Below is a list of the products and services I use both in my personal life and for my business clients. Some of these products I have been using for over 20 years now. I hope you find a few of them helpful! -Joe
Quicken: One of the most significant money management software packages on the market. I’ve been using Quicken for 25 years, and I recommend it above all others. It offers both Mac and PC versions.
Both platforms are similar and good, but the PC side does offer one extra version, which happens to be the one I use, Quicken Home & Business. Not only does it add invoicing and vendor bill tracking, but also has a rental property management function.
The bummer is that this version is PC only. So I came up with a workaround. I use the program Parallels, which allows me to run PC programs right on my mac. It’s super handy.
Personal Capital: Another very popular option for web based financial management software. I recommend it as a great software for beginners. It’s even free because personal capital is actually a money management firm.
They offer this free product to everyone, with the hopes that you will eventually give them some of your money to manage.
Personal Capital is a “lighter version” of personal financial management software, in my opinion. It does not have the higher level of detail, or the ability to customize your reporting or input custom data, that you may need. I think you could start here and graduate up as you get older (and acquire more stuff).
Credit Karma: Offers free credit scores, reports and insights. This is the service I use to monitor my credit. It’s totally free, but still will send you alerts if something on your credit changes. Some of the other services that do this charge a fee. I will admit that you have to endure advertising efforts in exchange, but it’s not too over the top.
Here I compare more personal bookkeeping software options:
Top 5 Personal Bookkeeping Software Options to Manage Your Financial Life!
INVESTING & RETRIMENT
Brokerage, Retirement & Financial Advisory Accounts
Fidelity: A standard old school brokerage house. I decided way back when to set my first brokerage account there because the trades were readably priced and it was one of the larger firms.
I have had all types of accounts there, brokerage, IRA, SEP IRA, Rollover IRA and Self-Employed 401k, and they all are free to have. The online banking features are top-notch, as is the customer service. I see no reason to go anywhere else.
That said, there are plenty of brokerage houses you can use like Schwab, BofA/Merrill Lynch, E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, Chase, etc.
The Motley Fool: is essentially a stock advisory service. They started out as a newsletter (like one you would get in the mail!), that would give you stock recommendations. Now they have grown into a full service money management firm.
The foundation of TMF’s philosophy is that you can get the best investing returns by investing in 20-30 quality, well-researched individual stocks for the long term, as opposed to investing in the stock market as a whole via an S&P index fund.
Robo advisors have hit the investment scene in the last 5-10 years. The advisor comes into play when you have a “managed” account. (Meaning the firm manages your investments for a fee.)
However, in the case of a Robo account, instead of a group of “people” managing your account throughout the year, there is a computer and an algorithm doing it. The fees in this case can be up to 60% less than the human version.
I need to say off that bat that I don’t have any funds in a Robo account, so basically take my reco’s here lightly. That said, I have one to suggest if you are into this kind of advisor.
Blooom: Founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Leawood, Kansas. It is a robo advisor service that offers independent management of 401(k), 403(b), TSP, and other employer-sponsored retirement plans.
The reason I list it here is because you can link your employer-sponsored 401k plans (or your Solo 401K plan) to Blooom, to receive robo-oversight about optimization. So it fits with my retirement planning approach.
Here are some more robo advisors to compare:
A Robo Advisor Comparison for 2020. Can A.I. Get You to the Promised Land?!
Accounts Managed by Humans
All major brokerage houses offer some version of managed services for clients. Usually there is a minimum balance to get to this level of help, and they usually take about 1% of your portfolio value annually, as a fee for their services.
I always stayed away from this type of management because I basically don’t trust the financial industry, and their commitment to producing results vs taking fees. But after reading this book Unshakable, I decided to try…
Creative Planning: A management firm trying to provide a more wholistic approach to your retirement. They kind of describe themselves as a family office for the rest of us (that have over 100K in savings that is).
They have very thorough planning tools that they use to map out your plan with. I’ve attached them to one of my accounts, and can also say that they actively manage the funds per the plan.
Self-Directed Retirement Accounts
The self-directed accounts are usually referring to tax-deferred accounts that allow you to invest in “alternatives.” These generally are investments that are not traded in the public markets.
Alternative investments come in many forms. They could be personally owned real estate, real estate syndication deals (several investors), lending notes, physical precious metals and other things…like oil rigs even. A “self-directed” account would allow you to do this.
