Sunday, April 03, 2011

Happy Financial Literacy Month!

In celebration of April as National Financial Literacy Month, I'll be posting some economic-themed over the coming weeks.  
I wanted to start off with where I find much of my information and inspiration to learn about money and the economy. On the surface, those may be some of the most dreaded topics to talk/learn/write about but especially with all of the economic upheaval over the past few years, I’ve taken a keen interest. I compare having a general understanding of economics, investing and money management to knowing how to use a computer, having an annual health checkup or getting your car's oil changed regularly--it just needs to happen.  
It's sometimes daunting with all that things one *should* know.  With all the chatter, advice, hysteria and Jim Cramer on CNBC--no wonder people feel overwhelmed.  But here are some resources I use to stay educated. They break it down, keep it applicable and make it interesting.

Favorite Financial NPR Radio Shows:
Marketplace (weekdays)
Marketplace Money (weekend)
Planet Money (podcasts a few times a week)
Freakonomics Radio (bi-weekly podcast)

Books:
The Elements of Investing
Freakonomics
Super Freakonomics

Websites:
Mint.com Helps you budget & track expenses by tying into your bank, credit card & loan accounts.
Google Finance Provides research on stocks, mutual funds, bonds with news from the companies

Deal-based websites and programs:
Groupon Do you love deals? Do you buy stuff or go out to restaurants or need a massage? Check out this marketing sensation if you have not already.
Living Social Groupon has spawned LOTS of imitators but who can complain? The more deals the better. This is another good offering of the group shopping phenom.
Offermatic The same promise of Groupon but without the redemption aspect. Plug in your bank info and it tracks your spending and if you spend a certain amount of money with a vendor they work with, they just issue you a rebate. Automatically. Very slick but still very new. I think we've received ~$40 back for not changing our spending habits at all. Can you tell I'm a fan?

New take on investing/lending/borrowing:
Lending Club Do you like the idea of 3rd world micro-lending but wondered if it could be done here in the US? We'll here's the answer to that. You get to play "bank" and put your own hard-earned money into the pot and choose people to loan it to. There are descriptions and analysis done on the folks applying for money. Sometimes it's for debt consolidation, sometimes it's for a wedding, sometimes it's for moving cross-country. You get a story, a credit rating and an interest rate determined on how risky the loan. The riskier it is, the higher the % rate. So you could score big with a return or you could have a default. With investment minimums of $25, you can spread the wealth around and see if you can loan better than the banks. It's like a game except it's real life.

Other Financial Resources:
Dave Ramsey Our friend Sean really likes this guy. He's all about eliminating debt.

If anyone has any other financial information resources that they'd like to share, please post a comment.

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