Archive for December 2015

E*TRADE Review: Get Up To $600 Cash Back Now!

Etrade

EtradeE*TRADE?is a well-known player in the online broker space and has been for decades. If you want a new online brokerage, or are just getting ready to start investing this?E*TRADE?review will help you see if E*TRADE is a good option for you.

As a disclaimer, I do want to be transparent in that I do not have an E*TRADE account. I dealt with them extensively during my days in the online brokerage industry and have used the E*TRADE platform quite a bit.

I do also want to add that there are many online brokerages?to consider, each with something unique that sets them apart. Before you sign on with an online broker make sure they’ll meet your investing needs. If you’d like to check out some of my other online brokerage reviews, I’ve listed them below:

With all that out of the way, let?s get on with the E*TRADE Review.

How E*TRADE Is Different

As I mentioned in the beginning, E*TRADE is one of the older online brokerages in the industry. E*TRADE opened for business a little over 30 years ago and thanks to that they can offer more than the standard brokerage. With that in mind, following are some of the things that make E*TRADE a little different from what you?ll find at other brokerages:

  • The commissions at E*TRADE come in at $6.95, with an additional $.75 if you trade options. This makes them competitive with other brokers, albeit on the higher end.
  • E*TRADE has a national branch network of a little over 30 branches. This is not as much as what you?ll find with Scottrade, but I love that they offer somewhat of a branch presence. If you?re near a local branch you can take in deposits, get help with your account or get guidance in certain circumstances.
  • E*TRADE offers more than 8,000 mutual funds with about 1,500 being no-transaction fee funds. In the event you have to pay a commission, they charge $19.99 to buy or sell the mutual fund. Many other brokerages charge $50 or more so this is a win for E*TRADE. If you invest in mutual funds or ETFs, then make sure you know what kind of fees you?re paying. I use the free tool at Personal Capital to help analyze the fees I?m paying.
  • E*TRADE?offers both Futures and Forex trading. This is becoming somewhat more common to find at online brokers, but still not commonplace. Futures pricing is $1.50, which is competitive and there is no charge for Forex trades as they?re compensated on the bid-ask spread.
  • E*TRADE offers over 100 commission free ETFs. There are a few brokerages that offer this feature, though not all. Very few offer as many as Etrade does.
  • E*TRADE offers access to certain foreign markets. This is something that really sets E*TRADE?apart as not many other online brokers offer this. You can trade in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK. Pricing varies by country, but is competitive from what I?ve seen.

What?s Needed To Open An E*TRADE Account?

One thing I like about E*TRADE is you need very little to open an account. You can open an account with E*TRADE for as little as $500. If you need a retirement account, E*TRADE has no minimum balance. This makes them a great option to consider if you?re looking to start investing on a limited budget. E*TRADE has a?full array of account options from the standard brokerage account, to retirement accounts, to corporate accounts and more.

Fees

I hate investment fees as they only eat away at portfolios. From that aspect, E*TRADE is a good option as they do not charge any account maintenance or inactivity fees. The thing I don?t like about E*TRADE though is their tiered commission system, which is based on the number of trades you do each quarter. Many other brokerages operate in this same way, so it?s not all that uncommon.

The other drawback, albeit not fee related, is E*TRADE has a platform available only to those they deem as active traders ? placing at least 30 trades per quarter which is known as E*TRADE Pro. Again, this is not too uncommon, but is something I?d rather not see. You can always try to negotiate commission, which I?ve seen done successfully many times. If you?re looking for a lower cost alternative which doesn?t have separate platform options then someone like Optionshouse or?would be solid options to consider.

Investment Options

One of the main benefits of E*TRADE’s maturity is they offer a variety of investment options, some of which you won?t find elsewhere. Those products are:

  • Bonds
  • CDs
  • Bank accounts
  • Treasuries
  • Futures/Forex
  • Access to International trading

This access to multiple products is what helps E*TRADE stand out from many of the other brokerages out there. With many other online brokers you may not be able to manage your entire investment portfolio due to the limitations they have. That is not something you have to deal with at E*TRADE. Again, this largely goes back to their standing in the industry as well as age. If you want?the capability to manage all your investing needs as a do it yourself investor then E*TRADE is a good option to consider.

E*TRADE Review ? My Take

I believe for many E*TRADE is be a solid alternative. Their platform is relatively straightforward to use and offers the requisite free training, resources and tools to help you build a portfolio. I love that they have a branch network and have access to a wide variety of investment options to meet your needs. They?re also open 24/7 which is surprisingly not that common to find in the industry, but means you can reach them at any time. E*TRADE has also been rated as 5 stars by Kiplinger?s for things like customer service, user experience and investment options and has been named one of their top brokers.

I?m honestly not keen on the different platforms and tiered commission. However, if you?re not an active trader or want advanced platforms then that?s really a moot issue. For the casual trader, or buy and hold investor, E*TRADE is a good option to consider for your investing needs.

If you do look at opening an account with E*TRADE they offer a variety of promotions from free trading for the first 60 days to up to $600 cash back when opening a new account.

