Natalie McNeal (Photo: Michael McElroy)
Back in 2008, Natalie P. McNeal gave up some of her favorite luxuries. For a month, she swore off dinners out on the town, manicures, pedicures, and trips to the hair salon. Her experiment saved almost $400 and created a thrifty, investment-savvy lifestyle which she parlayed into a now-popular blog, The Frugalista (www.thefrugalista.com). McNeal doesn’t manage this lifestyle all on her own. A number of tools and resources help the moneywise blogger build wealth. Among her favorite digital offerings is CNNMoney.com’s “How much will you need for retirement?” calculator. “I use it about three times a year,” says McNeal. “I like to do spot checks.”
McNeal says she doesn’t change her investment strategy based on sudden market shakeups. Instead, the calculator helps determine her 401(k) contribution each year based on her long-term goals and changes in her income. The calculator makes it easier to monitor and refine investments. “With every job change or career move I make, I can easily use the online calculator for advice,” says McNeal. For example, after her first assessment, she set her 401(k) contribution to automatically increase by 1% each year.
We asked our audience, social network friends, and experts such as McNeal to help black enterprise find the most useful and innovative software, websites, podcasts, and mobile apps for investors. While there are an endless number of options, here are our favorite picks:
- You can track all your investments in one place with LikeAssets, an app that provides users with a combined rate of return across brokerage accounts. Setup is fairly straightforward. You can automatically import brokerage account information, after which LikeAssets can show you which holdings are improperly allocated. The program offers advice on how to re-allocate and balance your portfolio. Developed by financial website SeekingAlpha.com, the tool gives you the ability to view portfolio diversification across industries and develop customizable benchmarks based on a particular industry or matched against indexes such as the S&P 500. A subscription to LikeAssets costs $9.95 per month.
- Three key features put Nasdaq’s OMX Portfolio Manager for iPad in a class of its own. First, there’s no need to whip out the old PC or MacBook to perform an analysis of your investments. Users of this free mobile app can draw performance charts and overlay them with other technical indicators. Second, Portfolio Manager has become a bit more interactive, allowing users to view video clips from StockTwits TV and updates from Nasdaq’s Market Intelligence Desk. In fact, the app gives users automatic access to StockTwits (www.stocktwits.com), an online crowdsourcing investment community, where members, according to the site, “share ideas, trades, links, and charts.”
- Both the novice and seasoned investor can gain insight with The Disciplined Investor podcast. For a more robust experience, you may want to consider adding its blog, www.thedisciplinedinvestor.com, to your Web-based news reader for other tips, tools, and investing resources.
- Figuring out how to invest for retirement is made a bit easier with Mad Millions, though it’s only a game. Strategize how much you’ll have at retirement given your current investments with a built-in calculator that allows you to enter an initial contribution and a total monthly or annual investment. You can adjust the rate of return, allowing you to gauge the performance of investments in different market climates. Most important, investors can view the effect of inflation on growth over time. At 99 cents, this iPhone app can be highly valuable to young investors who are just starting to build wealth for those golden years.
- If real estate is your investment of choice, Real Estate Droid can help you search for sale properties, including foreclosures and new home listings. This app for smartphones using the Android platform adds geolocation technology to the mix, providing live real estate updates wherever you are located. Users can save property listings, jot down information, as well as capture and store images. A loan calculator lets you do the math. In addition, the app delivers mortgage quotes from banks.
- Of course, no collection of investing tools would be complete without BE’s investing RSS feed, accessible at www.blackenterprise.com/category/wealth-for-life/investing/feed. Use it to stay current on all the investing news, advice, resources, and commentary from black enterprise’s award-winning content team.