Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for December 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I track these rates because I keep a full 12 months of expenses as a cash cushion and also invest in longer-term CDs (often at lesser-known credit unions) when they yield more than bonds. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 12/9/19.
High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.
- Customers Bank is at 2.25% APY ($25,000 minimum) guaranteed until 6/30/20. Brio Direct is at 2.20% APY ($25 minimum to open). Redneck Bank is at 2.00% APY on up to $50,000 (0.50% APY above that). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at around 2% APY.
- When rates are this low, picking up bank bonuses can boost your effective APY significantly. I moved my funds into the CIT Bank Savings Builder $300 Deposit Bonus that stacks on top of the 1.85% APY, netting a total 4.25% APY for the next 90 days. Open to both new and existing customers.
Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.
- No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. My eBanc has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.00% APY with a $100,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 1.90% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.90% APY with a $25,000 minimum deposit. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.85% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
- Quontic Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.25% APY ($1,000 minimum).
Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.
- Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 1.72% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 1.60%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
- Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.06% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 2.16% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
- The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.05% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.15% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.
Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes.
- You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 12/6/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 1.52% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 1.57% annualized interest.
- The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 1.83% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 1.44% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.
US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.
- “I Bonds” bought between November 2019 and April 2020 will earn a 2.22% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
- In mid-April 2020, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.
Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore.
- The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.
Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore, but the Orion offer is worth consideration.
- Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking (my review) has up to 5.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you meet make $500+ in ACH deposits, 12 debit card “signature” purchases, and spend $1,000 on their credit card each month. Orion FCU Premium Checking (my review) has 3.00% APY on balances up to $15,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
- If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements, the rate won’t be nearly as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 0.90% APY.
Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.
- You could build a CD ladder at Lafayette Federal Credit Union (LFCU) at 3.03% APY for 5-years, 2.78% APY for 4-year, 2.52% APY for 3-year, 2.27% APY for 2-year, and 2.02% APY for 1-year. As with many credit union deals, this likely won’t last long. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
- Andrews FCU still had their special 7-year certificate at 3.05% APY. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization.
- You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. The rates are not competitive right now. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.
- Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. I don’t see anything noteworthy. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
- How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as a hedge against prolonged deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 12/9/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.13%.
All rates were checked as of 12/9/19.
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How to Find the Best Term Life Insurance
Life insurance isn’t anyone’s favorite topic, but it is one of the most important financial products you’ll purchase in your life. After all, you’re not buying life insurance for yourself, but to take care of your loved ones when the day comes that you’re not around to do it yourself.
For the vast majority of consumers, term life insurance will be the best choice – if only because you can buy a lot of it at a relatively low premium rate. We’ll get into this more later.
We’ve compiled this list of what we believe to be the best term life insurance providers currently available. This is not a list of the cheapest term life insurance companies, but rather those offering what we believe to be the best term products.
Based on our evaluation of the seven best term life insurance companies of 2020, AIG comes in at the top of the list. Not only is it one of the largest and best established insurance companies in America, but they also offer the full range of permanent life insurance products, in case you want to add one to your term policy at some point. Read on to learn more about what AIG offers.
The most important factor for getting the best insurance price is to compare prices from multiple carriers. We recommend using this tool below because it’s safe, secure, and will save you a bunch of time:
Why Choose a Term Life Insurance Policy?
If you need life insurance, and just about everyone does, term life is the way to go for most people. It offers several advantages over permanent or whole life insurance:
Low cost – It costs only about 10% of an identical amount of whole life insurance.
You can buy more of it – Because it’s less expensive, you can purchase a larger policy. For example, you can generally buy five times as much term insurance as whole life, at 50% of the cost.
It’s flexible – You can maintain a large death benefit during a time in life when your need is greatest, then reduce it when the need is less.
Long term periods – most term life insurance policies are available for up to 30 years. That will cover the greatest time of life insurance needed in your life.
Many policies are convertible or renewable – even when the initial term ends, you’re usually given an option to either convert the policy to permanent coverage, or continue the term in one year intervals.
Term life leaves you more money for investing – permanent life insurance policies promote the benefits of investing through life insurance. But truth be told, you’d be better off buying term coverage, and investing the difference in an exchange traded fund tied to the S&P 500.
The 7 Best Term Life Insurance Companies
While we’ve provided a ranking of what we believe to be the seven best term life insurance companies, we’ve also determined what we believe each is best for. Since you probably have a very specific need for life insurance, the specialization a company provides may be what’s most important to you.
|Best for online or direct purchase||Get Started|
|Best for short-term coverage||Get Started|
|Best for customizable policy amounts||Get Started|
|Best for older applicants||Get Started|
|Best for convertible term policies||Get Started|
|Best for instant approval||Get Started|
|Best for applicants with health conditions||Get Started|
1. AIG Review
AIG is one of the better-established insurance companies in the industry having begun operations all the way back in 1919. The company has revenues of nearly $50 billion, and has had more than $40 billion in claims and benefits paid over the last five years. The company has an A.M. Best rating of “A”, Excellent.
Why it Made the List: AIG’s Select-a-Term policy allows you to convert your term insurance to whole life either at the end of the term or at age 70. They also offer renewable term policies, so that you can renew your current policy when it ends without having to undergo medical qualification. Of course, your premiums will be higher based on your age at the time of renewal.
