Sensible-Investor: Best by category

This page lists a selection of useful, sensible U.S. personal finance Web sites -- arranged by category. For some topics, the link leads to a broader discussion elsewhere in Sensible-Investor.

SENSIBLE CONTENTS

 

Personal finance for specific groups

CHRISTIAN INVESTORS

Christian focus. CrossWalk contains guidance about investments and money management from a conservative Christian perspective. The site formerly analyzed whether hundreds of mutual funds invest in  “companies that profit from pornography, abortion, anti-family entertainment” or “actively promote” gay lifestyles. They’ve given that up and now focus on more basic discussions of personal finance.

Also worth a look: The Sound Mind Investing Web site of newsletter publisher Austin Pryor. The focus is “biblically based” investing and money management -- some of it free, some of it available only to paid members.


 

Sensible-Investor

A quick introduction: Why most personal finance magazines, television shows and Web sites  give crummy investment advice.

 Overview of what Sensible-Investor has to offer for serious, long-term investors.

Penny: Saving for College 

YOUNG INVESTORS

IHateFinancialPlanning.com is a personal finance site with an irreverent attitude (which some will find obnoxious or patronizing). But it offers  helpful suggestions about topics ranging from insurance to credit cards and from investments to balancing a checkbook. Avoid the site's inadequate Find-a-Local-Pro feature and silly Fun Tax Center. NOTE: Sadly, this site has closed down.

Sensible-Investor is still looking for a good investment or personal finance site for youths, rather than young adults. If you know of one, please suggest it.

WOMEN AS INVESTORS

Women deserve better, but here’s what they get:

The non-profit Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, or WISER, has a site that isn't slick-looking, but the content is solid. It discusses what women need to ask themselves about money, what they should ask their spouses, plus dozens of topics -- from callable CDs to the financial implications of divorce.

The Women’s Financial Network, run by the Muriel Siebert stock brokerage, has lots of useful information -- just beware of its leanings toward commission-generating active stock trading. Two handy starting points: the “Life Events / Stages Center” (financial implications of life’s various stages, from babies to widowhood) and the more basic Learning Center.

Woman’s Wall Street tries to make financial advice palatable by serving it with a zesty topping. The topics are varied -- investing, personal finance, careers, life and family, and major purchases -- but you won’t find much depth, breadth or any startling insights in them.

The MoneyLife channel of iVillage.Com leads off its discussion of "Investing Made Simple" with topics that aren't right for rank beginners -- buying IPOs and online trading. Then its asset-allocation charts in Investors Workshop Lesson 1 send new investors out with bad advice -- to buy value stocks and metals.

BLACKS AS INVESTORS

BlackEnterprise.com   This offshoot of Black Enterprise magazine presents a selection of money-management articles that may be of use to anyone who's just getting start in budgeting, saving or investing. Because money tends to be color-blind, the advice is valid for pretty much everyone, no matter what their skin tone. Don't expect to find discussions of advanced investment techniques here. And beware of time-sensitive articles from the 1990s that haven’t been updated.
 

GAYS AND LESBIANS AS INVESTORS

The Gay Financial Network provides a portal to gay-related news items in combination with general-interest and gay-related financial advice. Membership is required for access, but it’s free. Some of the financial advice is sound, but the site also promotes speculative investing. The Financial Tools page is particularly suspect, with links to TheStreet.com and to information about IPOs and micro-caps. For more information about the Gay Financial Network, read this CNNfn article.

Sensible-Investor has found no other gay-focused financial Web sites.

Sites covering many personal finance issues

About.com (formerly The Mining Company) focuses on a  multitude of topics, each with its own expert “guide.” Includes sites devoted to:

FamilyMoney. The Web site of Family Money magazine displays the magazine's past articles, consisting of  basic, mostly sensible, money-management advice.

Consumer World ’s multitude of links to investment, insurance, shopping and banking sites is compiled by tough-minded Massachusetts consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.

Various entries on the Sensible-Investor Best Sites page also cover a variety of issues, including our list of top online columnists.

Sites on specific personal finance topics

Socially responsible mutual funds

Sensible-Investor’s list of the best sites analyzing socially responsible mutual funds (in the process of being updated) includes various viewpoints -- liberal, conservative and several different religious perspectives.

Socially responsible living / frugal living

For sites that focus on taking a frugal approach to socially responsible living, as opposed to socially responsible investing, look for discussion about ways of reducing consumption: www.newdream.org and the About.com site on Frugal Living (which may have vanished).

