The following are the top financial products I use or have used to help me achieve financial freedom. Each product provides an actionable solution that is synergistic to the advice I provide in my articles.
There are literally thousands of products to choose from and I’ve discarded 99.9% of them. Let me help you cut through the clutter by highlighting only the best after hundreds of hours of research.
I’ve met with with the senior management from most of these companies given I live in San Francisco and travel to conferences several times a year. I believe in looking into the whites of each CEO’s eyes before making any recommendation.
Given stocks have entered into bear market territory due to the coronavirus and a self-inflicted recession is on the way due to the forced closing of the economy, now is more important than ever to save money, reduce expenses, stay on top of your finances, and understand your investment options.
Those who focused on their finances during the 2008 – 2009 financial crisis came out way ahead 10 years later. Good thing for you, Financial Samurai was started in July 2009 and has the experience and perspective to help you get through these challenging tims.
Full disclosure: all products are affiliate partners of Financial Samurai. With every sign up, Financial Samurai may be paid a referral fee.
Best Mortgage Lender
Credible – San Francisco-based Credible is a lending marketplace that provides real quotes for free. Instead of applying for a mortgage on different platforms, it’s way more efficient to apply to refinance or get a new mortgage on Credible where multiple qualified lenders will compete for your business.
Mortgage rates have collapsed to ALL-TIME lows after the Fed’s emergency 50 basis point cut on March 2, 2020. Take advantage of low interest rates by getting pre-qualified lenders to compete for your business.
I personally refinanced my primary residence at the end of 2019 to a 2.625% 7/1 ARM at no cost in 2019, but could probably get a 2.125% rate if I refinanced in 2020! Take a look at the 10-year bond yield collapsing in March 2020. See if you can refinance to a lower mortgage rate here.
Best Free Wealth Management Tool
Personal Capital – Personal Capital has the best financial tools for investors and people who are the most serious about planning for a healthy retirement. You can easily x-ray your portfolio for excessive fees, get a snapshot of your asset allocation by portfolio, track your net worth and plan for your retirement.
Think about Personal Capital as a sophisticated version of Mint or an interactive version of Excel. I spent almost two years consulting for them in their San Francisco and Redwood City offices and have sat down with all senior management. I’m also a small shareholder in the company since 2013.
When there is so much uncertainty in the world, you absolutely must stay on top of your finances. Understand where your risk exposure is. Stay on top of your cash flow. Personal Capital’s free tools will help you bring calm to the chaos. Sign up for free here.
Here’s my comprehensive Personal Capital review.
Most Attractive Investment Opportunity 2020
Fundrise – Fundrise, founded in 2012, is one the best platforms for investors who wish to diversify their real estate exposure. Instead of concentrating your risk and money in one property, with Fundrise you can surgically invest smaller amounts of money (as little as $500) in several properties with potentially higher returns across the entire country. The average historical range is between 8% – 15%, and unlike P2P lending, there’s a physical asset that actually has value.
After selling my rental house in San Francisco for 30X annual gross rent, I reinvested $500,000 of the $1,800,000 proceeds in real estate crowdfunding in the heartland of America to earn 100% passive income. It makes a lot of sense to arbitrage the valuation and net rental yield differentials between expensive coastal city real estate and inexpensive heartland real estate.
Real estate can help shelter your investments from volatility due to the income and shelter it provides. As mortgage rates decline, demand for real estate goes up because affordability goes up.
Check out Fundrise’s 5-year annualized returns compared to the S&P 500 and the Vanguard Real Estate ETF. The outperformance in 2018 of 14% was strong as was its 12% outperformance in 2015 when stocks went nowhere. I believe Fundrise will outperform again in 2020 as stocks take a hit due to coronavirus fears.
Fundrise is free to sign up and is available for all investors – accredited and non-accredited. Of course, there will always be investment risk and platform risk to be aware of. The demand for real estate is going up as money rotates out of stocks and into real estate. Affordability is also up due to a collapse in interest rates.
For accredited investors who are able to invest $10,000 – $25,000 per deal, check out CrowdStreet. CrowdStreet has a direct-to-sponsor model where investors invest directly with the real estate sponsor, thereby improving efficiency and communication. Further, investors are not charged a fee to invest. Instead, the fee is borne by the sponsor.
I like CrowdStreet because their focus is on “18-hour cities,” secondary markets that have lower valuations and upside potential due to demographic shifts.
Best Online Savings Bank
During a downturn, having a good amount of cash to cover your living expenses for 6+ months is very important. CIT Bank is currently my favorite online bank where you can earn maximum interest in a money market account. Because they are an online bank, they don’t have expensive physical store overhead. As a result, they can pass on their savings to you.