But what we really like about AIG is that they give you the option to apply either online or directly through an agent. In fact, you can get a quote online, then complete the process with an agent. This is an important quality since not everyone is comfortable making an important purchase like life insurance entirely online.
- Maximum Policy Amount: $2 million
- Policy Terms Offered: 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
- Medical Exam Requirement: In limited applications
- Age Ranges Covered: 20 to 70
- Other Policy Types Offered: Whole life, universal life, guaranteed issue whole life and accidental death
What Holds it Back: Unlike many of the companies on this list, AIG doesn’t offer no medical exam policies as a standard policy feature. But that means the company is likely to offer coverage for a wider range of health conditions than other companies are.
Check out our full AIG Review!
2. Bestow Review
Bestow is a life insurance fintech company, operating entirely online and providing low-cost life insurance due to its streamlined business operations. Its policies are underwritten by North American Company for Life and Munich RE, both rated A+ by A.M. Best.
Why it Made the List: Bestow obtains your information from industry databases, eliminating the need for a medical exam. What’s more, they employed licensed life insurance agents to help you work through the process. Probably their most innovative product is their two-year term policy. It’s a short-term policy designed to provide coverage on a temporary basis, such as for those who are between jobs or changing careers.
- Maximum Policy Amount: $1 million
- Policy Terms Offered: 2, 10 and 20 years
- Medical Exam Requirement: No
- Age Ranges Covered: 21 to 45 for 20-year policies; 21 to 54 for 2- and 10-year policies
- Other Policy Types Offered: Term life only
What Holds it Back: Bestow provides policies for consumers who are in excellent health. If you have a major health condition, you need to make an application elsewhere.
Check out our full Bestow Review!
3. Ladder Life Review
Another life insurance fintech provider, Ladder Life also enables you to apply online, where you can also complete the entire process. The company specializes in providing customizable life insurance policy amounts.
Why it Made the List: Ladder uses a unique life insurance system in which you can take a policy and change the death benefit after the fact. For example, you can take a policy for $200,000, then later increase it to $300,000. This is referred to as “laddering up”. But it also allows you to “ladder down”, by lowering your policy amount later on. The idea is to take a policy now, then have the option to increase your coverage as your financial situation improves. But later, as your need for life insurance declines, you can reduce your coverage.
- Maximum Policy Amount: $8 million
- Policy Terms Offered: 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
- Medical Exam Requirement: Depends on health condition
- Age Ranges Covered: 20 to 60
- Other Policy Types Offered: Term life only
What Holds it Back: Though many applicants are not required to take a medical exam – typically those in excellent health – you may be required to take an exam if you have any pre-existing health conditions.
Check out our full Ladder Life Review!
4. Mutual of Omaha Review
Mutual of Omaha policies are provided by United of Omaha Life Insurance Company. Mutual of Omaha has an A.M. Best financial strength rating of “A+”, Excellent, making it one of the strongest insurance companies in the industry.
Why it Made the List: Mutual of Omaha is one of the best-known and most trusted names in life insurance. They offer all types of life insurance, and they extend term policies all the way up to age 80. But you can also extend your term past age 80, in one year increments up to age 94.
The general minimum policy is $100,000, but you can get coverage on policies as low as $25,000 if you’re looking for a small policy. What’s more, Mutual of Omaha term life insurance policies frequently come with a conversion to whole life feature.
- Maximum Policy Amount: $65 million
- Policy Terms Offered: 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
- Medical Exam Requirement: Not required on most policies
- Age Ranges Covered: 18 to 80
- Other Policy Types Offered: Whole life, universal life, children’s whole life, and accidental death
What Holds it Back: If you need a policy that’s greater than $100,000, you’ll need to contact a Mutual of Omaha insurance agent, rather than completing the process online.
Check out our full Mutual of Omaha Review!
5. MassMutual Review
MassMutual is a full-service life insurance provider. In fact, it’s the full-service parent of the online life insurance provider, Haven Life (see next review). It’s one of the top companies in the industry, garnering the highest financial strength ranking from A.M. Best, at “A++” Superior. The company also offers a full range of financial services, including investments and retirement planning.
Why it Made the List: MassMutual allows conversion of their Vantage Term life insurance policies to permanent life insurance without any medical questions or exams. If you’re looking for a quick approval, they also offer their Direct Term Life Insurance that becomes effective upon application approval. However, applicants must submit to a medical exam within 90 days of approval. Depending on the results of the medical exam, your premium may be adjusted higher or lower.
- Maximum Policy Amount: $10 million on Vantage Term, $2 million on Direct Term
- Policy Terms Offered: 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years
- Medical Exam Requirement: Yes
- Age Ranges Covered: 18 to 64
- Other Policy Types Offered: Whole life, universal life, variable life and guaranteed acceptance life
What Holds it Back: MassMutual requires medical exams on most term life insurance policies. On Direct Term, your premium may be adjusted based on the results of your medical exam. Though the policy will provide a quick approval, the premium is not entirely guaranteed upfront.
Check out our full Mass Mutual Review!
