Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Investing for Beginners: Money Smart 2013

Unbiased Investor Information Freely Available

This week I want to focus on fundamental investment information that everyone should know, whether or not they are currently investing. Because many people go beyond a traditional savings account for their long-term financial planning, educating yourself on some basics will be an asset if you decide to speak with someone who invests for a living, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), for example. These investment professionals can be verified through BrokerCheck, which will be discussed below. Whether you decide to employ a professional to offer investment advice, or opt to self-manage your money, the unbiased financial information found through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is a great place to start. Again, this organization regulates financial institutions and is it not an investment firm. The advice they publish can be trusted!

Before looking further into investment information, be sure to read through the FINRA's page discussing Bank Products. It explains how savings and checking accounts operate, how your money is secure with federally-backed insurance, and other savings tips. This is great information at any age, and would be particularly useful if you're looking to speak with children or teens about money. 

Before you decide what and where to invest I highly recommend the Getting Ready to Invest page through FINRA. It takes a step-by-step approach and highlights aspects to consider. What are your goals? What are your monthly expenses? What impact does your credit score have on your finances? Why do I need an emergency fund? FINRA recommends that if your net worth is positive (you own more that you owe) it is safer to invest than if your net worth is negative. Figuring your net worth is step two of "Getting Ready to Invest" and a sample worksheet is available. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has a useful page entitled Beginners' Guide to Investing where they list numerous SEC publications available online, including questions every investor should ask.

 Both the SEC and FINRA suggest checking the background of a financial professional before you invest with that person. BrokerCheck, a FINRA tool, can be used to locate individuals and firms in your area and ensure they are licensed and in good legal standing. 

Clicking the "BrokerCheck" link above will take you directly to this resource. As you can see from the screenshot, you can locate an individual or firm and limit the search by a given radius to your location. Once the search is completed you can view a profile of the individual, where they are permitted to do business and possibly see a background report. If you're in a position where you're not sure the credibility of an individual or a company that offers investment advice, this is a way to put your mind at ease before you hand over any money.

In addition to these free online resources, the Business Center has a wide range of print resources focused on helping you get your finances in order, including "Finding a Financial Advisor," 332.024 J. Looking to create a budget or find ways to save money around the house? We have books which will help with that, too. With the vast amount of information available to you involving your finances, please take advantage of it and pass the information along to those who might benefit from it.

Be sure to mark April 23rd on your calendar, as we will join a live webcast of "Be a Money Smarty" at 6:45 PM here at the Grand Blanc branch. It will include financial tips from a range of professionals. All are welcome1

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