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Kevin Mercadante

Trading in your car at the dealer is guaranteed to lose you money. Yet many opt for this route because it’s easy. The better approach, however, is to sell your car yourself. You’ll get more money, and it’s easier than many think. Here’s how to sell your car fast and for top dollar.

Sell Your Car

In this guide, we’ll walk through the benefits of selling your car on your own. Then we’ll give you some practical tips on how to do it.

Why You Should Always Try to Sell Your Car Yourself First

Trading your car into a dealer when you purchase a new vehicle is quick and easy. That’s why so many people opt for this approaching to disposing of their car. Unfortunately, the dealer won’t give you the best price.

It also complicates the negotiations. With a trade-in, your must negotiate both the price of your new car and the value of your old car. Car dealers are experts at this process. You and I are not. By removing the trade-in negotiations, you greatly simplify the process.

By selling your car yourself, you can maximize the cash that you will receive. As an example, we valued a 2016 Volvo XC90. Using Kelley Blue Book, we compared the money we’d receive from a private party sale versus a deal trade in. The difference was almost $3,000.

Get the Estimated Value of Your Car

Since most of us aren’t car experts, you should get this information from a trusted third-party source. You can get an estimate from a dealer, but they may give you a lowball number under the assumption that you be trading the car in. What you actually want is what you can likely sell your car for.

Fortunately, there are online sources where you can get this information. Two of the best sources are Kelly Blue Book (which we used above) and Edmunds.com. You should also check used car buying sites such as AutoTrader and Craigslist.

In order to get the most accurate value of your vehicle on those sites, you need to be accurate in describing the details of the car. This will be particularly important in regard to the car’s overall condition since it can result in wide variations in value.

They will typically give you three values:

  • Trade-in
  • Dealer retail
  • Private party

Dealer retail will be the highest. It is unlikely, however, you will be able to get that price. You aren’t a dealer and don’t have a dealer’s marketing power. Trade-in will be the lowest, but it’s not what you’re going for. A private party sale will be the most relevant number, as it is the price that you will most likely get for your car on direct sale.

Once you have this number, you should price your vehicle accordingly. Too high and you may not even get anyone to look at the car. But price it too low, and you’ll be losing money.

Get the Loan Information if You Still Owe Money on Your Car

There are two important pieces of information that you will need if you have a loan on your car:

  1. The payoff balance on your loan, and
  2. How to get the title to your car in the shortest timeframe possible.

The payoff balance will let you know how much cash you can expect to clear on the sale. Alternatively, it may show that you are under water and might have to write a check in order to close out the loan after the sale. You need to know this information to decide if selling your car is even the right option.

The title information is just as important. If you have a loan on your car, then the title to the vehicle is in the possession of the lender. The sale of the vehicle has to happen first so that you will have the cash to pay off the loan. But in order to complete the sale of the car, you’ll have to be able to deliver the title to the new owner.There will be a delay in this

There will be a delay in this process after the sale is completed. But you want to get information from the lender so as to keep that timeframe as short as possible.

Find out what the payoff process is, and what the best way to retrieve the title will be. That will likely require getting specific names and addresses, to make sure that all correspondence goes to the right party. You’ll also have to check and see what type documentation the lender will require for the payoff, in addition to the payment itself.

Where to Advertise Your Vehicle for Sale

There are plenty of ways to sell your car online. This can include Craigslist and AutoTrader.com, but you could also try eBay and even Facebook. Also, do email blasts to everyone on your email list who lives in your local area. Even if a direct recipient has no interest, they may forward the email on to someone they know whose looking for a car.

But you don’t have to rely just on online sources. Some of the more traditional advertising methods can work as well. Create a flyer that includes important information about the car, as well as two or three color photos of the vehicle. Post them on the bulletin board at work, at your house of worship, and in any public places that will allow it.

Accepting Payment Proceeds from the Buyer of Your Car

Payment is a specific issue when selling your car yourself, so you will have to take several precautions.