6. Haven Life Review
Part of the MassMutual organization, and functioning as its online life insurance portal, Haven Life is another of the growing list of life insurance fintech providers. It works with a narrow list of customers but provides very competitive pricing within the group.
Why it Made the List: Haven Life offers its InstantTerm policy that will give you a decision on your application in a matter of minutes. And not only do they render a quick decision, but the policy is in force as soon as you sign the necessary documents and make your first premium payment. In that way, it may be possible to get a life insurance policy in as little as one day. That’s one of the most disruptive business models in the life insurance industry!
The company specifically targets applicants who are in excellent health and no more than 59 years old. If you meet those qualifications, and you’re applying for a policy amount of no more than $1 million, no medical exam will be required. If you don’t, an exam will be required, which can add 10 days or more to the process.
- Maximum Policy Amount: $3 million
- Policy Terms Offered: 10, 15, 20 and 30 years
- Medical Exam Requirement: No on most policies
- Age Ranges Covered: 18 to 64
- Other Policy Types Offered: Term policies only
What Holds it Back: Like other online life insurance providers specializing in low-cost coverage, policies can be difficult to impossible to get if you are in less than excellent health.
Check out our Haven Life Review!
7. Sproutt Review
Sproutt has only been in operation for a little over one year but they’re already making inroads as an online source of term life insurance for people in less-than-perfect health. The company isn’t a direct insurance provider, but rather a comparison site. You complete a single online application that will be reviewed and underwritten by some of the biggest insurance companies in the business.
Why it Made the List: What sets Sproutt apart from the competition is that they do target consumers with health conditions. And even with those conditions, no medical exam is required. What’s more, the company imposes no age limit on applicants.
They offer several types of term policies, but the most interesting is the graded death benefit policy. It offers a tiered benefit to those who are in less-than-perfect health. For example, you may receive 25% of the death benefit within the first year of the policy, 50% in the second, and 100% thereafter.
Maximum Policy Amount: $5 million
Policy Terms Offered: 10, 15, 20 and 30 years
Medical Exam Requirement: No
Age Ranges Covered: No age limit
Other Policy Types Offered: Term life only
What Holds it Back: Because Sproutt accepts applicants with health conditions, it’s likely their premiums will be higher than other companies on this list who charge very low premiums for applicants in excellent health.
Term Life Insurance vs. Whole Life Insurance — What’s the Difference?
There are two primary types of life insurance: term life insurance and whole life insurance.
The primary difference between the two policy types is that term is pure life insurance. That is, it’s life insurance with no cash value accumulation and no investment provision. It’s much cheaper than whole life – typically only about 10% of the cost of an equivalent amount of whole life coverage. Whole life is much more expensive precisely because of the cash value accumulation feature.
And while whole life insurance represents permanent life insurance (your policy cannot be canceled or terminated except for nonpayment of premium), term life runs only the length of the stated term of the policy. However, in most cases you’re able to renew a term policy at the end of the term for a specific number of years, even without providing proof of insurability. But because you are older at the time of the renewal, the new premium will be higher based on your age.
But still another very significant difference between the two is fees. Because there is no cash value, term life has much lower fees. With whole life, the fees are substantial, so much so that the cash value accumulation in the first few years will be minimal. This is the time during the whole life policy cycle when a disproportionate amount of the premiums paid are going to cover insurance fees.
If you don’t want to pay a lot for life insurance, or you need to purchase a large policy without paying a big premium, term life is definitely the better of the two. It’s also the policy type most often recommended by financial advisors.
What You Need to Know About Term Life Insurance
The Industry is Moving Online, But Not for Everyone
The insurance industry, like so many others, is increasingly moving to an automated, online process. That reduces or completely removes human contact from the application. That’s a major reason why purchasing life insurance online – especially term life insurance – is typically cheaper than working with an insurance agent or directly with a life insurance company.
But you should also be aware that the process results in a much more targeted product.
For example, you’ve probably noticed that the online fintech companies are the ones most likely to offer no medical exam across-the-board. But they do that by being highly selective in their customer base. Most work specifically or exclusively with younger applicants who are in excellent health. And if you qualify on both counts, you should certainly make an application with one or more of those companies.
But if you’re over 50, have any significant health conditions, or have certain specific life insurance needs, the better choice will be a full service, human assisted life insurance provider. This is a major reason why we gave our top rating to AIG. Fast and inexpensive isn’t always the best solution for everyone.
Typically Term Life Insurance Costs Less
Also, the primary advantage of term life insurance is that it’s much less expensive than permanent life insurance policies. You should take advantage of that in every way. That means coming up with a mix of a higher death benefit at a lower premium than you can get with permanent coverage.
And while you’re at it, use the savings from your term life policy to invest. Because investment type life insurance policies charge such high fees, you can almost always do a better job yourself by investing in exchange traded funds instead. Be sure to take advantage of that benefit after you purchase your term life policy.
How We Found the Best Term Life Insurance
To determine the best term life insurance, we used the following five factors in ranking the seven companies:
Maximum Policy Amount
Not everyone needs a multimillion-dollar life insurance policy. Most consumers will be adequately covered with anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 under the most common circumstances. But the amount of coverage an insurance company offers is a major factor in determining the desirability of the company. The ability to go over $1 million, perhaps significantly, is an important option.
