Updated on 12.27.07

Six Invaluable Online Resources For Personal Finance Education

Trent Hamm

Occasionally, I bump into web sites and information collections online that are truly impressive in the quality and usefulness of the content. Along with a handful of books, these web sites serve as the primary reference source for the material I write for The Simple Dollar.

Here’s the cream of the crop of online resources for personal finance education. I’ve read through each of these resources in detail and used them time and time again as references for things I”ve written. I hope you find them to be useful as well.

CNNMoney’s Money 101
If you’re just getting started learning about how to manage your money, how credit cards really work, and things like this, CNNMoney’s Money 101 tutorial is a stellar place to get started. The material is neatly broken up into 23 lessons, each of which can be read through in fifteen minutes or so – in other words, it’s a great place to bookmark and go through slowly.

Morningstar’s Investment Classroom
This is a great place to get started learning about how stocks and bonds work, what mutual funds are and how they work, and how to start investing. Better yet, if you go through the entire course, you can earn “credits,” which allow you to get up to sixty days worth of Premium Morningstar.com for free – which can be invaluable information if you’re just beginning to invest and are picking your first mutual fund.

Yahoo! Finance’s Index of Experts
Whenever I’m struggling for insight into a particular idea, I usually turn here to look for perspectives on that idea. Digging around in the archives will almost always help you find a mountain of interesting articles to read, no matter what your specific interest is. I can usually find several different well-written perspectives on whatever my topic might be.

Bankrate.com Financial Calculators
Quite often on The Simple Dollar, I talk about “running the numbers.” Usually for me, that means one of two things: firing up Microsoft Excel or using one of Bankrate.com’s stellar calculator tools. I actually find that, in some cases, the calculators here are more convenient and useful than the equivalent calculators in Excel.

PFBlogs.org is an aggregator of a huge number of personal finance blogs. Although you can’t read full posts there, it’s a great way to get a quick snapshot of what personal finance bloggers are writing about at any given moment. The “recently popular” page there is usually a good place to find fresh, sharp opinions on personal finance topics.

Investopedia University
Once you’ve finished that Morningstar Investment Classroom, this is the next step. It covers a lot of advanced investment topics in a tutorial-like fashion, digging deep into investment theory and how to apply it. I’m still actually absorbing some of this material as I educate myself on how to invest my family’s money as we emerge from debt.

If you have online resources that you find particularly useful, please mention them in the comments!

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  1. junger says:

    I would definitely add the Bogleheads forum @ http://www.diehards.org/forum to the list. It’s a great community of level-headed, experienced investors willing to help anyone with their investment questions.

  2. Great list of starting places Trent. This might be especially useful for someone who plans to start getting a handle on their personal finances in 2008. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great post. I can personally vouch for Morningstar’s lessons, they are great. I also recommend that readers make reading about money and finances a daily routine the way they would read the sports pages or book reviews or People magazine or whatever it is they are passionate about.

    That, to me, is the key to managing all the information that is out there.

  4. Jamie says:

    Ahh! Trent! You forgot The Fool!
    http://www.fool.com/pf.htm (Personal Finance Section)

  5. Colonel Cash says:

    Thanks for the post! Good, reputable sites with a wealth (no pun intended!) of information. Thanks for the great content!

  6. Toby says:

    I love Morningstar and their investor’s classroom is excellent, but I have to comment that it is a *LOT* of work to get the free sixty days. They want you to earn 690 points and each lesson only provides to chance to earn 5 points. You have to complete practically every lesson to get enough points for what is basically the equivalent of a $30 value.

    If you already have a good grasp of investing basics, I would skip to the higher level lessons and not try to earn the free trial, as you will be tremendously bored.

    Also, regarding the Fool. I used to be a member of their pay forums (not any of the newsletters though) and was fairly active. The personal finance boards were fairly busy (especially LBYM) and had a lot of good people. I believe the forums may be free now, but I haven’t been over there lately.

    My beef with the Fool is that their free columns are all in up-sell mode all the time. You start reading some analysis on a stock and by the end of it they are talking about how one of their newsletters uncovered the stock when it was trading at…yada yada. That’s part of the reason I stopped paying for the forums.

  7. Jamie says:

    Toby, I totally agree that they are pushing their newsletters in the stock analysis articles at the Fool. However, if you read some of the educational articles in the personal finance section, there is a lot of good stuff. For example, the car buying tutorial is excellent. http://www.fool.com/car/car.htm

  8. Yahoo and CNN provide the best information in my opinion. Clean, easy to navigate, and frequently updated!

  9. Leisureguy says:

    Not sure whether it counts as an “on-line resource,” but the Excel workbook Within Your Means certainly seems helpful to those starting a budget. More than 14,000 downloads of the free workbook to date.

  10. I love Money 101 and Morningstar’s Classroom.

    One more great resource: The Basics of Money at Kiplinger.com, an excellent collection of articles on all the major aspects of personal finance.

  11. Thanks Trent. Never knew about PFblogs!

  12. Matt says:

    how about http://www.smartaboutmoney.org. They include a free financial planning tool that I would be curious to see your opinion on. Thanks for all the info!!

  13. Robert says:

    Please check out http://www.wikistock.com for easily accessible investing information. Good reference guide.

  14. Passionista says:

    Don’t forget Rich Dad’s podcasts…

    great for learning while driving!

  15. Toby says:

    @Passionista: Rich Dad? Perhaps the podcasts are different, but do you ever read Kiyosaki’s yahoo column. The guy is absolutely off his rocker. His advice is, at the very least, general and useless and, at the worst, downright wreckless! Not to mention how offensive he is if you are not doing things his way.

    John T Reed has done a pretty good job discrediting Kiyosaki on his webpage.


    Now, he is also a real estate guru, so he does have an agenda, but Kiyosaki makes it too easy for this guy to make him look bad.

    As far as I know, Kiyosaki himself has never demonstrated that he has made any of the real estate deals that he writes about in his book. As far as anyone has been able to discern, Kiyosaki made all his money selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad books/board games/seminars/etc and not from real estate.

    So I would take Rich Dad with a grain of salt if I were you.

  16. Sarina says:

    Trent, your blog has created an online education resource! When you asked folks to leave their best recommendations in the comment section, many did. The result? The best of the web is opened up to all of us. Thanks, Trent!

    I used to never read the comments; I didn’t “have time”. Now I see that the give and take of the posting and the comments is a fuller picture.

  17. jimmy says:

    Thank you for the list. Perfect timing to help me implement one of my new years resolutions.

  18. I clicked on the “recently popular” link and you are the #1 (well an interview with you anyways). So, did you know that when you posted the link?

    Either way, I thought it was cool.

    I really enjoy your posts, you are a big inspiration to me! Thanks!

  19. Tabuxander says:

    Thanks. Great list of resources. I really enjoy it.

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