Things we recommend
Tools, Services and even Products can prove incredibly useful in automating your finances, improving your well-being and expanding your world.
During our journey to FIRE, we've met plenty of awesome folks who happen to work on the solutions below, so some of these links may support the costs related to this site at absolutely no cost to you (in some cases, to your benefit!). We are all about those symbiotic relationships, and appreciate your support!
rich & Regular
Julien & Kiersten Saunders are a powerhouse of perspective. The couple has used frugal living, real estate investing and their online business to set themselves on a path to achieving financial independence by 2021.
Mr Money Mustache
Mr Money Mustache was the first blogger to get me started on my FIRE journey. His blog runs much deeper than investment advice, it’s a trojan horse for anti-consumerism, environmentalism and a blueprint for how one can create a life that is better than your current one, that just happens to cost 50-75% less.
You Need A Budget
If you are in debt or love geeking out with your money, we HIGHLY recommend You Need a Budget (YNAB). Unlike Mint, this budgeting tool requires you to be proactive with your money. It requires you to assign a job to your dollars, ahead of time. And if you stick with it, your life with be forever changed. You’ll gain control of your money, and once you do, you’ll chase that feeling for the rest of your life. But you must be ready to COMMIT. This tool is relatively easy to use, but it can be a bit daunting if you aren’t used to deep diving into your finances. I didn’t immediately take to YNAB, because I wasn’t ready to have such an intimate relationship with my bad habits. I needed to ease in. But we were also in the fortunate position of being debt-free. We weren’t quite in emergency mode. If you are, this tool is for you, whether you are ready or not. Do it. YNAB is not some faceless corporation, they are run by good people. Jesse Mecham originally built the tool for him and his wife to track their money. He ended up turning that tool into the business it is today, and you have to love a good entrepreneur story. We also recommend his book, which walks you through the 4 simple rules to redefine your relationship with money.
I graduated from Mint to Personal Capital after reading many of my FIRE heroes talking about their own use cases. Most exceptional, they have a tool that automatically analyzes the fees on your investment accounts. Since fee's are your enemy, and assessing your investment portfolio early on can be daunting, I found this especially delightful. I use Personal Capital to monitor my money daily (or weekly when I’m especially busy). I think their interface is beautiful and robust, so I love tracking my investment portfolio from their dashboard. And their retirement calculator is pretty great, with lots of options to play with various scenarios. We have a retirement calculator here at Playing with FIRE, which we modeled as easy to use and very basic, by design. But as you get further along in your journey, you may want a more robust option. Just be warned, they will hound you with phone calls to sign you up for their financial advisor services. We don't use a financial advisor, so we can't comment on their services, but generally, we attempt to avoid fees at all costs.
Banking & Investing
If you’ve read our book, you’ll know that our stock portfolio is invested nearly 100% in Vanguard. If you’ve read The Simple Path to Wealth, you’ll understand why. Their unique client-owned structure allows them to return profits to our fund shareholders in the form of lower expenses. Low costs help their clients keep more of their returns, which helps you earn more money over time.
We are excited about diversifying our portfolio using real estate investing. We’ve learned so much from Chad Carson and others at BP. We are also big believers in surrounding yourself with help from experts, especially with a field as complex as real estate. If you are considering a similar path, Bigger Pockets is a treasure trove of tools, forums, community, information, and resources.
The Simple Path to Wealth
We’ve gifted this book more than any other. Originally known as the Stock Series, written for his daughter, JL Collins turns his blog into a book and lays down a rock-solid case for investing heavily in low-cost index funds. Equally important, he explains how the stock market works and how to use that knowledge to ride out of the constant ups and downs. You want a simple and stress-free way to achieve financial independence? Read this book.
Playing with fire
This one may be obvious, but we’ve come across plenty of folks who are aware of the film but are unaware of the accompanying book. We take many of the themes and stories in the documentary and go into greater detail on our decision making and experiences. Readers have told us the book serves as the ultimate introduction to the FIRE movement as well as a fond reminder for those already pursuing FIRE.
Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence
We wish this book had been written when we started our journey. Jonathan and Brad were a weekly source of inspiration and information that kept us going in the early days when we were packing our bags and slashing budgets. Fast forward a few years, and these guys have become authors, orators, community leaders and philanthropists. We highly recommend their podcast as well, and appreciate the blueprint they’ve laid out in this book for those getting their start.
Odds & Ends
Peak Design Everyday Backpack
I cannot hype this backpack enough. I’ve included the 20L and the larger option, as they are both incredible options for travel and general mobility. I’ve never encountered a more thought out and durable product in all my travels. The number of features hidden in this beautifully designed bag will leave you marveling at the thing years into ownership. The bag is waterproof. The straps fold away under magnetic flaps, quickly allowing you to turn the bag into a “duffel” of sorts. There are side, back and top handles that make it SO easy to grab out of the overhead bins, your trunk and anywhere else you’ve set it down. The zippers are military grade and there are pockets all over the place. There are multiple access points allowing for easy access in stressful situations (like grabbing your computer before heading into that window seat without holding up the entire line of folks trying to sit down). They are incredibly comfortable to wear. And most importantly, they are guaranteed for life. This is literally the last backpack I’ll ever buy.
How to Reach Financial Independence
Playing with FIRE forward
What is the Mega-Backdoor Roth Strategy?
Now that you’ve calculated your time horizon to financial independence, we strongly encourage you to start tracking your money. We believe that Personal Capital is the most comprehensive free financial tool you can find online to manage your finances and track towards your FI date.
We love the free features Personal Capital offers, including the ability to:
- Track and manage your income and expenses
- Track your net worth
- Analyze your investment portfolios for excessive fees (this is especially important early on in your FI journey)
- Analyze your investment portfolios for proper asset allocation
- Run various retirement planning calculations with their amazing retirement calculators
Our favorite financial management tool is free to use and take less than a minute to sign up. Though you must create Personal Capital login credentials to use them, you don't need to enroll in Personal Capital's advisory service. As you may know, we always try to avoid fees whenever possible. We also strongly recommend fee-only financial advisors, so you know how much you're paying up front and avoid advice with conflicts of interest. By signing up with Personal Capital for free and aggregating all your accounts in one place, you'll be well on your way toward financial independence.