This may be especially true of term life insurance, since it’s often needed in higher amounts at certain times of life than others. For example, you may find you need more than $1 million in coverage when you are raising a family and have a mortgage in your 30s and 40s. But once your mortgage is paid and your children are emancipated, your need for life insurance will decline.
Policy Terms Offered
The most common terms for term life insurance policies range between 10 and 30 years. All but one of the seven best life insurance companies we’ve recommended go to 30 years. This is super important with term life insurance, since a 30-year policy comes very close to the benefits provided by whole life insurance-
Medical Exam Requirement
This one is something of a mixed bag. If you are young and healthy, and don’t want to submit to a medical exam, you’ll have an opportunity to get low-cost life insurance with companies that specialize in that niche.
However, no medical exam is not always an advantage price-wise. Unless the company specializes in no exam policies, you’ll generally pay more than you will if you submit to an exam.
One other important limitation of no medical exam policies is that they commonly exclude applicants over a certain age or those showing evidence of significant health conditions. It’s a nice option to have, but it serves a very narrow target market.
Age Ranges Covered
Term life insurance is generally better for those who are younger and may have a need for a large amount of insurance coverage at a low premium. But it can become prohibitively expensive as you get older, particularly if you’re over 50.
Still, providing term insurance for higher ages is a definite advantage. For that reason, we considered the age range offered by each company as a significant factor in each of our reviews.
Other Policy Types Offered
Though we’re specifically evaluating the best term life insurance in this guide, we’ve also considered the availability of other types of life insurance to be beneficial. If for any reason your needs will not be best served by term insurance, the ability to purchase other types of insurance, particularly permanent coverage, can be an important benefit.
For example, even if you intend to take a term policy, several years later you may decide to add a whole life policy based on a change in your life circumstances.
Summary: Best Term Life Insurance
The table below is a summary presentation of the basic features offered by each of the best term life insurance companies:
|Company||Maximum Policy Amount||Policy Terms Offered||Medical Exam Requirement||Age Ranges Covered||Other Policy Types Offered|
|AIG||$2 million||10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years||In limited applications||20 to 70||Whole life, universal life, guaranteed issue whole life and accidental death|
|Bestow||$1 million||2, 10 and 20 years||No||21 to 45 for 20-year policies; 21 to 54 for 2- and 10-year policies||Term life only|
|Ladder Life||$8 million||10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years||Depends on health condition||20 to 60||Term life only|
|Mutual of Omaha||$65 million||10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years||Not required on most policies||18 to 80||Whole life, universal life, children’s whole life, and accidental death|
|MassMutual||$10 million on Vantage Term, $2 million on Direct Term||10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years||Yes||18 to 64||Whole life, universal life, variable life and guaranteed acceptance life|
|Haven Life||$3 million||10, 15, 20 and 30 years||No on most policies||18 to 64||Term life only|
|Sproutt||$5 million||10, 15, 20 and 30 years||No||No age limit||Term life only|
This White Man’s Journey to Understanding Racism in America
These are incredibly challenging times right now, aren’t they?
For months now, we’ve been dealing with COVID-19 and the isolation that comes with it. As if that weren’t enough, we’ve had three racially motivated killings during the same time.
Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by a father and son, one of whom is a retired police officer.
Breanna Taylor was shot in her apartment (8 or more times) while in bed. They said they were searching for a suspect who allegedly was already in custody (according to a lawsuit filed).
And the final, most egregious of them all was the murder of George Floyd. A Minneapolis police officer held his knee on this man’s neck for over 8 minutes, suffocating and killing him senselessly while other officers stood by and watched. The look on his face and the lack of emotion in what he was doing was stunning.
As I’ve watched the outrage on the news and, more importantly, on social media, I’ve been surprised, amazed, and, if I’m honest, pretty angry about what I’ve seen.
During the most recent killing of innocent black men and women, I’ve seen many people, especially white people, like me, asking what they can do. That’s good. We should be asking that question. We should have been asking that question and doing something about it for years.
Conversely, I’ve seen far too many people expressing uninformed, often harsh opinions on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. They express outrage over what’s happening. They shame people who don’t feel that outrage. That self-righteousness grates on me.
Over the past few years, that’s the pattern I’ve observed. Another police officer kills an innocent black man or woman. Media goes into a feeding frenzy over it. Everyone suddenly expresses outrage that this is happening and goes out of their way to show their anger.
A Pattern Repeats Itself
Here’s the question – Where have they been over the last several decades? Do they think this is something new? If so, that’s sad. It’s been going on for hundreds of years.
Here’s another question. Will the outrage be different this time? Will it turn into action after the news dies down? Because so far, that hasn’t been true. As one involved in this battle, it’s pretty hard to see this pattern repeating itself yet again.
I’m hoping that hearing the story of how I went from an indifferent, disconnected, and a biased white person to the man I am today will offer some answers as to what you (we) as a majority community can do to affect change. I’m no saint. Nor do I have all the answers. If we’re honest with ourselves, all of us have racism in our hearts at some level.
