Investing For Your Future Monthly Message
Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Reliable Investment Information Sources
In today’s electronically connected world, there are numerous Web sites with the words “investing,” “money,” or “finances” in their titles. Many can be extremely helpful. However, some may provide questionable advice or be tied to scams such as identity theft or investment fraud.
How do consumers know which investment Web sites are reliable and trustworthy? One way is to look at their URL to learn about the sponsor or creator of a site. Web site addresses ending in .edu are from educational institutions; .org is used in the Web addresses of organizations; .gov are government sites; and .com are commercial sites.
Following is a description of six helpful non-commercial investor education Web sites:
The Investor Protection Trust (IPT)’s Web site www.investorprotection.org provides independent, objective information needed by consumers to make informed investment decisions and serves as an independent source of non-commercial investor education materials. There are a number of booklets on their Web site, such as “Five Keys to Investing Success,” “The Basics for Investing in Stocks,” “A Primer for Investing in Bonds,” “Mutual Funds and ETFs: Maybe All You’ll Ever Need,” and “Maximize Your Retirement Investments.” The IPT Web site also includes investment education materials for financial educators and information about investment fraud.
FINRA is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Its function is to regulate securities firms and stockbrokers. As a not-for-profit financial organization, FINRA offers unbiased information on its Web site www.finra.org on a full range of issues related to money and investments. For example, FINRA recently issued an investor alert urging homeowners to carefully weigh their options before obtaining a reverse mortgage. FINRA also published a comprehensive set of investor education modules at http://www.finrafoundation.org/resources/education/modules/ When printed out in their entirety, the modules are like a basic investment textbook.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC www.sec.gov is the governmental agency that oversees and regulates securities markets in the United States. The SEC also provides information to help consumers invest wisely. For example, its mutual fund cost calculator at http://www.sec.gov/investor/tools/mfcc/mfcc-int.htm can help investors compare the costs of different mutual funds and understand the impact that fees and expenses can have over time. The SEC Web site includes publications such as “Mutual Funds: A Guide for Investors,” “Variable Annuities: What You Should Know,” and “Saving and Investing: A Roadmap to Your Financial Security.”
Rutgers Cooperative Extension or RCE http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/ provides unbiased, research-based information and Web-based tools to help people make better investment decisions. For example, there is an online Investment Risk Tolerance Quiz at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/riskquiz/ that helps users assess their attitudes toward taking investment risks. The quiz has been taken by almost 250,000 people since 2007 and provides a score and an interpretation of what various ranges of scores mean. Other resources on the RCE Web site include Excel templates to calculate net worth and asset allocation, the book Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women, a financial goal-setting worksheet, a spending plan worksheet, and information about federal income tax brackets.
eXtension www.extension.org combines the efforts of more than 70 land grant universities to provide a one-stop shop to access the best educational materials that are developed by Extension across the nation. Personal finance is one of the topics on eXtension’s Web site http://www.extension.org/personal_finance Visitors can learn about everything from investing, retirement, and estate planning to organizing household records and teaching children about money. Other Web site features include frequently asked questions (FAQs), Ask an Expert, free archived webinars, a glossary of financial terms, and online personal finance calculators.
MyMoney.gov www.mymoney.gov serves as the federal government’s one-stop shop for financial education programs and information. Links to financial information are provided by over a dozen federal government agencies. The Web site also has personal finance information for youth, educators, and researchers. Its subject matter content is organized by five areas of personal finance: earning, borrowing, saving and investing, spending, and protecting (insurance).
The Internet has dramatically increased the amount of financial information at the fingertips of consumers—a real plus. The challenge is to locate trustworthy sites with unbiased and accurate information. The Web sites listed above provide valuable research-based information. Knowledge is power and these resources can help improve your investing expertise.
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