ names,  addresses, birth dates, and passwords may have been compromised. Even though the passwords were encrypted, the company is advising all customers to change their passwords to be safe.

Protect Yourself and Your Passwords

There is no guarantee that you will never be hacked, but with a few simple precautions you can make it that much harder for criminals to harm you.

  • Never use personal information in your password. Though you may remember your password easier, do not include your child’s name, a family’s birth date, or your  other personal information.
  • Have different passwords with accounts. With some many online services, it can be so tempting to use the same password. That can put your personal information in danger as
  • Don’t use a default password. Even with stories of massive cyber attacks, some people still use easy passwords like ‘password’ and ‘1234’ for their accounts. While having something you can remeber is important, you need to be more proactive with creating passwords.
  • Use two step verification. In addition to logging in with your username and password, two step verification requires that you also give a code that is sent to your phone. Slightly more work, but it can significantly secure your accounts.

So if you have some time today, go ahead and make those changes.

Make Stronger Passwords

How can you create a stronger password without making it obscure and completely impossible to remember? One way to make your password memorable and harder to break is using pass phrases or sentences.

Let’s say you use the phrase ‘eat more foods’. When you swap in numerals and symbols it becomes ’3a+m0r3f00d$’. It looks more complicated, but it’s just as easy to remember as the original phrase.

Beware of Phishing Attacks

Now that personal information is out, you need to be on guard for password phishing. Scammer may contact you through email and ask you to change your password. The link included will most likely take you to a site site that looks just like eBay, but it will be their site.

To make sure you are changing your password on the real site, go to eBay yourself and enter your new password.

Thoughts on Protecting Your Passwords

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep your passwords safe?

Photo Credit: eguidry

Saving Money on Your Prescriptions

Whenever I get a money question from you guys, I try my best to give some practical solution. Recently I got a money question, but it wasn’t from a reader, it was from a family member who was having a hard time with some medical expenses.

What she is paying out of pocket for her prescriptions right now is killing her already tight budget. I went ahead and tried to find some solutions for her and since I know that far too many people are in a similar boat, I wanted to share what I got here on Couple Money.

Talk with Your Physician

I think the first step you should take is talking with your doctor(s) over your financial situation. I know that it may uncomfortable or embarrassing, but part of your doctor’s responsibility is helping your get the care you need. If you can afford your medicine, you’re more likely to not stay on your regimen which can be more serious complications down the line.

Your doctor may be able to offer solutions that you would have a hard time finding on your own. If you don’t want to make an appointment, go ahead and ask for the doctor to have a phone consultation with you.

Go Generic (if Possible)

Some pharmacies, like Wal-Mart’s $4 prescriptions,  have programs that offer low cost generic medications that can significantly lower your costs. Talk it over with your physician and see if generics are the way to go. There are times you can make the switch and not see a difference, other times, your physician will recommend sticking with your brand name medication (that doesn’t mean you can’t still save, see below).

Shop Around for the Best Price

Speaking of pharmacies, prices can vary place to place so shopping around can be rewarding. GoodRx has an app that can do the search quickly and easily for you. It can also find coupons for you which is a nice bonus. Kiplingers included GoodRx as one of their top money savings apps. It’s free and it is available for both Android and Apple phones.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance(PPA)

PPA helps qualifying individuals get the medicines they need by searching for patient assistance programs. You can call them or go to their site and  give them a list of the medications you need help with. They do not charge for this service.

Thoughts on Prescription Medicine Discounts

I really hope this helps you or a love one save money on your medication. Please feel free to share this post with anyone who could use it. For those who have gone through this situation, what helped you?

Photo Credit: StockMoney.com