Saving some of your earnings by living below your means is a key to successful investing. There are many ways to find money to invest, such as living simply so you’ll save more money and developing a career so you’ll make more money. The Earning and Saving category equips you with practical tips for spending less and earning more.

5 Ways Betterment Differs from Its Competitors

Betterment’s investment services first came on my radar a couple of years ago. I invested $1,000 with the company as one of my investment experiments for the first Grow Your Dough Throwdown in January 2014. Later that year, I became an affiliate for the firm (gaining the opportunity for sales commissions on new accounts) and became a contributor to the firm’s online magazine.

Those in the financial industry refer to Betterment and similar companies as “robo advisors.” Robo references a robotic, rather than human, financial advisor. Advisor references the services the company provides as an SEC registered investment advisor (RIA), which involves the recommendation and management of a diversified investment portfolio for clients.

There are many similarities among robo-advisory services. But here are five ways that Betterment differs from similar advisory services, such as those from Wealthfront and TradeKing Advisors.

How to Set and Reach Financial Goals with Betterment

For many years, I have been resistant to the idea of setting financial goals; instead, I have opted to accumulate wealth so that I have the means to make purchases when needed. This wealth-building approach can be effective, and is certainly better than not saving, investing, and growing assets.

Still, there are at least a couple of shortcomings to general wealth building: 1) I’m not sure when my goal has been achieved; and 2) I’m reluctant to spend down the assets that I’ve worked so hard to accumulate, largely because I’m not clear about the purpose of my investments and the timing of withdrawals.

Goal setting can inspire me to save and invest, and make me feel happier and more secure about spending.

Different Talents, Different Ways of Building Wealth

This summer, a female friend and I got together to ride bikes — something that we did together often, though generally with more people from our circles of our cycling companions. But this time, on a ride that started on a weekday morning and ended in the early afternoon, some of our buddies teased us about having to work and being unable to join us.

At one of our rest stops, we talked about the fact that we generated income through investing-type activities.

This experience made me wonder if too few people are investing for the long term and relying on current income to pay bills and make large purchases, whether for a new cycling gadget, an epic trip, or retirement years. I grasp that working in a traditional job doesn’t negate saving and investing for the long haul. But the inability to realize that others may have sources of income outside of a regular job cues me to consider that not everyone exercises their talents, interests, and inclinations in a way that’s conducive to accumulating and building wealth.

My Financial Goals for 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking more and more about what I want to accomplish in 2017. This contemplation has involved considering my strengths and figuring out how to address my weaknesses.

What I’ve discovered is that while I’m great a few things (which has helped me tremendously), I need to broaden and update my talents. I often feel like Joel McHale’s character in The Great Indoors: I have experience and knowledge that could be helpful and inspiring to others but I’m not as adept at reaching people.

Still, I don’t want to abandon what I know. Instead, I hope to build upon my background. So, my goals include continuing to improve on my strengths, addressing areas of weakness, and expanding my knowledge.

Here are my goals:

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