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You might already pay your bills online, and maybe you even use tools like Mint.com or Yodlee.com to track your expenses. But what about the other items on your financial to-do list? Inexpensive and easy to use, these innovative online tools will allow you to take control of your basic financial-planning needs.
Opening a high-yield savings account or CD online is as simple as buying a book from Amazon. Banks compete for your cash on MoneyAisle.com, an online auction that connects you with the best rate available within seconds. Earning a high interest rate is more fun with SmartyPig.com, a virtual piggy bank for specific savings goals like a vacation or a new home down payment. Friends and family can contribute directly to your savings account rather than buying that birthday gift you would have returned anyway.
Kasasa.com bridges the gap between the convenience of online banking and the friendly service of a community bank. Having a Kasasa account comes with rewards for saving your money. Reward options include high interest rates, charity donations or iTunes downloads.
Many people shy away from investing on their own and with good reason. Novice investors are generally better off buying index funds that track a specific market, like the S&P 500, than buying managed mutual funds that charge high fees and rarely deliver the outstanding performance they promise. FolioInvesting.com has ready-to-go portfolios that utilize Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), which are essentially index funds that trade like stocks. Alternatively, FormulaInvesting.com offers reasonably-priced managed portfolios with a focus on long-term investing. If you really want to try your hand at picking stocks, start with WeSeed.com, an educational platform that teaches the ins and outs of investing without the risk of losing real money.
Online tax software has become increasingly user-friendly, offering an accurate and cost-efficient alternative to traditional accounting services. Plus, e-filing speeds up the return of your tax refund. Of the available options TurboTax is the most expensive, but the easy step-by-step interview approach provides peace of mind that could be worth the cost. Beware of attempts to convince you to purchase a pricey upgrade that has more features than you need. For those who have been filing paper returns for years, eSmartTax.com is an inexpensive, no-frills option that closely resembles the actual IRS forms. Keep in mind that if your income was $57,000 or less in 2009, you can file your federal tax return for free when you use one of the IRS Free File providers.
Regardless of your net worth, certain estate-planning documents are a must. Most people can bypass expensive attorney fees by using online tools to create a will, living will and power of attorney. For less than the cost of dinner and a movie, LegacyWriter.com walks users through the process of creating these documents. If style is important to you, ItsMyLife.com offers a few extra bells and whistles, like custom borders and fonts that may make the process a little more fun.
If you need more help navigating your finances online, FiLife.com provides a community forum for personal finance topics, with experts available to answer your questions.