For those asking the question of what they can do, I will share my ideas in this post. My comments are based solely on personal experience. Take it or leave it. It’s up to you. And I will not try to shame you for what you are or aren’t doing right now.
With that wordy intro, let’s get started.
A Sheltered Childhood
Who am I? I’m a white male Baby Boomer. I grew up in Zionsville, IN, an all-white community just outside of Indianapolis. The only time I saw black people were on the news, usually those arrested for committing a crime of some sort. The other times were on the basketball court when my HS team played a Marion County school that had black players. There were no schools in Boone County, where Zionsville was, or most any other school on our regular basketball schedule.
I heard and was a part of tasteless jokes about blacks. The N-word was common among friends. I never had a black friend. Nor had I ever had a meaningful conversation with anyone of color. I suspect many of you who are reading this grew up in similar circumstances, whether you are black, brown, Asian, white, or any other ethnicity, likely hung out and grew up with people of the same or similar ethnicity and background.
We don’t have a choice where we grow up. That choice comes when we’re on our own.
It seems that many of us form opinions about other people groups based on information we get from other people, be it friends, the mainstream media, or social media.
That brings up a question I asked myself many years ago.
If, as a white person, I don’t have relationships with African Americans, how can I form such strong opinions and stereotypes about them? Where did I get the information that shapes those stereotypes and views? If it’s from the media, how do you think it gets portrayed? Do you ever see the media show blacks in a good light? Rarely.
In most cases, they show blacks at their worst. They emphasize gangs, guns, and violence. The portrayal is of a group of people who are criminals to be feared.
That was my view for the longest time too. I had no relationships with anyone of another race, let alone another culture. There were no blacks in my neighborhood, my town, my school, or anywhere around me. Even in college, nothing changed. I hung out with people who looked like me. I was oblivious to the concerns I heard on the news from blacks about being mistreated. It didn’t affect me, so I didn’t pay attention to it.
When my wife, Cathy, and I moved to Indianapolis from where we were living in Bloomington, IN, we started attending Second Presbyterian Church (Second). My brother and his wife attended there. We were looking for a church, so we gave it a try. That was in 1984. Second Pres. was one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the city. That didn’t include us but did include many of the area’s business and civic leaders.
The former Mayor of Indianapolis, William Hudnut, was the pastor at Second before becoming Mayor. The CEO of Ely Lilly, some of the city’s top lawyers, doctors, and business leaders, were members and in leadership at Second.
The Event that Changed Us
A Senseless Killing
Somewhere around 1987, racial tensions in the city were escalating (sound familiar?). During that time, Michael Taylor, a seventeen-year-old boy, was arrested. I don’t remember the reason for the arrest. He was handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police car. Somehow, he ended up shot and killed while handcuffed in the back seat of the police cruiser.
Protests began immediately. Leaders of black churches raised their voices. After the police investigated the killing, they determined that Michael Taylor had somehow committed suicide with the police officer’s gun while handcuffed, hands behind his back, in the back seat of the police car. I’m not joking. That’s what they drummed up at the time.
Tensions went through the roof. The Mayor of Indianapolis at the time, Stephen Goldsmith, called together white and black pastors of the largest and most influential churches in the city asking for help. It was there that our pastor, William Enright, met the pastor of Light of the World Christian Church, T. Garrot Benjamin. After the meeting, Tom Benjamin invited Bill Enright to do something together as churches.
In typical grand thinking, pastor Benjamin suggested the two churches shut down their doors on Easter Sunday and do a joint worship service in one of their churches. He was ready to roll. Since Bill’s church is Presbyterian, run by elders, and required to do things “decently and in order,” Bill told Tom he liked the idea, but it would take some time to work through the system.
The Planning Begins
I don’t recall exactly how long it took, but it was at least a year before anything got scheduled. A group of people from each church got together to talk about and plan an event. It was during this time that I met Andy Hunt.
Andy was the business manager for Light of the World Church. He and his wife Sandra and their three children moved to Indy from Atlanta for Andy to take that position. More on that shortly.
Our group met regularly and finally came up with a plan. We would hold a joint worship service, not on Easter, but a regular Sunday at Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis. We scheduled the event and continued meeting to plan the details.
The Celebration of Hope
The name for the event was The Celebration of Hope. We felt it captured what we were trying to portray. The hope that blacks and whites could come together in unity to worship, pray, and fellowship together. And that’s precisely what we did.
It was a beautiful experience. Our two choirs, with entirely different styles, sang together. Ushers from each church led people to seats. Elders from both churches served communion. We took an offering that day. It was divided equally between the two churches.
James Forbes, who at the time pastored Riverside Church in NY City, gave the message.
The auditorium was packed. Most of us in attendance had never experienced a worship service like it.
I mentioned that I met Andy Hunt during the planning meetings. He and I hit it off almost immediately. We decided it would be good to get our wives together for a meal. So we did. Cathy and Sandra hit it off as well.
As we talked about the event, we realized something was missing. It was great to get together in large groups for a single event. But what we needed was to build personal relationships with each other.
To accomplish that, we decided to start a dinner group with couples from each church. At its peak, we had six or seven couples who were part of it. We met for dinner monthly. A different couple hosted each month. We continued meeting for a couple of years. It was a fantastic experience for all of us.
