The other day I did a quick Internet search on the most common fears. What I found odd—riveting, really—is that "fear of going broke" didn't make any of the lists I consulted. I couldn't find any reference to a lack of money being in anyone else's top fears list save my own. In fact, sometimes I suspect I worry so much about my bank balance precisely so I can avoid ever having to tackle my worries about my investment balances. At least I can look at my bank statements and understand whether I have any money in my checking account. Conversely, attempting to decipher the encrypted data encoded into my investment firm's so-called summary statements clearly requires a higher security clearance than I possess.
All this has led my mind to thoughts of financial planning—specifically, to hiring a financial advisor to help me do some actual planning. Financial planners are expensive, though, and I’m more of a “do-it-yourself” kind of person, anyway. Although I’m deathly afraid of the thing I’m attempting to plan, the tools below have helped ease some of my fear. I hope they help you too!
1. Personal Capital
Personal Capital is the brainchild of former PayPal CEO Bill Harris, who states that the development and launch of the site is the "culmination of his career." Personal Capital certainly hits every aspect of financial planning: from portfolio performance to asset allocation, mutual fund and 401k fund management, to fee calculators and investment analysis. It also provides real-time and mobile update options so you can review your portfolio on the go. Best of all, you can get all of these tools for FREE.
Alexa Von Tobel founded LearnVest right out of Harvard College. The tool has earned her kudos from Forbes, Fortune and others. LearnVest isn't free—each of the three plans starts at $19 per month with a somewhat hefty initial set-up fee. However, the fee nets you a free consultation with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), ongoing CFP assistance by email and phone, as well as access to the LearnVest's 7-step process for managing your money.
3. JemStep Portfolio Manager
JemStep is recommended by MarketWatch among others, and offers a free, basic plan that includes total analysis of your current financial picture—plus future investment recommendations. If your total investments are $25,000 or less, you can enroll in JemStep's premium services for free. After that, premium plans start at just $17.99 per month—far less expensive than a financial advisor's hourly fee, which can be anywhere from $250 to over $1,000 according to Forbes!
Flexscore is relatively new, but already sources like U.S. News & World Report are raising questions like, "Will Flexscore replace credit scores?" This tool is a little different than traditional financial planning resources, in that it asks you to take a look at your current financial habits, compares them to that of your peers and then issues a future prognosis you can use to adjust your habits. The tool is completely free and offers a comprehensive analysis of your financial picture now and as it changes, along with practical advice for improving financial outcomes.