Never accept a personal check. In a worst-case scenario, the buyer can make off with your car, and you’re stuck with a bad check – and the bank fees that you will be charged for it. In that situation, legal action will be your only resort. And that may not work if the personal check you accepted turns out to be fraudulent. It happens in the real world, and not infrequently.

At a minimum, insist that the buyer pay by either certified check or a bank check. Keep in mind that cashier’s checks can be forged. As Teresa Dixon from the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently noted,

It used to be that getting a cashier’s check was a sure-fire way to avoid fraud. Not anymore. The fraudulent cashier’s checks out there fool the banks sometimes. I’ve dealt with cases in the last few years where even PNC and Huntington tellers accepted cashier’s checks that later ended up no good. Sometimes even the police can’t tell.

Better yet, hold the closing of the sale at the buyer’s bank – the same one that the check is drawn on. That should enable you to verify that the funds are available in the buyer’s account.

If the buyer is using a loan to purchase your vehicle, hold the closing at the lending bank. That will enable you to get a bank employee involved in the process. If the new lender is not a local bank, hold the closing at your bank, and ask your bank to verify the authenticity of the check from the buyer’s lender.

None of this guarantees that you won’t get stiffed on the payment, but it does lower the chances considerably.

Selling Your Car Yourself – Keeping it Legal

There will be several steps on the legal side of the sale.

Bill of sale.You will need to prepare a bill of sale in order to complete the sales transaction. Google “automotive bill of sale” for your state in order to get an acceptable form, then complete it with all of the relevant information. The bill of sale will be important if there is an existing loan on your car, and you will not be able to produce the car title immediately.

Temporary operating permit. The buyer can use the bill of sale to obtain this permit from the state department of motor vehicles (DMV). This will allow the buyer to operate the vehicle until the title can be delivered. Receipt of the title can take anywhere from a few days to two or three weeks, so this is an important step for the buyer.

Release of liability. This is a document that is available on your state DMV website. It will confirm the sale of the vehicle. Don’t skip this step! Completing and filing this form with the DMV will release you of liability on the vehicle. File it immediately after the sale to avoid potential problems. The form will likely require the odometer reading at the time of sale. Contact your state DMV to get specific information about this form.

Pay required transfer fees. You can find out what these are from the DMV. This can include sales tax if your state charges it on auto sales. You will want to pay them immediately after the sale since that is when you will have the cash to do so. But in addition, the payment of fees will represent additional confirmation of the transfer of the vehicle, and therefore the release of your liability.

Don’t forget to remove the license plates! The license plates run with the owner, not with the car itself. As well, you could probably transfer the plates to your next vehicle. The buyer will have to work out the license plate situation immediately after the sale.

Though the process of selling your car yourself seems complicated, remember that it can result in your getting thousands more than what you will get by trading it into the dealer. In the end, it will almost certainly be worth the extra effort on your part.

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Do you ever have a sense that you have a bad 401(k) at work? If you do, you’re not alone. While a lot of employers have 401(k) plans, many of those plans are average or worse. But if you are in such a plan, you do have options.

Bad 401k at work

First we’ll look at how to evaluate a 401(k) plan. It’s much easier than you think. Then, if you find your retirement plan lacking, we’ll give you some actionable tips you can follow to make the most of a bad 401(k).

What Makes a 401(k) ‘Bad’

How do you know that you’re not just being a malcontent about your plan? Is it really bad? Here are some telltale signs:

  • High fees. High fees usually come in the form of high expense ratios. An expense ratio is the industry’s term to describe how much a mutual fund charges its shareholders. An expense ratio of 1.00% means that you will be charged 1.00% of the amount you have invested in the fund each year. While that may not sound like much, even a fee of 0.50% can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees over a lifetime of investing. Generally, fees above 0.25% for an index fund or 0.75% for an actively managed fund are considered too high.
  • Limited investment options. Some 401(k) plans will have a single fund available for each of several sectors. This may include a US growth fund, a foreign market growth fund, a bond fund, a money market fund, and maybe two or three sector funds. The plan may also invest with a single mutual fund family, where you don’t find many attractive options. While the number of funds by itself is not critical, having limited options combined with high fees is a problem.
  • No- or low-employer match. One of the biggest attractions of any 401(k) plan is the employer matching contribution. But if your employer does not offer a match, or if the match isn’t particularly generous, it lowers the attractiveness of the plan.