My favorite product is their savings builder account. They are paying a very healthy 1.75% APY if you maintain a $25K balance or deposit $100 a month. 1.75% is huge because the 10-year bond yield is only at ~1%, while the Fed Funds rate range is at 0% – 0.25. In other words, this is one of the best risk-free arbitrage opportunities with no risk, and no lockup period.
You can finally take advantage of higher interest rates by making a higher rate of return on your money. It feels great to earn a risk-free rate of return after such a strong bull market since 2009.
Here’s my comprehensive CIT Bank review.
Best Personal Loan Lender
If you don’t have enough cash, you need to look for affordable personal loan options to keep yourself afloat. Getting a personal loan from Credible is a good place to start.
Take a look at the below chart. The spread between the average credit card interest rate and the average personal loan rate is at a 20-year high. As a result, those of you with expensive credit card debt should consider consolidating your debt into a lower interest-rate personal loan.
Credible also has the most comprehensive marketplace for personal loans where up to 11 lenders compete for your business. Get real personal loan quotes in just two minutes after you fill out the application. There’s no reason why you should be paying expensive revolving credit card debt or any other type of debt in this low-interest rate environment.
Best Life Insurance Finder 2020
PolicyGenius – In the past, you’d have to call a life insurance carrier one by one, fill out an application form, wait for a while, and not know whether the quote you received is any good or not. PolicyGenius helps you see multiple quotes at once so you can make a more informed decision.
I recently had dinner with both founders, Jen and Francois in San Francisco, and they are experiencing explosive growth. They closed on a $100 million funding round led by KKR in January 2020.
Based on my recent checks, it looks like term life insurance rates have come down in 2020. This is great because we now all have serious fears about our health due to the global pandemic. See if you can take advantage of lower life insurance rates by checking out PolicyGenius for free.
Here’s my comprehensive PolicyGenius review.
Best Career Advice Book
How To Engineer Your Layoff – I have spent eight years crafting this 190-page ebook that teaches employees how to negotiate a severance and be free. Not only can you receive a severance, you may also get healthcare benefits, keep all your deferred compensation based on the regular vesting schedule, and be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Having a nice financial runway to move on to the next career, start a company, retire early, take care of a family, or simply travel the world is priceless. I personally negotiated a severance that paid for five years of living expenses so I could comfortable work on this site and travel the world.
If you are going to quit anyway, you might as well try and negotiate a severance. You have no downside to fighting for your rights. The book is now in its 3rd edition and fully revised for 2020 and beyond.
Important tip: If you want to get laid off then you should try and get laid off during the initial rounds of layoffs. If you get laid off during the final rounds, your benefits will be significantly lower than the benefits given to the first round of layoffs. As unemployment claims rise, now is the time to try and work something out. Managers need to cut costs and would welcome volunteers in exchange for a severance. You can buy my book directly here. Use “saveten” to save $10.
Best Personal Rewards Credit Card
Everybody should have a rewards benefits card for points, freebies, insurance, and more. I’ve been a client of Chase for over 10 years and have been very happy with their credit cards, rewards program, and service. My favorite personal rewards credit card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Highlights of the card features include:
- Get 60,000 points if you spend $4k in the first 3 months of activation (=$750 in travel rewards)
- Earn Rewards 2X Fast On Travel And Dining
- Redeem 25% More Value On Travel Rewards
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Built-In Travel And Purchase Protections
- Transferable Points To Frequent Travel Programs
- Earn Up to 75,000 Bonus Points For Inviting Friends
This popular credit card is great for those who love to travel and want a reliable card with a strong rewards program. Learn how to apply here.
Best Business Rewards Credit Card
One of the keys to building a great fortune is owning a business. Not only do you collect income, you build equity which can one day be sold for multiples of profit. The Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card is my favorite business credit card to help you grow. It has a terrific sign-up bonus, great benefits, and no annual fee.
- Get $500 cash back if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Enjoy a 0% intro APR for the first 12 months
- No annual fee to worry about
- Employee cards are free
- Flexible rewards can be redeemed for cash back, travel, gift cards, Apple purchases, and more
- Rewards don’t expire if your account is active
- Built-in purchase, travel and fraud protections
- Set personalized account alerts and employee spending limits
Best Car Insurance Provider
Esurance – Esurance is known for its user-friendly website, interactive tools and top-notch mobile apps. It’s best used by people who like to manage their own policies, have straightforward insurance needs and prefer to get quotes online. Esurance is owned by industry giant Allstate and provides for free some of the most competitive rates online.
Here’s my comprehensive Esurance review.
About the Author: Sam worked in investment banking for 13 years at GS and CS. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income. His main passive income focus is on real estate crowdfunding to take advantage of cheaper valuations and higher cap rates in the heartland. He spends time playing tennis and taking care of his family.
Financial Samurai was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites on the web with over 1.5 million pageviews a month.
Disclosure: Financial Samurai has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Financial Samurai and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.