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How Do You Manage Your Investments?

How to manage investmentsAs most of you know, I am what you call an amateur investor.  I have only been investing for a few short years, which puts me behind the investing curve.  I opened up my 401(k) when I started working at my current job.  Though I had the 401(k), I didn’t really put much money into it each month.  I did this because I was in heavy with my debt.  I focused my attention on paying down the money that I owed.  Unfortunately, I realize that I didn’t do what I really should have done.

My Original Thinking

My original philosophy was to pay down my debt and then focus on investing.  It wasn’t until the last year and a half of my debt repayment that I learned that I should have been doing both.  During that time, I developed my debt and saving percentage rule.  It worked well for me and I think it has some solid practical uses.  There is no way to make up for lost time while investing.  You can’t make up for lost compound interest.

As I have written in the past, I invest into a Roth IRA outside of my 401(k).  I set this up right after I paid off my last credit card.  I figured it would be a good way to jump onto the investing train.  I started my Roth with Betterment and have kept it there ever since.  I like the ease of use that it provides and it is just simple.  If you are looking to start investing, then check out Betterment.  They have a very low start funding amount compared to the bigger companies.

My Next Step

I have been lucky to be with a company that has gone public on the stock exchange.  I am also lucky that I have options for stock.  My company I work for has decided to work with Merrill Lynch to provide all of the employees with a brokerage account.  So, on top of my 401(k) account and my Roth IRA, I am now going to have another investing account.  It is just going to be another thing to manage, but it will give me more options to start investing into some dividend paying stocks.  That is something that I have wanted to do for some time.

How Do You Manage?

I figured a good way to figure out how to bring all of my investments together in an easy manageable way, I would ask my readers.  What do you do to manage your investments?  Do you invest at all?

I have met a few people that don’t even have a 401(k) account or haven’t contributed to the one setup by their employer.  If you have an 401(k) account or self managed super fund, then I would suggest that you start contributing.  Don’t get behind like me.  It is very hard to play catch up when dealing with lost compound interest and returns.  If your employer offers you the chance to contribute to a 401(k), then take it.  This is especially true if your employer matches some of your contributions.  That is just free money for saving.

Do you have an investment account?  If so, who do you use to manage your investments or trades?  I have heard things about Vanguard, Fidelity, Scottrade, E*trade, TradeKing, Motif, TD Ameritrade, Betterment, and OptionsXpress.

Have any of you used any of these investment services?  Can you provide me with some background on how you feel they are?  I love reliable reviews and I trust my readers, so let me know.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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Leave a Comment:

34 comments
Matt Becker says October 25

I have no 401(k). My wife and I have IRAs and a taxable investment account with Vanguard. I haven’t found the need to expand beyond them at this point. I keep track of our asset allocation for rebalancing purposes in a spreadsheet. Some kind of tracking like that becomes even more important when you have funds across different institutions, so that you can manage all of your money as one.

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Clarrise @ Make Money Your Way says October 25

Thanks for this great post, honestly I’m one of the people that doesn’t have a 401(k) account. I just finished paying all my debts and right now I’m in the saving process.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    If you have access to a 401k, then you should think about adding money to it.

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DC @ Young Adult Money says October 25

I don’t do much with my 401k, but I do contribute to it. I did check the allocation % between funds yesterday, though. Didn’t change anything (hardly ever do), though. I think it’s more important for 20 and 30-somethings to just get started versus focusing too much on what funds you are invested in.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    I used to just leave mine, but then stated taking a little bigger approach to it and it has increased my returns.

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Laurie says October 25

We do have an investment account through Rick’s employer, and he was a firefighter for 23 years (retired when we moved to the farm), but honestly, we don’t do a whole lot of managing of them. The fire dept. account is managed for us, due to city rules, and the 401k/pension always does well, so we leave it be.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    That is good that it is managed for you as long as they are managing it correctly. Is there a fee to manage it?

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Liz says October 25

I have a 401k through my employer and use a vanguard account. I am pretty hands off for the most part. I do use Quicken software and have an account for 401k. I track the amount of money I contribute (via automatic deduction from paycheck) and then each month I go in and see what my unrealized gain/loss is. I think this is the easiest way to track the value.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    As long as you know what is going on with your investments, then you should be good.

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John S @ Frugal Rules says October 25

We use a few of the brokerages to manage our investments and will be opening a few more sometime this year to fund two SEPs for us. I know it can be difficult to manage multiple accounts, but I like to have access to several in the case I want to place a trade and not run into the risk of one of them being down. They all also offer different things so it’s nice to have the selection.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    Great points John. Each one has different offerings and offer different prices, so you could do well to have a few.