If your plan has any of these limits, it’s almost certainly a bad 401(k) plan. You can do your best to make the most of it, but you will have to consider other options to compensate for the weaknesses in the plan.

Talk to Your Employer

The first step should be to talk to your HR department. Particularly when it comes to investment options and fees, employers often want to know if employees are happy with the retirement plan. Changes may not occur quickly, if at all. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Contribute Enough to Get the Maximum Employer Match

If your 401(k) plan is wanting, then you’ll probably want to limit the amount of money that you put into it. Still, if your employer does offer a match, you should contribute at least enough to get the maximum match. For example, if your employer offers a 50% match up to 3%, then you should contribute 6% of your pay to the plan, in order to get the full 3%.

That match is found money, and you should never ignore it. In addition, the match will turn a 6% contribution into a 9% contribution. That’s always worth pursuing, even if the investment options are lacking.

Choose the Investment Options with the Lowest Fees

If your 401(k) plan charges high fees, favor the investment options that have the lowest fees. And if there are transaction costs, it should go without saying that you should not actively trade the account. You will have to view your investments within the 401(k) as mostly static positions.

Of course, you’ll have to balance out the fee situation with the quality of the investments you purchase. A high-performing investment with high fees may be preferable to a low-performing investment with low fees.

Set up a Traditional or Roth IRA

Perhaps the best solution to a bad 401(k) plan is to invest outside the plan. The best option is through an IRA, either traditional or Roth. An IRA is a self-directed plan, which means you can choose the trustee where the plan will be held. You can choose an investment brokerage firm that will offer the widest investment selection at low fees. And you can contribute up to a set limit that can change each year (see the current limits here).

Even if your income is too high to get a tax deduction on a contribution to a traditional IRA, it will still be worth putting money into an account. In addition to the fact that you will be gaining self-directed investing for the plan, nondeductible contributions to an IRA will reduce your tax liability in retirement. And the investment earnings will still accumulate on a tax-deferred basis.

A Roth IRA serves the same purpose. While the contributions are never deductible, qualified withdrawals are tax-free. A Roth has the same annual contribution limits as a traditional IRA.

Set Up a Self-employed Retirement Plan if You Have a Side Business

If you have a side business, you can set up a retirement plan for that business. There are various options available.

The SEP IRA is a common self-employed retirement plan. However, it tends to work best for people with higher business income. The SEP effectively limits your contributions to 20% of your business earnings. This can be quite generous if your business earns $100,000 and you can make a $20,000 contribution. But if your side business earns $10,000, you will be limited to a $2,000 contribution.

Better options would be either a Solo 401(k) or a SIMPLE IRA. Each allows you to contribute 100% of your income up to the plan limit. In the case of the solo 401(k) plan, the maximum contribution is $18,000, or $24,000 if you are 50 or older (these limits can change from year to year). You can also make an employer match of effectively 20% of your total business earnings.

The SIMPLE IRA has a maximum contribution of $12,500, or $15,500, if you are 50 or older (again, these limits can change each year). The maximum contribution isn’t as generous as it is for either the SEP IRA or the solo 401(k). But if your business earnings are within those contribution limits, it can be a good plan to have.

If you do have a self-employed retirement account, the combination of contributions to that account, plus your employer plan, cannot exceed $54,000 per year, or $60,000 per year if you are 50 or older. Both totals include the employer match and also can change each year.

Invest in Taxable Accounts

This can be an especially good strategy if your income is too high to make a tax-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA or to participate in a Roth IRA plan. You can simply save money in taxable investment accounts in addition to your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan.

There’s no tax deduction for making contributions to taxable accounts, nor do you have the benefit of tax-deferred investment income. But that also opens up the possibility of having tax-free income in retirement. That is, you will be able to make withdrawals from your taxable accounts without having to pay income tax on the amount of those withdrawals. (Of course, the income you earn on taxable accounts will always be subject to income tax in the year earned.)