Mutual fund analysis

Morningstar is the No. 1 source for unbiased information about mutual funds, but it has a basic underlying flaw. The bulk of Morningstar’s information is historical data. That would be useful if past performance by mutual funds were a useful guide to future returns, but it’s not. Repeated studies have shown that, on average, the top-ranked funds of any particular period will produce no better than average returns going forward from there. About the only use for historical data is to avoid the worst mutual funds -- they tend to remain consistently bad. The non-historical portion of Morningstar’s data can be quite useful -- for example, listings of expenses and fees, which you’ll want to keep low, and descriptions of funds’ approximate holdings, which can help you keep your assets diversified. Much valuable information here is free, including the basics about fund holdings and fees. For full access, you’d need to subscribe.

Mutual Fund Cost Calculator. SEC site “enables investors to easily estimate and compare the costs of owning mutual funds.” For example: “Which is better, a no-load fund with yearly expenses of 1.75% , or a fund with a front-end sales charge of 3.5% with yearly expenses of 0.90% ?”

Fund Alarm. Advice on when to sell mutual funds.

College financial aid

FinAid: The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid . Information on types of aid and loans; calculators on how much you’re likely to get; financial aid applications.

College Savings Plans Network. National Association of State Treasurers site about states’ college savings plans. Rudimentary, but links to each state’s site.

U.S. Department of Education student aid home page . Online application, information, discussions of repayment problems.

FastNet.com’s free online scholarship search. Also, articles and advice about aid; much more about college life.

For a discussion of the best college-savings sites, see the Sensible-Investor Saving for College page.

Taxes

First and foremost, there’s the sometimes daunting but mostly helpful IRS site and a brief TurboTax guide to using it.

An easier-to-use resource for tax planning: the Fairmark Press Tax Guide for Investors. It  is categorized into various educational sections -- for example, articles on taxes for the beginning investor, on mutual funds and taxes, and on capital gains taxes.

Focus on 401(k)s

Several good sites have folded. For now, you can check Sensible-Investor’s guide to other worthy retirement planning sites..

Finding a financial planner

First, ask friends for advice, then check out the background and fees of any recommended advisor thoroughly. If you’re stumped and still need recommendations, turn to the Web. For pointers on scrutinizing potential financial advisers, consult these articles by CNNfn and CNN/Money/Bankrate.com from 2000 and 2001.

A PlannerSearch is available from the Financial Planning Association. The site accepts searches by city, ZIP code or partial ZIP code (which defines a wider area than an individual ZIP code). It lists Certified Financial Planners who either are taking new clients, or have agreed to help people who are looking for a financial advisor.

The Alliance for Investor Education (supported by top-level financial regulators, professional organizations and the major stock exchanges) provides useful tips for choosing a financial planner. It also supplies to a handy checklist of questions to ask when interviewing a financial planner. In the same file, below the checklist, you’ll find telephone numbers of agencies that can help you check out whether a financial advisor has run afoul of regulators or been disciplined as a result of investors' complaints. Nearby you’ll find links to those regulatory agencies.

Credit cards

CardTrak. Monthly surveys of credit cards with the lowest rates, including gold cards, platinum cards, no-annual-fee cards, secured cards, etc.

Bankrate.com. Huge amounts of information. Recommended by SmartMoney as the best site for credit-card information.

Insurance

Many Internet sites that provide insurance information and quotes are flawed. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best ones. Beware of sites that have a bias toward high-commission policies, or are merely designed to steer visitors to a particular insurance agency.

The Consumer Federation of America has extensive information about different types of insurance and their pitfalls. For a fee, it also supplies individually tailored advice on insurance policies.

InsWeb. Quotes from dozens of major insurance companies. Car insurance, home insurance, term life insurance, non-group health insurance. For some states, only limited information is available.

Quicken Insuremarket .  A similar insurance quote service from Quicken. Many recommend this as the best insurance comparison site.

. Dividend-reinvestment plans

DRIP Central  is a comprehensive list of educational pages and links related to "no-load stocks," more formally known as dividend reinvestment plans, or DRIPs -- an investment alternative that’s appropriate for long-term investors.

Still looking

Sensible-Investor is still looking for the best Web sites on these topics, among others:

  • Checking the background of a financial planner or other financial advisor.
  • Bond funds.
  • Explaining asset allocation.

Recommendations on these and other topics are welcome.

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