My Solo 401k: I’m working with MS401K right now with a couple of my clients. I wanted them to set up self-directed Solo 401ks. While Fidelity offers a complete SE401K account, it’s not self-directed in the same way, nor does it allow for you to take loans off of it.
To have it be truly self-directed you need to have 3rd party management, and that is what the MS401k firm does. Ironically, they house your funds at a firm of your choosing, and Fidelity is an option. Technically MS401k “oversees” a non-prototype account at Fidelity, for example..
I currently use Ascensus as my 3rd party admin (on a Fidelity non-prototype account), but after my latest research, I now know they are very expensive. So I’m switching to MS401k too, because they are cheaper! They do self-directed IRAs as well.
Rocket Dollar: The second best option I’ve found is Rocket Dollar. They are also a 3rd party administrator for a self-directed IRA (SDIRA) and Solo 401ks.
Rocket Dollar had more of a “start-up” vibe, and feels more “current,” but in the end I went with price. RD was only a few hundred more per year. If things go sour with MS401k, I’d switch to Rocket Dollar.
Equity Trust: Specializes in self-directed IRAs. For clarity, the IRA is a personal tax-deferred account, while the Solo 401k requires you to have a INC or LLC to host it under.
Prior to me having a Solo 401K, I used an SDIRA via Equity Trust to buy some investment real estate in Belize. It worked out great! We made a 45% return in 3 years, and because it was in a tax-deferred IRA, it was tax-free. (Until we retire of course. The distributions in retirement are taxed).
Some important info on retirement plans:
Comparing the SEP IRA vs Solo 401k for the Self-Employed
Entity Creation & Taxes
IncFile: A fantastic web-based service where you can start a business entity. They also offer registered agent services, annual filing services, entity closure services and some others.
I use IncFile every time I set up a new entity for a client or myself. The site is super easy to use and it has the best pricing among these services.
If you’re interested, I have a walk-though video showing you how to set up an entity on IncFile in my “Incorporate Your Business” Free Course.
Wheeler/BI CPA: I recommend my CPA to everyone. I have worked with them for 15+ years, and I am still a fan! The only hitch is that they are in Los Angeles. That’s fine if you live in CA, or in a state with no state income tax (like TX or FL). Otherwise, you may want someone in your state.
James Devine Esq.: I also always recommend James. He has been my attorney for 15+ years as well. He has tons of knowledge in business, contract and real estate law. But again, he is CA based. If you live outside of CA, you probably want someone in your state.
Selina Devine Esq.: She is an equally fantastic lawyer, who happens to be James Devine’s spouse, and handles all of their will & trust work. Since trusts are not state specific, you can work with her from anywhere. Her fees are very reasonable!
Check a few more incorporation options:
The 4 Best LLC Formation and Incorporation Services
Quickbooks: A true accounting software for business. You can use it whether you’re a sole operator or a large corporation, and it will grow as your company expands.
QuickBooks has been around for a long time, so its original product (aka the desktop version) is software that you install on your computer. It has a “database file” that you set up for your company, and then add to as you do your books over time. This file sits on your computer “locally.”
However, the newer product, Quickbooks Online is a fully web-based version. While some legacy users (like myself) bitch and moan about it often, it’s obviously the future. I’ve actually grown to like it because many of the modern day features you want work more smoothly.
Quicken: Primarily known for being a personal finance software, but it does have a Home & Business edition. This version allows you to add both business account tracking, as well as rental property tracking.
I personally have used this software for 25+ years. I like it largely because you can combine your business and personal accounts in one place, including brokerage and real estate, for a complete net worth picture. Plus, it has an invoicing function built right in as well.
FreshBooks: I would generally recommend FreshBooks for smaller businesses and freelancers who need very basic features, like sending invoices (along with payments) and tracking expenses.
Ultimately however, I would recommend going with Quicken for single-member businesses and freelancers because there you can combine your personal and small business finances in one place for a total net worth picture…while also having the ability to invoice.
Gusto: My payroll software of choice. I find it integrates nicely with QuickBooks.
This payroll service is very similar to Square Payroll (my next recommend) in that it is cloud-based and offers a full feature core payroll process to its users. Gusto streamlines and automates your payroll process, handles the tax side of things (both state and federal), and allows you to administer employee benefits.
Depending on the plan you choose, employees will also be able to log in and onboard themselves by entering in their personal details and filling out their W-4.
Gusto also features a powerful range of reporting features and can integrate with various accounting applications such as QuickBooks, Xero, and Freshbooks.