 

Open an account with E*TRADE today and get up to $600 cash back!

 

 

Where do you handle your investments? Have you ever tried negotiating a lower commission price?

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

 

 

 

5 Ways to Kill Your Debt Next Year

debt

5634567317_b4d5b61ff8_zThere is nothing fun about being in debt. It is something that is constantly on your mind, and it is a problem that only seems to get worse and worse as time goes by. It is difficult to make enough money to meet your current expenses while also chipping away at your past debts.

However, if you want to pay off your debt?and move on to a debt free future, you will need to come up with a smart and effective game plan.

Following are five tips for crafting a plan to kill off debt in 2016.

Pay Over the Minimum

If you can?t afford to make huge payments on your debt each month, you should strive to at least pay a little bit over the minimum amount due. If you only pay the minimum, your debt isn?t going anywhere anytime soon ? so even paying $20 over the minimum each month is a helpful start.

As you are putting together your budget, don?t plan on making minimum payments. Instead, commit to going at least marginally over that minimum to make head way on your balances.

Make Money on the Side

If you work five days a week at your day?job, you may be able to pick up some additional work?on the weekends with the intention of sending that money straight toward your debt. This work could either take place in the physical world (such as working at a retail store on Saturday and Sunday), or you could find some online work that you are capable of doing on the side. There are many opportunities?so be sure to explore this possibility too.

Look at Consolidating Your Debt

Consolidating debt isn?t the right choice for everyone, but it can be a great solution for some people who need to lower their interest rates. If you are paying on a number of high interest credit accounts, you might want to look at consolidating those debts into a single, lower rate account.

However, when looking at this option, make sure you don?t have to pay too many fees in the process or you might negate any advantage that you gained through the lower rate. There are many options to consider, such as Avant, that allow you to save money on interest and become debt free quicker.

Build a Tighter Budget

In addition to finding ways to make extra money?you can also find ways to save some money at the same time. While parts of your budget aren?t going to change no matter what you do, it is probably possible to trim your expenses in certain areas such as entertainment or travel. It might not be fun to make these short term sacrifices, it will be well worth it when you see your debts disappear.

Refinance Your Home

This is another option that won?t be right for every individual, but it could be a great solution to your problems. If you own your home and have some equity in the property, you could look at refinancing as a way to raise money that can be used to pay off high interest debts. The interest rate you get on a new home loan will almost certainly be lower than your existing debts, so this is a plan that can work out under the right set of circumstances.

 

Are you in debt? What is your plan to pay off debt this next year? Are you going to try any of these strategies?

 

Photo courtesy of: Dan Moyle

4 Ways to Be Financially Proactive Instead of Reactive

Financially

firefighters-870888_640Generally speaking, being proactive instead of reactive is what sets extremely successful people apart from those who tend to be less successful in life. The same can be said for having proactive or reactive financial habits.

I?ve been guilty of being reactive instead of proactive at different times in my life, but I?ve recently realized that being reactive has hurt my chances of success in the past and now it?s time to take a proactive approach to my finances.

Here are four ways you too can be financially proactive instead of reactive.

Face Your Debt

Lots of people who are in debt don?t even realize the extent of their financial situation. Instead of being proactive and facing their debt, they simply ignore their statement balances, make the minimum payment and move on to the next task on their to-do list. But to be proactive instead of reactive means taking the time to face your debt. Open your bills, take note of your debt balances and make a plan to get your debt paid off.

It can be scary to finally be proactive and face your debt (trust me!), but it?s a necessary step if you want to become debt free.

Buy Insurance and Build an Emergency Fund

Reactive people don?t usually have insurance or an emergency fund to help them in times of an emergency or disaster. Instead they see their credit cards as their emergency fund and that?s how they deal with any extra expenses that they might face in an emergency – as opposed to having a savings account?to fall back on.

Proactive people think ahead and prepare for whatever life might throw at them. This means having insurance for your home, your car, your family and more. Additionally, proactive people understand the important of having an emergency fund. Saving up an emergency fund is not the most fun use of your income, but it?s extremely important if you want to be financially secure.

Don?t Neglect Maintenance

Much like having an emergency fund, paying for maintenance of your belongings is not a fun way to use your income, but it?s important to regularly maintain the things you own so you don?t end up with bigger expenses down the road.

Getting the oil changed on your car, cleaning out the gutters on your house and keeping things reasonably clean and in good general repair are all maintenance tasks that need to be performed to avoid future financial ramifications. Unfortunately when money gets tight, maintenance tasks are usually one of the first things people cut from their budgets. Instead of cutting maintenance altogether, you could try to do more of it yourself to save money, or you could barter services if it?s something you really don?t have the tools or know-how to complete the task.

Build Multiple Streams of Income

With the instability of the job market and the economy in the past few years, it?s become more and more popular for people to build multiple streams of income by having side hustles in addition to their main job.

Those who are proactive and build multiple income streams are going to be a lot more financially secure in the event that they lose their job than those who are reactive and only become concerned about find other sources of income after they?ve already lost their job.