As you can see from this list, you are not without options if you have a bad 401(k) at work. Participate in the plan at some minimal level, but maintain the bulk of your retirement assets in other accounts.

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In your personal finance journey, you may or may not have come across peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms. The great news is, these have proven to be solid investments over the past few years, providing much higher returns than what you could earn on bank investments. But we have to wonder:  will P2P platforms continue to be reliable investments, particularly if the economy begins to weaken?

p2p

Since P2P lending only got its start in the early 2000s, we don’t have a particularly strong or reliable track record to fall back on. The first platforms only began coming on line as the last recession – the Financial Meltdown – was unfolding. So while they have been a picture of success since their inception, we don’t really know how they’ll hold up under pressure.

What Effect a Weakening Economy Might have on P2P Lending

In the absence of any substantial performance data from the last recession, we can only speculate what effect a weak economy will have on P2P lending. But we can rely on the general performance of loans in past recessions for strong clues.

When the economy declines, asset prices fall and unemployment rises. In turn, default rates on virtually all types of loans rise. Since P2P loans are unsecured and taken for a variety of purposes, they most closely relate to credit cards.

According to the Federal Reserve, credit card default rates were at 2.34% at the end of 2016. However, they hit a high of 6.77% during the second quarter of 2009, in the middle of the Financial Meltdown.

While P2P loans are priced to accommodate certain default levels, they are based on the most recent default experience. Should default rates rise to something close to what they were in 2009, P2P loans priced based on today’s default rates will likely suffer disproportionate losses in interest rate return.

The Flood of Institutional Money Might Weaken Lending Standards

The basic concept of P2P lending is simple. Individual borrowers come to lending sites in search of loans, which will ultimately be funded by individual investors. But as interest rates have continued low, institutional participation in P2P lending has grown, as banks and other large lenders seek higher returns. For example, Lending Club recently reported that banks funded 31% of loan originations in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 13% in the third quarter.

One of the concerns over increased institutional participation is loan quality. As institutions bring larger amounts of capital into the space, loan quality may decline. That can happen as P2P lenders lower underwriting standards in order to draw in a larger number of loans. As they do, the quality of those loans will gradually decline, eventually increasing the rate of default.

It remains to be seen if that will play out as a worst-case scenario. However, not only is the industry itself relatively new, but institutional participation is only very recent. That means that the impact of greater institutional participation has yet to be felt.

Lending Club’s 2016 Scandal

In May of 2016, Lending Club’s CEO, Renaud Laplanche, was forced to resign amid a scandal. A summary of the event disclosed that:

Lending Club conducted a review, under the supervision of a sub-committee of the board of directors and with the assistance of independent outside counsel and other advisors, regarding non-conforming sales to a single, accredited institutional investor of $22 million of near-prime loans. The loans in question failed to conform to the investor’s express instructions as to a non-credit and non-pricing element. Certain personnel apparently were aware that the sale did not meet the investor’s criteria…The review further discovered another matter unrelated to the sale of the loans, involving a failure to inform the board’s Risk Committee of personal interests held in a third party fund while the Company was contemplating an investment in the same fund.

Since Laplanche’s resignation, earnings have gone negative three quarters in a row. What’s more, the pattern of losses are expected to continue through 2017. The company is forecasting losses of $69 million to $84 million, on revenue in the range of $565 million to $595 million for the year. The company cites the loss of investors in the aftermath of last year’s scandal.

We should reasonably expect that Lending Club, as the largest platform in the P2P space, will recover. However the episode should serve as a warning that the development of P2P lending won’t necessarily be an elevator ride straight up. With the number of P2P lenders increasing steadily, there are bound to be more negative surprises.

Read More About Reducing Risk With Lending Club here.

That might make a strong case for spreading your P2P investments across several lending platforms.

The Nature of P2P Loans Themselves

Despite the positive overall performance of P2P lending over the past few years, the practice contains two built-in issues.

