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Handy references for personal finance geeks

Added by
Dec 12, 2012 13:15 EDT


Handy references for personal finance geeks
By Matthew Amster-Burton,

In my job, I wrestle with a lot of numbers. Sure, personal finance is ultimately about what you can do with your money, about your goals and hopes and dreams. But from day to day, it’s all about dollars—where to put them and how to get more of them.

To deal with the nuts-and-bolts side of money, I turn to a few tools again and again. You’ve already heard of my favorite; it’s a four-letter word starting with M. Here’s what I use when Mint can’t answer my question.
Be forewarned that this is geekery of the highest order. But if you’re involved in managing your money, I suspect one or more of these tools will make your life easier.

1. CFFP Annual Limits (free)
Quick: what’s the income limit for a married-filing-jointly contribution to a Roth IRA? What’s the top of the 28 percent tax bracket? How about the Social Security full retirement age for someone born in 1958?
The Annual Limits sheet is put out annually by the College for Financial Planning. It’s a two-page PDF that answers about a million different questions about minimums and maximums, Medicare and Social Security, taxes and credits, and is totally free.
Speaking of credit: certified financial planner Dave O’Brien told me about this one. Thanks, Dave.

Say you’re buying a car and the dealer offers you a choice: get a low interest rate on the car loan, or a higher interest rate with a cash-back rebate. Which is the better deal?
The Auto Rebate vs. Low Interest Financing calculator at can answer the question. Their other 350 calculators can answer your other questions about mortgages, loans, investing, retirement, and insurance. Yes, they really have over 350 calculators, and they’re all free.
One drawback to Dinkytown: because the calculators are written in Java, they don’t work on most smartphones.

3. and (free)
A friend recommends a mutual fund. Keeping in mind the boilerplate warning about not predicting future results, you want to see its past performance.
So you punch the ticker into Google Finance or Yahoo Finance and get a nice chart. Unfortunately, it’s a price chart. It only shows you changes in the capital value of the fund; it doesn’t include reinvestment of interest or dividends. Since most people do reinvest dividends—especially in retirement accounts—this makes for a pretty picture that doesn’t tell you much. (Kind of like the US Weekly of investing.)
Instead, head over to (for mutual funds) or (for ETFs). Here you can see the total return of the fund, including reinvested dividends. 

Click on the link above to read the full article

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Date Edited
Dec 12, 2012 13:15 EDT