This week, I’ve been asked to write on my favorite financial resources that help me navigate the financial universe. There are literally thousands of resources dedicated to helping people manage their finances, but for me, it really boils down to just a few simple resources that have helped shape my views about money and have led me to a career teaching others how to manage theirs. I’ve broken them down into the categories of philosophy, curriculum, and tools & resources:
My Financial Philosophy
For those of you that know me, it probably comes as no surprise that I take my financial philosophy from the Bible. The Bible speaks on a number of financial topics, including budgeting, saving, debt, and more. Many of my favorite financial verses are found in the book of Proverbs, much of which is believed to have been written by Solomon. Solomon is considered to have been Israel’s wisest and wealthiest king, so it would make sense that he would have a great deal to say about managing wealth.
For a sample of financial principles mentioned in the Bible, see http://www.daveramsey.com/church/scriptures/.
Favorite Financial Curriculum
At the corporate level, I would naturally name the workshops, webcasts, and one-on-one financial counseling sessions provided by Financial Finesse as my favorite financial curriculum, but not everyone has access to our award-winning services. For the individual that is looking to develop healthy financial habits through structured coursework, I would personally recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. You may be familiar with Dave’s nationally syndicated radio program or one of his bestselling books on the subject of personal finance, but you may not be as familiar with his 13-week instructor led classroom program. Classes are sponsored by local churches and are offered at various times throughout the year. I have personally taught a class, and I think they are one of the most life-changing courses anyone can participate in.
Favorite Financial Tools and Resources
For Money Management
There are a number of financial tools and resources available on the Internet that can help you manage your finances. One of my personal favorites is Mint.com. I have numerous online accounts for everything from online banking to mortgage loans to 401k accounts. Mint.com allows me to consolidate all of that information into one place so I can easily see how I’m doing with managing my cash flow, reducing my debt, and growing my net worth.
There are thousands of lenders out there that are willing to compete for your business. LendingTree is an easy way to find out what terms lenders are willing to offer you based on information you provide. It helps me to know when I’m getting a competitive offer, and when a lender is simply trying to take me for a ride.
As many of you know, you are allowed to request a free copy of your credit report once a year, but only from this website. Monitoring your credit is important because it can help you get better interest rates on your debt and also spot potential identity theft before it gets too far out of control.
Who doesn’t like saving money? LowerMyBills.com is a website dedicated to helping you find the best deals on things like loans, insurance, and cell phone plans.
When it comes to evaluating mutual funds, I turn to Morningstar. Morningstar has been collecting and distributing information on mutual funds for years, and I use it to evaluate the performance, risk, portfolio composition, management, and fees associate with publicly traded mutual funds.
In addition to mutual funds, I occasionally like to play the stock market. Yahoo! Finance has just about everything an investor needs to know, from market commentary to earnings reports. Sometimes it can feel like there is too much information, so it’s best to decide what you are looking for before searching this site for information.
For Financial Calculators
Bankrate.com is an excellent source for information on current interest rates on deposit accounts and lines of credit, but did you also know that Bankrate has an entire library of financial calculators on topics ranging from auto loan payments to retirement plan estimators? Financial calculators are a key to financial planning, so use them whenever you are making an important financial decision.
For College Planning
Whether your student is a newborn or a freshman in high school, there are a number of ways to save for education. Savingforcollege.com is the quintessential website for anyone that is looking for ideas on how to save for education.
In addition to saving for college, it is important to keep up to date on the cost of education and the projected benefits of financial aid. The College Board publishes an annual report on the trends in both the cost of education, and the impact of financial aid.
For Estate Planning
Just hearing the words “estate planning” may send chills down your spine, but for most of us, a basic estate plan starts with just a few basic documents. These two websites not only provide access to inexpensive documents, but they contain a vast array of information on estate planning topics from wills to trusts to probate.
I’ve been working in financial services for 18 years, and these are just a few of the financial resources I tap most frequently when I’m working on my personal financial plan. I hope they are able to help you just as much.