The first is the fact that the loans are largely comprised of debt consolidation loans. Though such a loan can potentially improve a borrower’s financial situation by lowering the interest rate and monthly payment that he or she is paying, it also holds the potential to borrow even more money.

For example, many borrowers engage in serial debt consolidation. They have a few credit cards, and then do a debt consolidation to lower the monthly payment. But one or two years into the debt consolidation, and they rack up more credit cards. Eventually, there’s another debt consolidation – and maybe even a third, and a fourth.

From a risk standpoint, the problem is that the borrower is never actually paying off debt. Often, the debt consolidation simply sets the stage for the next round of borrowing. As that cycle continues, the risk of default on the latest debt consolidation loan increases.

The second major concern is that most P2P loans are unsecured. Borrowers can typically take loans as high as $40,000, and for nearly any purpose, without having to put up any collateral. In the event of a loan default, there will be no assets to seize in order to satisfy the debt.

In an economy with low unemployment, low interest rates, and rising asset prices, neither issue is a major concern. But when the economy eventually weakens, both run more than a slight chance of becoming more pronounced.

Positioning Your P2P Portfolio for Leaner Times

All of this should be a reminder that P2P lending, like virtually all other types of investing, is not completely risk-free. And despite recent healthy performance, the situation could change — and change dramatically — in the event of an economic slowdown.

None of this is to discourage investing in P2P lending. Since the next recession is virtually inevitable, though, now is the time to prepare your investments for a change in circumstances.

Prepare Now: Sweat In Up Markets So You Don’t Bleed In Down Markets

How can you protect yourself?

  • As noted earlier, consider investing on several P2P lending platforms. That will minimize the risks associated with any one platform.
  • Don’t use P2P investing as a substitute for the fixed income portion of your portfolio. Instead, make it part of your fixed income investments, to offset and increase the lower rates paid on traditional but safer fixed income investments. You should have both P2P and traditional fixed income investments.
  • Invest across various risk grades, despite the fact that returns may be higher on the weaker grades. Lending Club’s Statistics page (“Loan Performance Details” chart) shows that default rates increase substantially with each lower credit grade.

In regard to the last item in particular, it’s important to realize that default rates are likely to increase more dramatically in the lower credit grades in the face of a bad economy. Those are, after all, the highest risk loans being made.

We don’t have much information available as to how well P2P investing performed in the last recession. But that makes it even more important, at this late stage of the current economic recovery, to make some reasonable assumptions about what’s likely to play out. This will allow us to best prepare for it.

How do you think P2P investing will do when the economy takes the next nosedive?

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Looking for a way to simplify how you manage your finances, from your spending to your credit cards to your investments? Personal Capital’s financial dashboard may be just the tool for you.

This all-around financial management tool is easy to use, tracks all of your financial information, and offers investment advising, to boot. The free version of Personal Capital doesn’t come with personal advising, but the financial dashboard does offer a robust array of tools you can use to figure out your retirement plan on your own.

Here’s what you can expect when you use the free version of Personal Capital:

Link Up and Analyze All Your Financial Accounts

One of Personal Capital’s strengths is that you can use it to manage more than just your investments. It securely hooks up to your bank accounts, percapcredit card accounts, mortgage account, and other loan accounts. This allows you to track your total net worth, taking all of your accounts into consideration. Oh, and they also have an app, available on both Apple and Android devices.

The process of linking up accounts is really simple. Just type in the web address you use to access those accounts. When prompted, enter your usual login information and you’re good to go. Some accounts will ask additional security questions, which match those that you use when logging directly into that account.

I found it easy to link up my bank account, credit card accounts, and 401(k). However, I had trouble linking up my mortgage account, because my mortgage is with a smaller lender. As with many other financial tracking tools, Personal Capital doesn’t connect with every financial service or provider online.

So you may have to put in a support ticket to ask the company to connect with your smaller bank, credit union, or lender. The other option is to input the account information manually. I was able to add my home as an asset, and then add my mortgage as a manual account.