Square Payroll: A solid core payroll service that will allow you to set up—and even automate—all of your employee’s salaries, as well as administer employee benefits, cater to hourly and salaried employees, and track sick leave and time off. It is my second choice because it is one of the least expensive options out there.
Square Payroll can be set to run your payroll automatically, so you never accidentally miss your standard payroll. Of course, it also files all federal and state taxes that you owe.
More info again (I know..its a lot!):
The 4 Most Popular Bookkeeping Programs for Your Business
Choosing Payroll Software: Square Payroll vs Gusto Payroll vs ADP
BANKING & CREDIT CARDS
Bank of America Checking: I use BofA for my personal and business banking. The main reason I use them is that their online banking experience and features is the best, in my opinion.
It’s the fastest, easiest to navigate and gives great transaction details, including cashed and deposited check images. I can say this with confidence because between all my clients I also use Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, City National Bank and Huntington Bank. I prefer BofA.
Bank of America Business Advantage Credit Card: BofA also offers a good 1.5% cash back credit card to businesses, and they will usually approve if you open a checking account. You also get a $500 bonus after spending 5K. Importantly, this card does not report to your personal credit.
Chase Business Ink Credit Card: Chase is my second favorite online banking experience, but I personally don’t not have any checking accounts there. They usually offer a cash bonus for opening a checking account.
I do have the Chase Ink for business 1.5% cash back credit card. Like the BofA card, its 1.5% back on everything, has a $500 bonus and doesn’t report to you personal credit.
Capital One Spark Business Credit Card: This card is the best cash back card out there. The Capital One Spark Cash Card for Business offers 2% cash back on all purchases. They also offer a $500 signing bonus. The only drawback on this card is that it does report to your personal credit…but that will not necessarily be an issue.
Real Wealth Network (real estate research): RWN is a real estate community of sorts. Basically, they do lots of research on different real estate markets for investment around the country, and report about it on their site through podcasts, webinars, etc. They make money by referrals to turnkey providers, property managers, lenders and the like.
Lending Tree (financing for your home): LT is a pretty obvious option for lending, but I like it because you can quickly shop rates for a variety of lenders, then have calls from there. The bad part is that once you hit “submit,” you will be inundated with phone calls for a week! Enjoy the attention.
Highlands Residential Mortgage (financing for investment property): A residential direct lender in all 50 states, who very much caters to investors. Graham Parham’s team have closed loans that I was originally denied with conventional banks. They just know how to underwrite for residential rentals. They will also let you do up to 10 properties (1-4 units), before you have to switch to commercial lending.
Broadway Capital Partners (Commercial Real Estate Financing): BCP is a commercial loan broker that I use in financing my commercial buildings. For residential, I would stay away from a broker, but in the higher-stakes game of commercial, you need someone with deeper relationships. They pulled off some amazing SBA deals for me, which would have certainly died without them.
BLOGGING TOOLS & SERVICES
Monthly or Annual Services
SiteGround Hosting (for your WordPress Site): If you are going to create a blog that will be able to grow and adapt with the future, you probably want a “self-hosted blog.” This means it’s not existing on a blog platform, like Medium or Blogger.
A self-hosted blog is usually built on the WordPress platform and needs to be “hosted” on a server somewhere. That server is provided by a hosting company. The hosting company I use is SiteGround. SG is cheaper than Bluehost and has better customer service, in my opinion.
Convertkit: Manages your email list and allows you to deliver scheduled newsletters, email sales funnels and blast emails pretty easily. It also allows you to put those “email capture boxes” on your site (that you see all over the web). Again, if you are planning on making money with your blog, you will need to build an email list, and send them emails in an automated way.
Calendly: A break-though service that makes scheduling calls and meetings so damn easy. It also makes charging for hourly coaching or consulting services so damn easy, too. Using a PayPal integration, clients schedule their call and enter their payment info right then. Once the call is complete, it charges their card. It’s as streamlined as it can get!
Platforms (or WordPress Plugins that Perform High Level Functionality)
LearnDash: LearnDash is technically a plugin, but it’s really a platform for making online courses that actually live on your site (as opposed to living on another outside platform like Teachable or Tablet Wise). It’s both easier to use than other platforms, and also gives you credit for all the traffic your courses are taking in!
Cartflows: A WP plugin that allows you to create email sales funnels that are hosted on your own site. The funnels include built in purchasing just like something in ClickFunnels. Similar to LearnDash, CartFlows is more of a platform for your website than just a mere plugin.
