A quick introduction: Why most personal
finance magazines, television shows and Web sites give crummy investment
Overview of what
Sensible-Investor has to offer for serious, long-term 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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Sensible-Investor has found no
other gay-focused financial Web sites.
many personal finance issues
(formerly The Mining Company) focuses on a multitude of topics, each with its own expert “guide.”
Includes sites devoted to:
The Web site of Family Money magazine displays the magazine's past articles, consisting of basic,
mostly sensible, money-management advice.
’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
Sites page also cover a variety of issues, including
our list of top online columnists.
Sites on specific
personal finance topics
responsible mutual funds
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.
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).
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%
on when to sell mutual funds.
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.
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.
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..
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
CNN/Money/Bankrate.com from 2000 and 2001.
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.
Monthly surveys of credit cards with the lowest rates, including gold cards, platinum cards, no-annual-fee
cards, secured cards, etc.
Huge amounts of information. Recommended by SmartMoney as the best site for credit-card information.
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
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.
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.
. A similar insurance quote service from Quicken. Many recommend this as the best insurance comparison
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
Sensible-Investor is still
looking for the best Web sites on these topics, among others:
- Checking the background of a financial planner or other
- Bond funds.
- Explaining asset allocation.
Recommendations on these and
other topics are welcome.