The home estimate comes automatically from Zillow, though you can override it manually if you’d like. The manual mortgage account only allows you to track the current mortgage balance, so it doesn’t track payments or amortization.

The bottom line here is that accounts with bigger-name institutions are easy to link to your financial dashboard. And Personal Capital pulls tons of helpful data from those accounts. The manual accounts feature leaves something to be desired, though.

Track Your Cash Flow

The main dashboard shows your overall cash flow for the last 30 days, broken down into categories. The categories are automatically assigned, and may not be completely accurate. But they give you a good at-a-glance estimation of your income and spending for the past month.

You can click into the cash flow tab to see a more detailed breakdown of your spending. This tab also allows you to toggle your tracker to 30 days, 90 days, six months, this year, or last year. This can be a helpful view if you’ve been trying to change spending habits and want to see general trends.

You can also toggle the view to show all of your accounts or just certain accounts, which can be helpful if you’re tracking just credit card spending, for instance.

Personal Capital will give you a list of the transactions it’s pulling in from all of your accounts. You can then re-categorize those transactions as needed. Taking time to do this can give you a better overall idea of your spending and income.

If you’re the type of person who prefers a more streamlined budget process and doesn’t need to track every dime, the financial dashboard may be perfect for your needs. However, keep in mind that this dashboard is only tracking actual spending. It doesn’t let you pre-set budget categories and then see how your actual spending matches up with your budget. For that type of detail, you need a tool like YNAB or Mint.com.

Learn More: You Need a Budget and a Pocketsmith

Track Your Net Worth

Along with basic budget tracking, Personal Capital allows you to track your net worth. In fact, net worth is one of the first things you see when you pull up the financial dashboard. The net worth chart looks pretty blank when you first start your account. But as you stick with Personal Capital, it’ll continue to graph out over time.

Again, you can click into the net worth tab to find out more about your overall net worth, cash on hand, investments, loans, and other aspects of your net worth. If you have specific goals for raising your savings or decreasing your debt, this is a helpful, visual way to keep track of those goals.

Retirement Planning and Investment Allocation

Of course, one of the main reasons to choose Personal Capital over other financial tracking tools is that it pulls in your retirement savings. The dashboard is compatible with a variety of retirement savings vehicles, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and more. And it will automatically pull in data from your retirement account, as long as that account is with a compatible provider.

I hooked up Personal Capital to my work-related retirement account with Charles Schwab. Again, the process of connecting the accounts was quite simple, and the dashboard pulled in a wealth of information. On the main financial dashboard page, you’ll see your portfolio balances for the last 30 days. You’ll also see your portfolio allocation.

You’ll also see a list of your current holdings, which highlights the holdings that have recently increased in value.

As with the rest of the financial dashboard, you can click any of these options to see more detail. The holdings detail will show you gains and losses in your investments over time, and will compare those gains and losses with the S&P 500.

The Allocation tab will visually break down your account allocations into cash, international bonds, U.S. bonds, international stocks, U.S. stocks, and alternatives. The breakdown tells you exactly what percentage of your total savings is in each of these vehicles. It also tells you the dollar amount you have invested in each option.

I really like the at-a-glance overview of portfolio allocation, as it makes things easy to understand. If you have multiple retirement accounts connected to Personal Capital, you can toggle between accounts to see the allocation breakdown for each individual account.

Overall, the retirement and investing aspects of Personal Capital’s financial dashboard are its strong suit, which isn’t surprising. This, after all, is what the platform is all about. But being able to see what’s going on with your retirement accounts isn’t even the best part about the free version of Personal Capital. You can, in fact, get some pretty solid retirement and investing advice without paying a dime.

Advisor Tools for Free

The three most helpful free tools Personal Capital offers are the Investment Checkup, Retirement Planner, and 401(k) Fee Analyzer tools.

Investment Checkup

For the Investment Checkup, the tools is mostly looking at your investment profile to see if your allocation is appropriate for your age, projected retirement age, and risk tolerance. The breakdown looks like this:

percap1

Once you run the Investment Checkup, you can look at the historical performance of your target allocation versus your current allocation. It will show future projections for your target and current allocations. You can also gauge your level of risk and return at this target allocation.

