I get it—the world of finance can seem intimidating. There are always news stories about scams to avoid and “financial advisors” going to jail. Out of all the advice out there, how do you know who you should listen to and where you should start? Here are three easy ways to educate yourself:
1. The Library
This may sound old-school, but the public library has a wealth of free resources available. I am partial to this suggestion because this is how I started learning about finance myself. I was a college graduate, married, and a homeowner before I really recognized how little I knew about finance. I am not joking–the first book I checked out of the library was “Personal Finance for Dummies.” Now, most public libraries have their catalogs available online to check out as well if you have an e-reader or tablet. Start at the very beginning. Make sure you have a good grasp of the basics (what is a stock? what is a bond?) before you start moving on to more complex topics. Investing does not have to be complicated, and you should be wary of any investments you don’t understand.
2. Your Employer Plan
Do you have an employer plan? By employer plan, I mean a 401(k), 403(b), or a retirement account offered through your employer. If so, it is likely held by a large firm like Vanguard, Fidelity, Charles Schwab, or others. If you do have this option available, try logging in and spending some time looking around their website. Most money managers will have educational material available for free for participants on their websites. There may even be free options provided by your employer to speak with an advisor about your situation. These resources are part of the benefits plan offered to you by an employer, so make sure to take advantage of them!
3. A Fiduciary Advisor
Work with an advisor who is a fiduciary. Investopedia defines a fiduciary as “a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients’ interest ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust.” (Emphasis is mine) The best way to find out if an advisor is a fiduciary? Ask them straight out! A true fiduciary will not hesitate to answer you when you ask this question. Before hiring any advisor, make sure to ask how they are paid and if they receive any commissions on the products they sell.
At Better Money Decisions, we are fee-only advisors who do not work on commission. We will act in your best interest to make sure we help you create a plan that’s right for you. I am passionate about educating my clients about their finances. It’s your money—you should understand what it’s doing! If you want to get started, click on our “Schedule Now” link to book a complimentary introductory session with me or one of my colleagues!