Leverage (Free!) Financial Tools to Pad Your Pocketbook

September 18, 2016
DMD Staff

The internet offers a wide array of good, and not-so-good, tools to manage your finances. Here are a few good ones.

Technological advancements have probably had a profound impact both your daily life and on how you practice dentistry, from face-timing and infinite apps, to advanced electronic medical records, advances in imaging, and virtual educational conferences. Beyond your personal life and your practice, though, electronic tools can also contribute to your overall financial health.

Let’s take a look at some ways you can use technology to budget, save, and invest for your future.

Your Financial Check-up

The best investors keep a good handle on where their money is, at what rate it earns, and how much they’re paying in commissions and fees. But even the savvy struggle at times to keep up with exactly how their investments are performing. Have you ever tried to actually calculate your investment returns? Do you double-check that what you’re paying in management fees is the right amount? Do you carefully look through all those investment statements, including the footnotes in six-point font?

There are several online tools that can help—and many of them are available for free. These tools can link to any investment account, including retirement accounts, and track performance, asset allocation, and fees. Tools from Morningstar, Google Finance, and investment providers such as Fidelity, TIAA, and Vanguard make it much easier to not just view your performance, but to assess and potentially change how your assets are allocated.

Are you working within a budget? (If not…why not?) Online tools and budget planners, including Mint and many others like it, can be tailored to your individual needs can break down your spending patterns and help you set savings targets.

Navigating the Blogosphere

There is so much financial information available. Unfortunately, much of it is in the form of “clickbait” articles that contain misleading headlines or misinformation. To get your daily fix of financial news or advice, find a few sources or bloggers you trust, and then stick with them as long as their advice remains sound. You’ll develop your own favorites, but some of mine are

CNNmoney.com

,

kitces.com

,

Your Two Cents from Lifehacker

, and

Bloomberg News

.

Make New “Friends”

This idea is a little outside the box, but it can lead to real savings. The impact of social media sites on personal relationships is endlessly debatable and can be spun any which way you like. But for the purposes of this article, this means liking (fan clubs), friending (Facebook), or following (Twitter) businesses, fan clubs, and products that you frequently enjoy. If, for example, the local cigar shop or national retailer you always frequent has an online club, you may have unique access to special deals or products that the general public doesn’t. Customer loyalty plays both ways, so many companies give their most fervent supporters access to great deals. One quick caveat: try to limit the number of mailing lists and organizations you support, or your e-mail box could soon become so overwhelming that you’ll miss the special offers that are most important to you.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll explore more ways to use online tools to save—and particularly, to invest—in future articles. As always, though, be on the lookout for scams. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful responding to offers sent directly to you, as many savvy scammers will use some pretty intricate tricks to get you to share personal information or buy a product that never arrives. Always deal with sites you know and trust, and if you’re ever unsure, do the old-fashioned thing and use that old rotary phone you keep around for sentimental reasons before clicking.