Last night I spoke on a panel for Dartmouth undergraduate students, specifically women from two of the sororities on campus, about personal finance topics. We had prepared a brief presentation for them covering the basics: the importance of saving, account types, taxes and investments. Our presentation took about 15 minutes but an hour and a half later we were still fielding questions from these smart women who were trying to get a handle on everything from which credit card to get, how to prioritize paying off loans versus saving for retirement and what a reasonable budget really looked like. They were surprised by the level of taxes they’d pay right off the bat and had varying levels of understanding of financial topics. There were women in the room that didn’t know what the S&P 500 was and others who were teasing out the differences between investment strategies and vehicles.
One take-away I had from last night is that we need to do a better job educating young people about their money. Decisions you make early in life can set you up for years of enjoying financial security, flexibility and freedom to do the things you want or they can set you up for ever growing challenges including managing debt, credit scores and struggling to make ends meet. Setting it up right the first time saves you money and time in the long run, as well as a lot of stress.
Luckily for these women and for everyone else, the online resources in these category continue to grow and improve. I left them with my favorite websites to start digging into these topics, and I thought I’d share them here as well. The first two sites here, Dailyworth and LearnVest are aimed primarily at women, but have useful tools for anyone who wants a structured way to move forward with education and planning. Both the sites are free services. The rest are tools to keep you on track and learn more about the investment world. Also, note that all the websites I list here are free to use. I strongly believe you shouldn’t have to spend money to save money.
Please share any other sites you love!
Top Personal Finance Websites
Women’s Budgeting and Education:
**START HERE** In my opinion, this is the best site on the web for getting started, getting educated, getting a plan and sticking to it. Whether your goal is to start saving, pay off debt, start investing or just figure out your first budget, they have a plan for you–and it’s all free! You can also pay very modest fees to get an expert involved in helping you shape your plan.
Great for general money education–aimed at women. Daily emails and interesting articles on everything from earning more in your career, starting your own business and saving and budgeting.
Tools for Tracking Investments, Expenses, Budgets:
Mint is a free tool that brings together all your accounts–credit cards, checking, savings, investments, autos, mortgages, you name it. It automatically analyzes your spending and investments, categorizes them, builds you a budget and makes recommendations for ways to save money. The best part is the alerts–sign up to know when your credit card utilization is getting high, your bills are due or your balance in your checking account falls below a certain limit. A great way to keep yourself on track and out of trouble.
If you are not keen on handing over all your financial information to a site like mint, or want to be more mindful of what you are spending every day and not just automate it, this is the site for you. It’s based on the same philosophy as many of us use for dieting–if you write it down, you’ll be more conscientious about what you eat (spend). Every day you get an email and every day you respond detailing what you spent and what category (e.g. #food). It automatically tallies it up and categorizes it, giving you a handle on your daily spending habits.
Tracking Credit Reports and Scores and Credit Education
This is by far the best find of the last 3 years. Credit Karma allows you to access your credit scores, reports and analysis as often as you want–even every day–for free. Not only does it give you access to your own credit information (why should you have to pay for that??) but it tells you how you stack up against the rest of its user base, lets you model out different scenarios (what happens if I open another credit card? apply for a mortgage? pay off all my debt?) and educates you on how it all works.
If you do decide to get some professional help, start here and check out the broker’s record who you are considering. There is no reason to go with a broker who does not have a completely clean record without customer complaints.
All the investment education you could ever need. Start with the tutorials to learn the basics and if you get really into it you can even access all the study materials for all the financial services licensing exams and the CFA exams–literally study up to invest like a pro. Further, there’s a simulator where you can test out your investment strategies and lots of great articles on current investment topics.
- DailyWorth Teams Up With Mint.com To Help Women Turn Financial Advice Into Action (techcrunch.com)
- INFOGRAPHIC: A New Grad’s Guide To Personal Finance (businessinsider.com)
- How to Get a Personalized Financial Plan Without Spending a Fortune [Personal Finance] (lifehacker.com)
- Women And Money: LearnVest Survey Reveals Attitudes On Personal Finances (huffingtonpost.com)