Posts Tagged ‘tax planning’

The Road to Financial Literacy

via Unsplash by Simon Waelti

Have you mapped out your path to financial literacy?

It has been a long day at work. You are busy. You have things to do, places to go and people to see. You open the mail and read your 401(k) statement. You look at the charts and graphs and numbers and wonder what it all means. Are you saving enough? When can you retire? Are you making the right investment choices? The phone rings and you put away the statement and resolve to do something about it next week.

Sound familiar?

Most people continue to put off planning for retirement. They are too busy. Too confused by all the choices. Intimidated by the technical aspects of planning. Afraid to make a mistake. Wanna know a secret? There is hope and there is help. Today there are a host of tools available online and offline to help you get the knowledge you need to bridge the gaps in your financial education. Armed with information, you can make smarter choices about your money. If you invest the time, you will feel more confident and you can increase your skills.

The first step is to carve time out of your schedule to devote to learning. Decide how much time you can spare. In as little as 15 minutes a day you can make progress. Look at your schedule and block that time out. NOW. Stop reading this article and get out your calendar. I can wait….

Okay – so now you have decided how much time you are going to devote to learning. The next step is to define what it is that you want to learn. I am a huge fan of lists. Create a list of all the things you do not know. Include all the questions you have about anything related to your finances  (even the ones you are too scared to admit to not knowing). Once you have a good list going, you can sort through the list and rank in order of priority.

Now you are ready for some learning tools and resources. There are all sorts of classes available online and offline.

The FDIC offers a series called Money Smart that covers the basics of financial management. There are also modules available for youth, older adults and small business owners. In as little as 30 minutes per module you can increase your knowledge base on a variety of topics from how to track your money to understanding how credit works.  Another option developed by Texas AgriLife Extension Service under contract with  the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau is WiseUp. WiseUp educates Generation X and Y women and offers modules on money basics, record-keeping, insurance and risk management, investing and achieving financial security. Money Smart and WiseUp are free and require registration to get access to the learning modules.

Prefer your learning online with ed2go?  With a course catalog that includes courses on everything from accounting and finance to writing and publishing, you can take classes on a variety of topics to increase your skills and knowledge base. There are now about 9 courses on personal finance and investments.  Each course provides details, a syllabus, requirements and reviews. Most courses typically last 6 weeks and you have access to interactive student forums where you can post and discuss your questions. The pricing varies and discounts may be available through your college, university or local library.

If you are serious about your learning quest, you may want to consider taking educational courses designed for Certified Financial Planners(CFP®). Courses include general principles of financial planning, insurance, investments, income tax, retirement, estate, and financial plan development. You can take the courses without committing to taking the exam. I took the tax class with a woman who was not on the certification track and she discovered an error in her tax return and was able to recoup the cost of the class by amending her tax return and requesting a refund. Knowledge is powerful stuff. For more information about the CFP® program you can visit the CFP Board online.

These are only a few of the many options that are available to increase your financial knowledge base. Investing your time pays big dividends and increases your confidence. Regardless of whether you are working alone or with a financial professional, the more you know, the easier it is to make smarter choices about your money.