You can also compare your current allocation to Personal Capital’s target allocation, like this:

percap2

It’s always wise to take any investment advice with a grain of salt. You should also do your own research before moving your investments around. But if you’re new to balancing your investment portfolio, Personal Capital’s Investment Checkup could be a great place to get started.

Retirement Planner

With the Retirement Planner tool, you’ll be able to see how your current savings and savings rate stacks up against your overall retirement goals. You can include how much you plan to spend in retirement, and even how many kids you plan to put through college.

Again, the visual aspect of this tool is really helpful. It includes a graph of the most likely scenarios for your retirement savings, age, and spending goals. You can include both yourself and your spouse, as well.

One helpful aspect of the Retirement Planner tool is that it’ll automatically pull information from your dashboard, if you’d prefer. For instance, it can base your retirement spending goals on your current spending information, and your retirement savings goals on how much you’re currently saving for retirement each year.

You can then play with each piece of information, from annual retirement savings to annual Social Security income, and see how that changes the outcome. The eventual outcome will look like this:

percap3

The retirement planner adjusts for inflation. It will also show you the assumptions for annual rate of return and volatility. These are based on your current portfolio asset allocation.

This tool is far from perfect. It doesn’t, for instance, account for rebalancing your asset allocation as you near retirement age. However, it can give you a good idea of whether you’re on track to retire when you want with plenty in savings. It can also allow you to see different ways to meet your retirement goals, from saving more each year to decreasing your retirement spending needs.

401(k) Fee Analyzer

Sneaky hidden fees are one way to wreck your retirement savings. It’s astounding how much these hidden fees can eat away at your hard-earned savings. That’s where Personal Capital’s 401(k) Fee Analyzer tool comes in.

This tool will dig into your 401(k) to find both up-front and hidden fees, such as custodial fees, inactivity fees, and 12b-1 fees. It will then tell you about how much you’re paying each year in fund fees, and how much those fees will cost you over time.

The fee analyzer will also dig into any mutual fund holdings you have and will show the expense ratios for these mutual funds. This can help you decide where to invest your mutual fund holdings for the lowest cost.

The Bottom Line: Is it Right for You?

So, what if you’re not ready to pay for Personal Capital’s financial advising services? The free financial dashboard could still be a great tool to help you manage your money. Again, if you’re looking for a detailed budgeting tool, this isn’t it. But it could be used in conjunction with a budgeting tool like YNAB or Mint to get a better overall picture of your finances.

Since it’s primarily an investing platform, Personal Capital’s strengths are certainly in the investing arena. Whether you’re just starting out investing for retirement or you’re ready to take more control of your investments, the Retirement Planner and Investment Checkup tools are great. They’ll give you insight in your allocation and savings plan. It can be a really good place to begin in your DIY investing journey.

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Think Only the Rich Have Accounts at Goldman Sachs? Think Again

by Kevin Mercadante

You’re probably familiar with Goldman Sachs, at some level. The multinational banking firm, best known for investment banking, goes all the way back to 1869. But did you know that they also have a web-based arm known as Goldman Sachs Bank USA, or simply GS Bank? It’s an online bank that pays far higher rates […]

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Can Betterment Portfolios Earn You An Extra 15 Percent?

by Kevin Mercadante

What if you could increase your after-tax investment returns by 15 percent over 30 years? Betterment is claiming you can do just that with their Tax-Coordinated Portfolio. What’s more, they claim that it can even work across several accounts at the same time. Interested? Read on… Who is Betterment? Betterment is a robo-advisor. In fact, it […]

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An Overview of The CFPB Mortgage Protection Rules

by Kevin Mercadante

Beginning in January 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, issued new rules to protect mortgage borrowers. The rules deal primarily with what is known as the “servicing” side of the mortgage process. That’s everything that happens after a mortgage closes, from setting up escrows and crediting payments to foreclosures. There are nine rules […]

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