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Financial planning for financial independence

Content, resources, and services to help people make intelligent decisions with their money in route towards financial freedom

New Financial Tools for 2018

This past week I had the opportunity to attend FinCon 2017 in Dallas, TX.  This is a conference where financial media minds get together to share best practices, while also being a tremendous venue for financial technology companies to show off their latest and greatest developments. 

From what I witnessed, there are some really cool advancements on the horizon to help us all make smarter moves with our money.  Below are 3 of the more compelling products/applications that could really make waves in 2018.


 
 

The goal of Birch Finance is to help you maximize your credit card rewards.  It does this by looking at your spending habits and making recommendations on your card usage to take advantage of missed opportunities.

Birch vows to not only give you advice on how to earn more with the cards you already currently own, but it will also make suggestions to match you up with cards you don't currently own that would maximize your spending rewards.  In addition, it has a real-time recommendation tool so you will know which of your current cards to use before you swipe.

Since the platform is already up and running, I've given it a test run to better evaluate its usefulness.  From first take the system shows promise, but there are still has some bugs yet to work out.  Only 2 of my 3 credit cards linked (disappointing), and the website seems to be a bit slow at present time (the "Recommendations" tab seems to always have issues loading).  However, the analysis on the 2 cards that did link proved to be helpful.  Apparently I've used the right card on only 41% of my purchases over the past three months, resulting in over $75 worth of missed rewards.  The real-time purchase recommendation tool could prove to be helpful in eliminating those missed savings.

I will continue to play around with this service over the coming months.  The concept is fantastic, but it appears they might have been a bit over-eager in their launch date.

ETA:  Available now, although I would give it a couple more months to allow for further fine tuning
Price:  Free


 
 

Being embedded in the financial services industry for over a decade, I've often heard fearful rumblings of that dreaded day when robots will take over for financial advisors.  Well, that day is much closer than most expected!  From first impression, Cinch Financial appears to be the most robust application yet towards becoming a full-scope, personalized financial coach.

A demo at the conference has me hopeful that Cinch will indeed prove to be a helpful tool in more areas than just budgeting and investing (where the tech space is currently).  I was happy to see debt/loan reviews and life insurance needs analysis worked into the platform.  This is a fantastic starting point, and I hope the full-launch will provide many more features.

The technology also promises to act a Fiduciary (putting your interest first) while not releasing any of your information to 3rd parties, which unfortunately is a common practice for most present-day online applications.

Keep an eye on this one, as I think it will be a name we hear more often over the next couple of years.

ETA:  Currently in BETA, full launch expected in late 2017 or early 2018
Price:  90-day free trail, then $4.99/month


 
 

Finally, finally, finally!  Someone has recognized that those not covered by a health insurance plan thorough an employer need an easy to understand, non-biased helping hand in navigating the world of health insurance options.  If you've been through the process yourself, you know that this type of service is needed.

So saving maybe the best for last, let me introduce you to Take Command Health.  They promise to be an advocate for the consumer (and small businesses) in helping find a proper and affordable health plan, all based on their unique requirements.  They aim to compare plans both on and off of the exchange (in addition to faith-based plans) in an effort to connect a person, family or business with the most suitable plan.

It sounds like a great service and I have high hopes, but I will have to test the waters before giving any kind of recommendation.  That being said, I plan to use the service myself for open enrollment at the end of this year (2017).  I am particularly interested in the off-exchange healthshare options such as Liberty Healthshare and Medi-Share, so I will be leaning on Take Command Health to guide me in the right direction.

*** Check back for an update to this post once I have gone through the enrollment process ***

ETA:  Should be fully operational when open enrollment begins on Nov 1st, 2017
Price:  $0/mo for Basic Membership, $15/mo for Premiere Individual, $25/mo for Premiere Family