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Planning with a Mortgage Amortization Schedule

A mortgage amortization schedule can be useful for: comparing my loan-balance calculations to the mortgage company’s records; identifying when mortgage insurance should no longer be required; planning the payoff of the mortgage prior to retirement or another significant life change; recognizing how much of the payment goes to insurance, taxes, etc. and will continue even after the mortgage is paid; analyzing the impact of extra payments (and later comparing this impact to the benefit of using those funds for a purpose other than mortgage payoff). Inside, there’s a link to a downloadable schedule.

Pink Sheets and Penny Stocks: What I Learned

A few years ago, a reputable investment newsletter recommended a pink sheet stock. The writer briefly explained its riskiness for various reasons, including its lack of inclusion in the big leagues of major stock exchanges.

That mention prompted me to learn more about pink sheets, referencing the color of paper the stocks used to be listed on, and penny stocks, referencing a stock price of less than $5.00. I became intrigued with the concept and decided to learn the difference between equities traded on major exchanges and those traded over-the-counter (OTC).

Pink sheets and penny stocks, which are generally traded over the counter, are often touted as nontraditional ways of making lots of money. Just as growth in financial net worth can be a tool for thriving, losing money to worthless and misunderstood investments can thwart the achievement of my goals. So I did some research to determine how to best consider these investments and here’s what I uncovered:

Choices for Starting Social Security Benefits (Spreadsheet)

When I decide to start receiving benefits affects my monthly Social Security check for the rest of my life. That is, if I choose to collect checks prior to normal retirement, then the monthly amount is reduced; likewise, if I wait until I’m past regular retirement age, I receive a bigger monthly check. So, among the retirement decisions that I need to make, this one seems fairly significant.

How to Set Up a Personal Finance Spreadsheet

When presented with general concepts or rules of thumb relating to personal finance, my brain resists automatic acceptance. My look-under-the-hood tendencies rebel when I hear a statement like “it’s always better to invest rather than pay off debt” or vice versa.

To truly understand an idea (and prove or disprove its claim), I love to design a spreadsheet. Using this tool, I can break down a concept and illustrate how it works or demonstrate where it falls apart.

In this article, I’ll explain the basics of setting up personal finance spreadsheets, including how to design formulas with financial functions like PMT (payment), FV (future value), and PV (present value).

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.