We learned that, despite our different backgrounds and experiences, we had far more in common than differences. We all loved our kids. Many had struggled with jobs, finances, relationships, etc. There was one difference. For the first time, the whites in the group heard about what it’s like to be black in a predominantly white world.
It was eye-opening and shocking to most of us. We had no idea what blacks, especially black males, had to deal with daily. Remember, we all came together after the Michael Taylor shooting. For blacks, this was a regular part of their lives. Fear of that happening to them was real. For whites, we thought it was an isolated incident. How wrong we were.
A Moment of Truth
Andy and I continued to meet for lunch, and the four of us for dinner fairly regularly. But there was something that was bothering me about his and my relationship. I would talk to him about pressing issues in my life. He listened, but I always felt he kept a distance. As time went on, I continued to feel like he was holding me at arm’s length.
Finally, I’d had enough. Keep in mind; this was before email, texting, and the things we take for granted today. So, I sent Andy a letter. In the letter, I told him I was tired of trying to get close to him and to get pushed away continually. I said I wasn’t looking for any more shallow, surface relationships. I already had plenty of those. But if he wanted to start opening up to me and share his life, I was all in. I told him I didn’t know what his problem was, but that I didn’t cause it.
As soon as Andy got the letter, I got a phone call from him. He was on the verge of tears and asked if we could have lunch. We went to Hoolihan’s a couple of days later, where he finally opened his heart and told me his story.
Crying Over Nachos
Andy and Sandy were in the process of moving to Atlanta. That’s where Sandra’s family lives. They just had their first child, Drew. Sandy and Drew went back to Atlanta while Andy stayed behind in California to finalize things with his job.
Sandra’s mother loved Drew. It was her first grandchild. When she and Drew were together, grandma had Drew in her arms. One Saturday afternoon, they decided to visit a new mall that opened up in Cobb County. So Sandra, Drew, grandma, and grandpa got in the car and headed to the mall.
As they pulled on to the ramp to the mall exit, a car full of young white men pulled beside them. They rolled down the windows and yelled the following: “What are you n***ers doing up here in Cobb County. You got your own n***er malls where you come from. You need to get your asses back to your n***er malls and get out of Cobb County.”
Grandpa decided he needed to defend the honor of his family. So he was going after the boys. In the back seat, grandma said to Sandra, “take Drew.” Remember, that was something that just didn’t happen. Drew and his grandma were inseparable. She passed Drew to Sandra, had a massive heart attack and died in the back seat of the car.
As Andy told this story, I was balling like a baby. He could barely get the story out himself. What came next changed the nature of our relationship forever. He told me that after that happened to Sandra’s grandmother, he’s hated white people ever since. He said words that resonate with me to this day. I use them often. He said I let an incident become an indictment. The incident killed Drew’s grandmother. He indicted all white people as a result—powerful and poignant words.
Changed Hearts and a Changed Relationship
That lunch happened almost thirty years ago. Other than my wife, Andy, is my closest friend in the world. He is truly a brother from another mother. The four of us have walked through life together ever since. We have vacationed together almost every year for the last twenty years.
One of the life missions for Andy and me is to do what we can to foster racial reconciliation. We have been a part of starting three Great Banquet ministries. The Great Banquet is a three day spiritual renewal weekend. Other versions you may have heard of ar Walk to Emmaus, the Catholic Cursillo, and the Tres Dias.
In 1995, I attended my first Great Banquet. Ironically, it was in Zionsville, IN. That’s the small white town where I grew up. I invited Andy to go there several times. He always had an excuse for why he couldn’t attend. Once we started a community at Second, he and one of our other mutual friends from Light of the World church finally participated.
The Truth Comes Out
I later learned the reason they wouldn’t go to Zionsville. It was because of its reputation as a racist, all-white town. Once it moved to Second, they were all in!
That community now has probably around 3,000 or more members. Andy and Bill, our other friend, invited dozens of people from Light of the World church to the Banquet weekends. What started as an all-white group, now boasts a diversity that probably consists of 40% or more people of color. They’ve gone on to do more things together as churches. May personal friendships across racial lines now exist.
When Cathy and I moved to Northern Virginia in 1998, we started another Great Banquet out here. Our first weekend was in October 2001, right after the 911 terrorist attacks. One of our primary goals was to build a racially, diverse community. God has blessed that goal. Once again, with intentionality, the local community is close to 2,000 strong and of a similar level of diversity. Because it’s in NOVA, that diversity expands beyond blacks to include many Latinos and Asian Americans.
It Starts with Relationships
By now, many of you might be wondering what’s the point of all of this. That’s a legitimate question.
Here’s the point. If whites and blacks don’t start building relationships with one another on a personal level, I don’t see how meaningful change takes place.
When our opinions come, not out of our personal experience, but from media or others, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to have empathy and understanding of the pain of our black and brown brothers and sisters.
Until the Celebration of Hope and my friendship with Andy, I certainly didn’t. The result of that friendship has changed my life. It’s changed Cathy and Sandra’s lives as well. It’s made it easier for me to develop relationships with other people of color. It gives me a perspective of events I see that I would never have without these relationships. There is absolutely no way I’d have the empathy I do without hearing Andy’s and others’ stories. It puts faces with the struggles. I hear real-life, often chilling accounts of what they deal with daily.
