So you want to become a financial expert, but don't know where to start? Have no fear, a wealth of information is at your fingertips, and getting started is easy. From a basic introduction to personal finances to advanced security analysis, anyone interested in learning can get access to the necessary resources. (For more on a career in finance, check out Is A Career In Financial Planning In Your Future?)
TUTORIAL: Investing 101
Start By Reading
For a basic introduction to sound financial concepts, you can't do much better than "The Richest Man in Babylon." It's a tiny little book, written in an uncomplicated style. It also captures the wisdom of the ages in an easy to follow manner.
Once you've covered that, the famous "For Dummies" series provides insight into everything from budgeting to mutual funds. "Managing Your Money for Dummies," "Budgeting for Dummies" and "Mutual Funds for Dummies" are three titles that will help you expand your knowledge of basic concepts.
By the time you finish those four books, you are likely to have identified specific items that you would like to learn more about. For these inquiries, there's no better place to go for fast, easy access to information that online. Investopedia and similar sites provide access to a wealth of information that will keep you busy for weeks if not months. Investopedia's tutorials are particularly notable, as they provide an in-depth look at a wide variety of topics.
Google and other search engines let you hone in on specific topics, and many mutual fund companies and financial services firms offer a wealth of free information. A visit to their websites can reveal everything from general education on a wide array of products to economic forecasts and economic insights from professional market watchers. With a just a little effort, you can even identify and follow comments from your favorite economist, investment strategists, portfolio manager, or other expert.
The library, you local bookstore and multiple online retailers also offer literally thousands of books on every conceivable topic. From financial history and Wall Street villains to hedge fund analysis and day-trading strategies, there's a book (or ten) for every topic of interest. (For more read, Can You "Learn" The Stock Market?)
Television, Radio and Podcasts Can Help Too
Television broadcasts and/or podcasts are from a variety of experts. At the national level, Suze Orman and other gurus cover the common topics. Kramer and his peers talk stocks. At the local level, your hometown is likely to have an expert or two that you can tune into at no cost. (To read more on gurus, see Investing Quotes You Can Bank On.)
Ready to Step Up Your Game? Hit the Books Again
After you have covered the basics and want a solid overview at a more detailed level, "The Wall Street Journal Guide to Investing" is a great place to start. When you are done with that, your local library or bookstore will contain a variety of magazines covering both timely and general financial services topics. When you are ready to learn about stock research, Value Line is a great publication that provides an introduction into how you can begin to research and analyze stocks. Some libraries provide access to Value Line for free. If your local library does not, the service is available by subscription. Even if you choose not to conduct your own stock analysis, the Value Line website is worth a visit.
If you make it this far, you are clearly serious about your endeavor. Now it's time to make your quest a daily habit. Subscribing to the The Wall Street Journal will give you a daily overview of the issues impacting global business operations. The Journal also has a great "Money and Investing" section. Barron's is another fine publication read by many professionals in the financial services industry. There are many other top-quality publications dedicated to various aspects of the financial services world. Find one that matches your interests and read it. (Check out, 5 Must-Read Finance Books.)
Talk to the Experts
Once you have solid understanding of the various aspects of the financial services world, it is time to spend some time talking to the experts. Financial services professionals make a living with their expertise and can help you learn about everything from mortgages and debt management to retirement savings and estate planning. Some of these topics are covered in seminars, others in one-on-one consultations. You can even pick up a thing or two just by having an informal conversation. Talk to a professional financial advisor, talk to your banker, talk to your accountant and your attorney. Then listen and learn as they share their knowledge. (For help on locating an advisor, read Advice For Finding The Best Advisor.)
Ready for More?
If you like what you have seen and heard and are ready for more, the CFA Institute (a non-profit organization that offers "a range of educational and career resources, including the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and the Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM) designations") provides access to the curriculum.
The Certified Financial Analyst program is an extremely well regarded curriculum, and the Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM) Program "is the investment industry's only designation dedicated to investment performance analysis and presentation." If articles with titles like Evaluating Portfolio Performance by V. Bailey, Thomas M. Richards and David E. Tierney, and "Investment Performance Measurement: Evaluating and Presenting Results," Philip Lawton and Todd Jankowski, eds. (Wiley 2009) capture your interest, the CFA institute has a reading list that you are sure to like. (For help choosing a designation, check out CPA, CFA Or CFP - Pick Your Abbreviation Carefully.)
A Life-Long Pursuit
The financial services field is constantly evolving and changing. Recent decades have seen the rise of unified managed accounts, the development of exchange traded funds, the evolution of annuities and insured investment products and a host of other developments. Change is par for the course as the industry adapts to dynamic economic conditions and changes in what investors want and how they wish to deploy their assets. In this environment, there is always something new to consider, something old to revisit and something interesting just beyond the horizon. Keeping up with the industry is an important part of a financial service professional's life, and continuing education requirements are required for many of these experts to maintain their credentials. What this means for the-self taught expert is that you will always have an opportunity to add to your body of knowledge.