Navigating your way around the complex world of investing and finance can be an intimidating adventure. Often just knowing where to start can give a person chest pain and a headache. Where do you get good information? Who do you trust?
Most people today are going to begin online to get an education about finance. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s also the fraught with unreliable sources and “get rich quick” scams. As a general rule, if a website uses lots of flashing letters, TOO MANY SENTENCES IN GREAT BIG CAPITAL LETTERS, or ends each promise with more than three exclamation points, you can be sure it’s not the best place to be learning about finance and investing. Similarly, websites with names like “Uncle Bob’s Path to Millions” are likely to be scams set up to separate you from your hard earned money.
Instead, limit yourself to websites that have a very mainstream appeal. For example, the financial section of any major newspaper will have well researched articles available each day. Yahoo Finance offers a tremendous amount of data for both the new and experienced investor. Similarly, I’ve always gotten trustworthy information from CNNMoney. Morningstar is a wonderful resource to learn the basics and details of mutual fund finance.
If you are more comfortable outside of cyberspace, there are many good dead-tree publications that can provide a great starting point to learning about finance and investing. Start with the magazine Money. It’s available at any newsstand, as well as online if you choose. It is written in a very accessible style and is heavily oriented toward the individual investor who wants information about personal finance. It provides lots of information about the happenings in the world on investing and finance. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is only a light-weight publication. I don’t generally use anecdotes, but my mother started out very inexperienced in the world of personal finance, and she has built a multi-million dollar retirement portfolio, using mostly information gleaned from the pages of Money magazine.
No advice on finance education would be complete without mentioning the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ is considered by most to be the gold standard publication for finance and investing. The articles found there are certainly written at a slightly more advanced level than Money, but it can easy be read by beginners. They cover every financial topic imaginable, from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money markets, corporate activities, political impact on business, and a myriad of other aspects of finance. If it’s important in the world of finance, you can read about it in the Wall Street Journal.
There is one other place worth mentioning that can provide a great education on finance for someone just laying a foundation. That place is your local community college. Most states in America have extensive local college systems where you can find classes on both micro and macro economics. The focus of these classes is going to be far more academic than what you will find in consumer publications. However, having a solid understanding of the theory underlying the discussion taking place in the consumer magazines can go a great way to expanding your knowledge of finance.
Getting an education in the basics is not hard if you are determined. Read a lot of varied sources. Absorb as much as you can every day, both online and in print. With some persistence and good resources, you’ll be an expert in finance and investing in no time at all. Good Luck!