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Kurt @ Money Counselor says October 25

We were with E*Trade for many years, but it recently booted us out because, even though we’re American citizens, we live in Canada. Other than that, I liked E*Trade, though the company did just about go under during the meltdown, and I’m not so sure is on firm financial ground today. The same may be true of many of its competitors, I don’t know.

I’ve been learning about Motif–don’t know a lot about it yet, but I’m intrigued.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    I noticed your post about that, but I guess I can understand the point on E*Trade’s side.

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Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle says October 25

Vanguard is fairly new to Canada and they are getting all my extra cash. I have selected a high dividend ETF and I am thrilled.

I am in my late 40s so eliminatiing debt is my focus. If I was in my 30s I would divide my money between debt and investing but I am running out of time to become debt free so that will be where most of my money goes for the next 6 to 10 months.

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    Grayson Bell says November 19

    Vanguard is a great company that offers some really low cost funds. I recommend them.

    Reply
Betsy @ ConsumerFu.com says October 26

I don’t have a 401k, but I doubt most stay-at-home moms do. I do have an IRA and my husband and I have investments and he maxes out his 401k. Once the girls are out of college everything will be 100% retirement savings. We have been out of debt (except for mortgage) for about 15 years.

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    Grayson Bell says October 28

    I guess most moms wouldn’t have a 401k, but at least you have an IRA. You probably have more control over where you invest in your IRA than you might in your 401k. Nice work on saving so much.

    Reply
chad@stockmarketandi says October 27

I don’t have a 401k, but have a few brokerage accounts and an IRA. I have always been an investing first type person; but my debt has always pretty much been in check to. I would look a various characteristics of brokerage firms. Most typically have one specialty that sort of sets them apart from the rest. It just depends on what type of investing you want to do.

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    Grayson Bell says October 28

    This is a great comment. If you are investing in any type of account, then an 401k is not needed. If you can get one with a match, then I would say take advantage, but if not, then who cares.

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Brent says October 28

When I changed jobs I rolled my 401k into a self-directed IRA which gave me so many more options to invest beyond the company stock and a handful of index funds. Since then I have always made sure to keep my retirement accounts in self-directed accounts for the improved my investment options.

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    Grayson Bell says October 28

    That makes sense Ben. Some 401k’s are good that provide some options. The one I have gives me some options, but not as much as my IRA does.

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Deacon Hayes says October 28

I use Schwab to manage my investments and I have had a great experience with them. They have so great no-load funds available with low expense ratios that have had some great returns. So far we have been really pleased with their investment platform.

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    Grayson Bell says October 28

    I have heard great things about Schwab. Thanks for letting me know Deacon.

    Reply
Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says October 28

It’s a process at my job to get anything as we don’t have an HR person, just a union rep who also is a full-time teacher and head of department so she’s busy a lot. Getting signed up for our investment account (a 403b) but by December I will be pushing hard so I can get one for the new year.

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Charles@Gettingarichlife.com says October 29

I manage all our money, we invest in 401K, Roth IRA and taxable accounts. I consolidated my taxable to fidelity and Vanguard.

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Kim@Eyesonthedollar says October 29

I’ve tried a few different companies, and I like Vanguard the best. I have tax deferred and non-tax deferred investments there, and the interface is easy. They have been able to help if I have a question I can’t find an answer to on the website. I’ve also used Betterment, Sharebuilder, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity, usually if they offer a bonus for investing that isn’t too hard to achieve. I still have the Betterment account and use it because they don’t charge per trade, so I can put smaller amounts in without paying $4-$7. The others I usually close after I get the bonus.

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    Grayson Bell says November 8

    Vanguard is a good one. I plan on opening one up soon. I still have my Betterment account because it is super easy!

    Reply
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says October 30

I have accounts with Schwab and Betterment. Both are great choices. I like Schwab because they have their own mutual funds and ETFs that don’t charge fees for buying or selling. Plus, the expense ratios of them are super low. If you aren’t into their funds and ETFs they offer a boatload of other funds as well as ETFs

I also love Betterment because it is ‘set-it-and-forget-it’. You tell them your goal and invest. They put your money in a diversified basket of low cost ETFs. I would definitely check them out if you are looking for simplicity.

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Jack @ Enwealthen says November 6

Vanguard is the king of low expense ratio investing. If you’re looking to invest in an index fund, Vanguard’s your company.

I’ve heard good things about Betterment and Sharebuilder, but haven’t used them myself. I go direct to the company via ComputerShare when doing my DRIP investing.

For management, I’m old school, and use Quicken. It’s great to have all your financial information in one place, under your own control. But many people use Mint, or other online solutions.

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    Grayson Bell says November 8

    I agree about your comment Jack. Vanguard is well-known for their low expense ratios. Betterment is good and Sharebuilder is also good. It just depends on what you want to do.

    Reply
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