LAST REVIEWED Sep 18 2019 13 MIN READ
By Damian Davila
Scientist and author Francis Bacon said it best, “Knowledge is power”. Whether you’re looking to prevent lifestyle creep with smart budgeting or evaluating who to hire as your financial advisor, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions related to personal finance when you have the right information available. Let’s review 11 key resources that can help you improve your level of financial literacy and empower you to achieve your financial goals.
Four Must-Read Books
From timeless classics to recent bestsellers, here are some good titles to load up on your e-reader or pick up on your next visit to the bookstore or library.
1. The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing
The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing If you read the annual letters that Warren Buffett writes to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, you’ll quickly notice that he often cites this book from Benjamin Graham. This book provides solid arguments in favor of efficient market theory, reinforces the idea that you should approach investments in a mathematical, emotionless manner, and reminds of the importance of minimizing investment fees. Who it’s good for: Beginning investors. It’s a great introduction to value investing, which is seeking stocks with an intrinsic value higher than their market price.
2. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness Known for his popular radio show, Dave Ramsey crafted a very down-to-earth and down-to-business manual to work hard, pay what you owe, and stay out of debt. The Total Money Makeover provides a series of “baby steps” that are easy to follow and come with spreadsheet templates to help you track your progress. Who it’s good for: If you’re overwhelmed by debt but committed to slaying your debt monster, this is for you.
3. Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?: 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By
Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?: 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By Talking about financial literacy, you’d be surprised to find out at how little of it is actually thought at schools! To address this issue, businessman Cary Siegel put together a list of eight lessons focusing on 99 personal money management principles. Who it’s good for: is a great resource for adults in their twenties and thirties who are just starting out their professional lives and need to fill in knowledge gaps in personal finance. A great graduation gift!
4. What All Kids (and Adults Too) Should Know About…Saving & Investing
What All Kids Should Know About…Saving & Investing If you could go back in time, you’d surely tell yourself to start saving and investing earlier. Until we actually figure out time travel, the next best thing is to empower your children or young relatives to make the right personal finance decisions. With What All Kids Should Know, investor, entrepreneur, and author Rob Pivnick achieved a good balance between making saving and investing accessible to middle and high school aged kids and providing a good refresher of basics for adults. A great resource for kids (middle and high school aged) to read by themselves or with their parents.
Three Must-Use Online Tools
From estimating your annual tax liability to calculating your Social Security benefit, here are the top four online tools to bookmark on your browser.
1. IRS Withholding Calculator
IRS Withholding Calculator Every year you have to file your taxes, but still every year you seem to be surprised at the outcome. Either you end up finding out that you owe Uncle Sam a couple hundred or thousand dollars or you get a very large refund. Neither outcome is good for your finances: the first one forces you to spend savings or get into debt and the second one pays you no interest for all that time you waited for the refund. A better approach is to use the IRS Withholding Calculator to estimate your tax liability throughout the year and make adjustments to your W-4 form as necessary. This way you’ll withhold only the necessary and get more breathing room in your monthly budget throughout the year. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use the calculator and adjust your W-4 form: How to Adjust Your Tax Withholding for 2017.
2. my Social Security
my Social Security While contributing to your employee-sponsored retirement account is a must, keep in mind that your income entitles you to Social Security benefits. Depending on our unique situation, you may be entitled to retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. Instead of waiting until age 25 and then every five years to receive a statement from the Social Security Administration, sign up for a my Social Security account to keep track of the annual earnings posted on your account. By verifying the posted earnings against those ones from your W-2 forms, you’ll make sure that you’ll receive the benefits that you’re entitled to. Also, you’ll have a better picture of your expected monthly benefits if you were to retire early at age 62, at full retirement age (age 65-67, depending on your birth year), or age 70. Also read: Critical Milestones and Ages on Your Path to Retirement
AnnualCreditReport.com When managed responsibly, debt can be a useful tool to improve your financial situation and acquire substantial assets. No matter what credit score you keep track of, all credit reporting agencies that generate those scores utilize the information from your official credit report. Through AnnualCreditReport, you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months. Utilize the report to spot any potential errors, such as a credit card account that you didn’t open, an unknown employer in your work history, or listed bankruptcy that should no longer be there. Another good reason to request your free credit report every year is to protect yourself against identify theft. If you have an issue with your credit report, you can submit a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). To learn more about how to report identity theft and get a recovery plan, visit IdentityTheft.gov.
Four Must-Watch Video (Series)
According to data from Social Science Research Network, about 65% of individuals are visual learners. If you’re among one of them, queue up these videos to improve your personal finance prowess.
1. Investopedia Video Series
Since 1999, Investopedia has provided financial knowledge to its more than 20 million unique visitors per month. While the site is best known for its dictionary of financial terms, Investopedia also offers a series of over 120 video definitions. From the difference between mutual funds and ETFs to the calculation of taxes you’ll owe this tax season, these videos by Investopedia will help you demystify a wide variety of personal finance topics.
2. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Most late night shows are all about gags and laughs but Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has focused and continues to focus on key financial issues in the U.S. While the live show is only available for HBO subscribers, many segments are available for free on YouTube. Here are the key ones to watch:
Credit Reports: Oliver provides several reasons to AnnualCreditReport.com year after year, including the fact that one ouf of every 20 credit histories contains an error!
Predatory Lending: Understand the risks of payday loans and find out some tips on how to get out of this vicious cycle.
Retirement Plans: Beware a potential minefield of high fees and bad advice and get reminded as to why it’s so important to start saving early and year after year. Also, why investing in low-cost index funds for retirement is often the way to go.
The IRS: The taxman gets a bad rap but Oliver puts things into perspective with some interesting facts.
The show is still on the air so keep an eye on its YouTube channel for more personal finance related videos. Here’s a Human Interest favorite (the Retirement Plans video):
3. Great Depression Cooking
It has been said that the four most dangerous words in investing are “This Time It’s Different’. That’s why it’s important to learn from one of the toughest economic eras in U.S. history, the Great Depression. In the Great Depression Cooking video series on YouTube, 98 year old cook, author and great grandmother, Clara, recounts her childhood during the Great Depression as she prepares meals from the era. While Clara has sadly passed away, her teaching and recipes still are around to motivate on your journey to financial success.
4. Khan Academy: Finance and Capital Markets
Sal Khan is a household name in the field of online-based education. In 2005, he started creating videos to help his cousins with their homework and today he is on a mission to provide world-class education to everyone, everywhere. His videos on finance and capital markets are not only organized by categories but also set in a logical sequence.
The bottom line: Knowledge is power
Wishful thinking alone won’t improve your financial situation. It takes dedication, consistency, and drive to learn more. Leverage these personal finance books, online tools, and videos to improve your financial strategy, avoid costly mistakes, and gain more peace of mind when it comes to your finances. Image credit: Raymond Sam
Damian Davila is a Honolulu-based writer with an MBA from the University of Hawaii. He enjoys helping people save money and writes about retirement, taxes, debt, and more.