Elementor: A custom page builder for your word press site. People say it’s one of the easiest to use, and I agree. I recommend it for customizing your CartFlows pages.
WooCommerce: An e-commerce platform that works within your WordPress website. You can have an endless amount of products on it, or just a few, like I do. It not only facilitates selling stuff, but handles the credit card transactions with integrations from services like Paypal or Stripe. It also connects directly with LearnDash and CartFlows to have a seamless funnel, email capture, up-sell and purchase experience.
Yoast: Another WP plugin that allows you to to easily SEO (search engine optimize) all of your posts and pages in WP. It’s pretty much a must-have if you want your posts to rank. You can also buy add-ons to optimize products in WooCommerce, videos in Google and a few other things.
For a full list of all my plugins, check out this post:
The Critical Tools I Use For My Blogging Business
CONSULTANTS & COURSES
I cover all of these awesome folks in this post:
Blogging Courses, Services and “Gurus” I’ve Enlisted in My Online Income Journey
SEO RESEARCH & STRATEGY
The Hoth: A very handy service that tries to deliver all of the outside help a blogger, or small business, needs to execute on SEO. Through them, you can get SEO research and strategy, content writing (delivered right into your WP site), link building help, guest posting opportunities, and a host of other services. You can purchase all of this à la carte, or as a monthly package. They fill a much needed gap for many of us!
Ahrefs: Top level monthly service where you can access all sorts of SEO data for creating and executing an SEO strategy. The three main services that do this are Ahrefs, SEM Rush and MOZ. I personally like the Ahrefs interface the best, and their lowest tier at 100/month is relatively completive. But it’s still 100/month.
Uber Suggest: A smaller, less robust web based SEO data service than Ahrefs. It’s owned by SEO expert Neil Patel, and competes with the big three I just mentioned above. It’s much cheaper, but admittedly does not have the level of detailed information. Because it’s less expensive, I utilize it to save money. When I go into major keyword research mode, I upgrade to Ahrefs for a month.
HARO: A brilliant service where reporters can find experts to give comments or information for their stories. HARO literally stands for “Help A Reporter Out.” It’s a very cool tool which helps bloggers in two ways…1) if you’re selected for a quote, you get exposure for your brand as an expert, and 2) you very often will get a backlink to your website, passing on link juice! It’s a win, win, win (two for you, one for the reporter)!
MEDIA CREATION & PRODUCTIVITY
Here are some detailed articles on this topic…
(LIFE) STUFF I REALLY LIKE!
I like to recommend a few unique things that I feel have really made a significant impact on my life. I know that sounds like a big statement, and I certainly could list “the computer” or other universe denting advancements here, but these are more unexpected items that have had a positive impact in their own special way…
Dyson Vacuum: The Dyson cordless vacuum is game-changer for me. I like to keep it tidy, but always hated pulling out the clunky vacuum, plugging it in, getting tied up the cord, putting it away. The Dyson is so powerful, light and small enough to get under everything…that it makes an annoying very regular chore so much easier. With all the attachments, it can work just like a dustbuster, too. Which is perfect for the couch or the high chair. I f’ing love my Dyson vacuum!
Dillenger Electric Bike Kit: The reason this is so amazing is because it actually got me to start riding my bike again! I even take hour+ rides! Prior to getting the bike kit (and because I’m lazy) I avoided using my bike for the fear I would get stuck killing myself going up hills and whatnot. Well, thanks to this kit, I have a throttle that can give me a super boost through any tough terrain. The beauty is that when I want to pedal (and get exercise) I just lay off the throttle. It’s the perfect balance, and makes me want to ride my bike!
The other reason this kit is so life changing, is that it makes it possible to take my son along on my bike, too. When you add a bike seat to your ride, the idea of riding up hills or doing trails with a 45 pound kid seems…daunting. I am happy to say that with the kit, I can take my son out anywhere. It’s ideal father/son time.
International Living Magazine: A unique publication that literally changed the way we thought about retirement. This “zine” of sorts has been around since the late 70’s. It informs readers on all the far less expensive international locations in which US citizens can retire. When you start to realize there are so many exciting and cheaper options out there, and that they will allow you to retire much earlier than expected, it’s an amazing a-ha moment. This magazine literally changed our retirement mindset, and led to our first international land purchase! But the content is also fantastic to read just for interesting travel ideas as well.