If you’re a novice, whether in your career, saving or investing, the
section called Getting Started? is a great place to begin. Click on the
Facts About Saving and Investing link to figure out what your goals
are, why you want to invest in the first place and what you have to do
to reach your goals. The SEC’s road map guides you through the steps to
get there. Although the Make a Financial Plan page doesn’t have a
calculating function, you can print it to document your net worth,
income and expenses.
Explanations are easygoing and easy to
understand. Pretty impressive for a site developed by the U.S.
government! If you realize you can’t save a dime, for example, here’s
how Investor.gov eases you into making small changes to your spending:
“If you buy a cup of coffee every day for $1 (an awfully good price for
a decent cup of coffee, nowadays), that adds up to $365 a year. If you
saved that $365 for just one year, and put it into a savings account or
investment that earns 5 percent a year, it would grow to $465.84 by the
end of five years, and by the end of 30 years, to $1,577.50.”Three Investing Stages
a full tour through the basics of saving and investing, click on Top
Tips for Getting Started. Two dozen links school you in personal
finance (see screen capture, this page), including an introduction to
asset allocation and diversification, mutual fund terms, how to pick a
financial professional, how to protect yourself online and where to
Investor.gov is relatively new, so don’t be
surprised if you find a few glitches. When selecting the Investment
Products: Your Choices link in the Facts About Saving and Investing
section, for instance, you’re taken to SEC investor alerts, not a
description of what you can invest in.
The site’s second
step is Protect Your Money, perfect for folks who have outgrown only
saving and want to get down to the brass tacks of investing for
long-term goals. The questions that appear when you click on the
Questions to Ask Before Investing link on the home page will help you
pick a mutual fund or a financial adviser, see how your investments are
doing or figure out what to do should problems arise.
you’re a senior, select one of the links under For Seniors, which is
step three. Because seniors are a popular target for fraud, the
Investing Guide for Seniors link opens a document with advice for
steering clear of miscreants trying to separate you from your money.
The Investing for Seniors link offers handy information for avoiding
financial abuse, such as a check list from AARP about what to listen
for at free lunch seminars and a document from the American Bar
Association about abuse of a durable power of attorney.
can explore all the site’s tools by clicking on Tools in the horizontal
navigation bar at the top of any page. They come in three categories:
investor alerts, investor tools and calculators, and investor education
resources.Alerts and Tools
alerts are courtesy of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. You
can learn about phishing, green energy scams, fake checks and other
cons. Not all alerts are about scams, though. You can also find out
what to do if your brokerage goes out of business, why you shouldn’t
use a 401(k) debit card and the ins and outs of reverse mortgages.
provides the tools and calculators for the site, too. With the Fund
Analyzer, you can see the returns a fund provides over different
periods plus the fees and charges you’d have paid during that time.
Sadly, the retirement calculator is too simplistic to provide useful
results; you can’t specify a different return before and during
retirement, for example, to reflect more conservative investment
strategies when you start spending your nest egg.
tools include a database of professional designations, from accredited
asset management specialist to Certified Financial Planner to wealth
management specialist. To help find the right person to meet your
investment planning needs, choose a designation and find out what
organization certifies it, the experience and education required and
You can also try your hand at Moneytopia, a game
FINRA developed. It takes awhile to load and to work through, if you’ve
enjoyed learning to fly with a flight simulator, you might play this
game to find out how to make your finances soar without crashing.Link of the Month
you’re tired of trying to read articles online while ads cling to every
margin, banners blink and images jiggle — infringing on your ability to
focus — try Readability, a free tool you can drag onto your browser’s
Making webpages readable couldn’t be simpler.
Readability is designed to convert a webpage to a newspaper layout with
medium-size text and wide margins, but you can change any of those
settings. Once you’ve done that, drag the Readability button to your
Web browser’s toolbar.
a webpage’s electronic chaff drives you crazy, simply select
Readability on your toolbar. The page becomes simplicity itself.
Everything except text and photos disappears, and you’re left with an
easy-to-read font on an off-white background (see screen capture,
above). And if Readability can’t work its magic with a webpage, just
refresh to see the original version again. Arc90, a
technology-solutions company based in New York City, developed this
great tool.Websites of InterestInvestor.gov
Bonnie Biafore is the author of 24 books about investing, personal
finance, project management, software (such as QuickBooks and Project)
and the recently published novel, Fresh Squeezed. Go to
BonnieBiafore.com to learn more.