Where to Start
At times like these, many people want to know what they can do; where to start. Here’s my suggestion. If you’re white, you know someone, either at work, at your kids’ schools, sports, or somewhere who is black or brown. Pick up the phone today and call them. Don’t worry about what to say. Keep it simple. Ask how they’re doing with everything going on right now. Ask them if you can have a cup of coffee (socially distant, of course) to chat.
You don’t have to have any profound conversation planned in your head. Just say you’d like to get to know them better. Let them know you stand with them in their pain. Ask them how you can support them. Be willing to hear their passion, rage, tears, or whatever comes up. Understand that for them, the George Floyd murder was the tipping point. It’s the accumulation of decades of discrimination, of life devalued and being thought of as lesser than.
A pastor friend of mine said it best. Just engage in the ministry of presence. Be with them in their pain.
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
African Americans are tired. They are tired of being pulled over for DWB (driving while black), tired of having conversations with their sons about how to behave if you’re pulled over by police, tired of wondering whether their sons will come home that night.
They are tired of being followed in stores, tired of having to explain why they’re walking in your neighborhood, which also happens to be theirs. A friend gets a visit by the local police almost every time a new owner moves into his neighborhood on his street. It usually goes something like this. He’s out working in the yard, or even walking down his driveway. The new neighbor calls the cops to report a man who appears to be doing something untoward. They know Dave well. Many have been to his house before. But because they were called, they have to respond. So they come, have a brief conversation, and report to the new neighbor they live there.
They are tired of gentrification, being pushed out of their homes and neighborhoods in the name of economic development.
They are tired of being turned down for loans, even though they have the same income, credit scores, and qualifications. If you don’t know this history, research redlining, a policy that kept blacks from buying houses, one of the most significant sources of wealth for white Americans.
They are tired of being overlooked for promotions for jobs in which they are equally or even more qualified than their white counterparts. I have not only read about all of this, but I’ve heard personal stories from people I know.
Don’t get defensive if that’s what you hear. Even though it may not feel real or right to you, it is real to them. Think about it. As a white father, have you ever had to have that conversation with your son? I know I haven’t. It’s not something that ever crossed my mind. But every African American father I’ve met has had that conversation with their sons.
Please understand. I don’t offer these things as some sort of expert on the topic. I’m not. In the years I’ve spent with Andy, Sandra, and many other African Americans, these are some of the things I’ve come to know. They come from conversations with many people with whom I’ve developed relationships over the years.
Two Types of Responses
I’ve seen two types of responses from whites during this and other times of police killings of blacks. The first, and most damaging, is the opinionated, self-righteous person who spouts off about blacks being their own worst enemies; that if they’d just comply with police, they wouldn’t get killed. Or one of the favorites, something like, “I don’t know why they’re bitching all the time. They have the same opportunities the rest of us do.” These words have to be coming from people who have never had a meaningful conversation or relationships with a black or brown person. Because if they did, there is no way those words would cross their lips.
The other response and one I appreciate is, “what can I do?” I hope the suggestions above provide some ideas. Sometimes, we make things more complicated than they are. We want to make a big difference. Start with one person. See where that goes. You’d be surprised at what you will learn. But it won’t happen overnight. Andy’s and my story is a perfect example of that. The person you’re sitting across from has lots of years of mistrust for white people built into their lives. It’s not personal. Be patient, and keep showing up.
For another perspective on the topic, I highly recommend this article from Josh at Money Life Wax – My Next Door Neighbor is African American and My Other Neighbor is a Cop
The most important thing I’ve learned and been the most grieved about is that this is a way of life for black and brown people every day. We are all stirred by the senseless and inhuman murder of George Floyd. Remember Michael Taylor, the death that birthed the Celebration of Hope and my friendship with Andy and his family. That was 1987. Redlining started in the Roosevelt administration. Woodrow Wilson screened the Birth of a Nation in the White House. If you don’t know what that is, look it up.
Racism is in the very fabric of America. Is it better? Yes? Is it over? Not by a long shot. It won’t end until whites get involved and demand changes. What you’re witnessing now in cities across the country is a release of hundreds of years of frustration and anger at a system that refuses to change. It’s a shame that people are destroying businesses and looting stores. That’s criminal and, for many, reinforces the stereotypes many whites have of blacks.
But let’s not be too quick to judge. Put yourselves in their shoes. Peaceful protests have not brought about meaningful changes. When another police murder happens, the pent up frustration reaches a peak. When there are three in a row like now, it can and did reach a breaking point.
They want and deserve change; to be treated with respect; to feel like their lives mean something in a free society. I’m asking my white brothers and sisters to join me in saying, we hear you. We value and stand with you. We will walk with you in pushing for changes that make a difference.
If we do that, things can and will change. If we don’t, I’m afraid what we’re seeing now will be the way of life for the foreseeable future.
The post This White Man’s Journey to Understanding Racism in America appeared first on Your Money Geek.
The Best Portfolio Analysis Tools For 2020
Tracking and analyzing your investments can be a complicated and time-consuming task. Between expense ratios, dividend yields, management fees, tax planning, and asset allocation, there can be a lot of moving parts to keep track of.