There are lots of ways that being proactive can save you money and help you be more financially secure vs. being reactive to situations and things in life.

 

Are you proactive or reactive? How has this impacted?your finances? What’s one thing you’re going to attack next year?

 

Photo courtesy of: skeeze

4 Ways to Stop Out of Control Spending

Spending

shopping-879498_1280There are two sides to any budget ? the revenues and the expenses. When you are talking about your own personal household budget, the revenues are what you bring in on a monthly or yearly basis. Expenses, obviously, are things like rent or mortgage payments, food, gas, insurance?and on and on.

Only when you can balance out your revenues and your expenses will you have a budget in place that you can sustain over the long run. Ideally, your revenues (income) will surpass your expenses so you can accumulate wealth over time.

Unfortunately, some people struggle with overspending ? which can completely ruin an otherwise balanced budget. If you spend too much on things you don?t need, it really won?t matter how much money you are bringing in each month, as your budget will consistently wind up in the red. Controlling spending is just as important as bringing in a nice salary when it comes to successfully managing your finances.

Below are four tips you can use to help put an end to out of control spending habits.

Put a Hard Cap on Random Purchases

As you are putting together a budget, decide on a number that you can spend each month on discretionary items that don?t fall into a ?need? category like food and shelter. You will have to decide on this number for yourself based on your income level, other expenses, etc. Once you have a limit in place, restrict yourself to staying under that limit each month.

Unsubscribe

If you are on a number of e-commerce mailing lists that bombard you with sales and special offers each day, think about unsubscribing to most or all of them. Being tempted by sales right in your inbox is a great way to blow past your budget, but you can?t be tempted if you never get the email in the first place.

Those same sales should be easy to find when you actually do need to buy something, so unsubscribe right away to keep your mind away from the idea of additional purchases.

Stop Window Shopping

Spending a day out walking through the mall might seem like a harmless activity, but that is just another temptation that you could do without. You won?t walk through a bakery when you are on a diet, so you shouldn?t walk through a shopping mall when you are trying to control your spending.

There are plenty of other great activities that you could enjoy without tempting yourself with the allure of buying new things that you don?t need.

Ask Someone to Keep You Accountable

When breaking any kind of addiction, it is helpful to have someone in place that is in charge of keeping you accountable. This could be your spouse, a close friend or even a parent. It needs to be someone that you trust, and someone that you listen to when they have something to say. Instruct them to step in if they notice you are spending too much, and you will suddenly be more accountable for your actions.

 

Is your spending out of control? What have you done to control your spending? Have you tried any of these suggestions?

 

Photo courtesy of: stevepb

Is Your New Year?s Resolution to Spend Less? How to Finally Stick to it

piggy-bank-967182_640Are you looking to spend your money more wisely in 2016?? There?s no shortage of money advice out there, and generally speaking, we know the basics ? invest wisely, save often, and try to keep your expenses at a minimum. New Year?s resolutions tend to fall by the wayside halfway into February, but setting a goal to get your finances in check is still very popular. In fact, research has shown that for people who do make a financial resolution, 51% felt better about their money one year later. Not only that, but 42% find it easier to make a resolution to pay off debt or save for retirement as opposed to lose weight or quit smoking.

So, the case for a financial new year?s resolution is there and with that in mind, let?s take a look at a few ways you can save yourself some dollars.

Probably the most important thing that?s often overlooked?make a budget and stick (more or less) to it. Too often we bury our head in the sand and don?t want to face up to our monthly outgoings ? which is understandable. However, arming yourself with the knowledge of how much you have left over after all bills have been paid means you?re much less likely to spend recklessly.

The cheaper option isn?t always the best one

This sounds counterproductive if you want to save money, but it?s actually not. The cheapest option isn?t always the best option ? how many times have you bought a cheap pair of shoes, only for them to need replaced 6 months down the line? The same principle applies to big purchases like electrical goods and cars. It?s fine to spend a bit more money now and then, as long as you?ve considered the long-term impact and have budgeted around that.

Reduce the amount of bills you?re paying

We often think that monthly bills are a fixed cost without any room for negotiation, but you might be surprised. The key is negotiation! If you?re at the end of your cable contract and have found a better deal elsewhere, but don?t want to go through the hassle of switching, call your current provider and tell them. They?re in a position to offer you a discounted rate and they don?t want to lose your custom, so they?ll do everything they can to keep you on board. For some costs such as healthcare and other insurance policies, again, you can reduce these. For example, you can add an excess or switch from paying monthly to paying yearly ? which can save you an extra 5%.

Make use of coupons

Alright, clipping coupons can be time consuming and we?ve all seen Extreme Couponing?things can get intense! That said, using coupons is a no-brainer. You don?t need to buy up entire aisles of chips, but definitely use them for substantial discounts on food and products you actually need.

Saving money doesn?t need to be difficult, and you don?t need to completely overhaul your lifestyle either. Making a few sensible and considered choices can go a long way ? here?s to healthier finances in 2016!

Photo courtesy of: mdgrafik0