But thankfully there are now many powerful portfolio analysis tools that can save you time and headache. Some tools are free, while others cost money. Some offer deep insights while others keep the analysis at a higher level.
While it’s great that there are now many options available for investors who want to evaluate their portfolios, it can be difficult to tell which ones are the best. Don’t worry. We’ve done the homework for you. Keep reading to see which companies made our short list of the best portfolio analysis tools available today.
Top 3 Picks For Portfolio Analyzer Tools
Here’s our top 3 picks for portfolio analyzer tools. If you’re not using one of these analyzers, we strongly encourage you to check them out for your portfolio planning needs.
Best High-Level Visualizations: Personal Capital
Personal Capital is a free portfolio analysis tool that gives a “mosaic” plot chart to help you visualize the composition of your portfolio. It breaks down your portfolio into stocks, bonds, international, domestic, and other important categories.
Personal Capital made our list of the best portfolio analysis tools primarily because of the huge variety of calculators and charts that it offer. In addition to the mosaic chart, Personal Capital can track your net worth, cash flow, and will provide personalized investing recommendations and insights.
Although Personal Capital is a free tool, there are a few strings attached. It serves as an advertising platform for Personal Capital’s advisory services. When you first sign up, you may receive a few calls from financial advisors looking for your business.
- Free: A great tool comes at the best possible price.
- Excellent visualizations: While I’m not a huge fan of Personal Capital’s pie charts, the majority of their charts and graphs are helpful for investors trying to make sense of their portfolio.
- Helpful recommendations for the average investor: The app makes high-level recommendations about where your asset allocation should be given your risk tolerance and your age. Their recommendations aren’t always a perfect fit for everyone, but can be a great starting place for beginner investors.
- May receive phone calls from Personal Capital: If you’ve got a six-figure portfolio, expect a few calls from Personal Capital representatives. It may be annoying at first. But after a few calls, you’ll be able to use the tool for free without being hassled.
- Minimal insight into volatility: Personal Capital doesn’t give much insight into expected volatility unless you dig deep into the recommendations section.
Best Probability-Based Tool: Portfolio Visualizer
Portfolio Visualizer is one of the most robust portfolio analysis tools on the market. It specializes in Monte Carlo simulations (which give the probability of a portfolio lasting a specified period of time), backtesting, and various forms of asset allocation analysis. The tool also provides some insights into timing strategies.
Portfolio Visualizer is ideal for investors who enjoy tinkering with their portfolio. But you’ll also want to be someone who’s committed enough to your basic investing strategy that you won’t be tempted to dump it every time you come across a new tool in Portfolio Visualizer.
- Monte Carlo and Backtesting: Probability-based portfolio analysis is key for people trying to do DIY retirement or college planning. Portfolio Visualizer provides easy to use and easy to understand options for both of these.
- Robust free plan: The free version of Portfolio Visualizer provides all the major functionality except exports to Excel or CSV files and the ability to import portfolios. But if you simply want to understand the tool, the free plan is excellent.
- Must pay to import portfolios: It costs $19 per month for a “basic” subscription to the tool. This includes importing and saving portfolios and exports to CSV or Excel files. Investors who own lots of individual stocks will probably need to upgrade to this option.
- Expansive set of tools can be overwhelming: With great power comes great responsibility. In spite of the educational materials on the site, Portfolio Visualizer can be overwhelming especially for people just getting started. I recommend familiarizing yourself with basic investing concepts using Personal Capital or Morningstar Portfolio Manager before digging into this advanced tool.
Best For Mutual Fund And ETF Investors: Morningstar Portfolio Manager
Morningstar is one of the premier portfolio analysis tools for everyday investors looking to understand more about their investment portfolio. Morningstar’s Portfolio Manager is a free tool that gives details on stocks, ETFs and mutual funds.
The X-Ray tool also gives a deep dive into each mutual fund or ETF to give details that other analysis tools might miss. For example, it uncovers hidden fees and shows whether you may be accidentally over-invested in a single stock due to a fund’s allocation.
- Easy to understand: The charts and statistics that morningstar provide are easy to understand, even for people who don’t have a lot of background in investing.
- Focused on the right details: Most investors need to understand their asset allocation and the fees they are paying.The Morningstar tool provides details on these but doesn’t overwhelm with too much information.
- Have to manually enter portfolios: Unlike many portfolio analysis tools, Morningstar’s Portfolio Manager cannot connect to your brokerage account. You must manually enter all your portfolio positions.
- Accessing the best tools requires a paid subscription: While Morningstar Portfolio Manager is completely free, X-Ray is part of the Morningstar Premium service which costs $199 per year. However, you can try a 14-day trial for free.
The portfolio analysis tools outlined above are excellent. But as robust as they are, they won’t meet every need. A lot of times, the best tools for improving your finances are tools that help you manage your cash flow. For this type of need, a free app like Mint, Clarity Money or Emma may make more sense.
For the spreadsheet inclined, Tiller Money can help with net worth tracking and cash flow management. Or if you wanting to see how your investing portfolio fits into your overall financial plan, tools like Savology or NewRetirement could be better options.
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