What are the best ways to improve your financial literacy? Whether you live for elaborate investment maneuvers and tax-shielding strategies–or have a hard time distinguishing ETFs from HSAs–it's important to both know the basics and learn the resources that let you make financial decisions with the best information
If you're already expert at the art of the short squeeze, you are likely financially literate and should focus on the best investment apps and analysis tools. For those for whom money matters aren’t exactly their strong suit, understanding the basics is absolutely essential if they hope to achieve major goals such as buying a home or building an adequate retirement fund.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources that can help take your financial know-how to a new level. We’re partial to a certain finance website, of course, but the reality is that there are any number of tools that are worth your while. Here are some of the places you’ll want to explore first.
- Books and magazines remain a great way to learn about financial topics, although it’s important to find a publication geared toward someone at your learning level.
- The last few years have seen a proliferation of personal-finance–oriented podcasts that help you learn about money management skills in your spare time.
- Libraries and civic centers will sometimes host presentations from local financial professionals, which are often geared for novice investors.
Find a Good Book
For anyone trying to build financial literacy, the obvious place to start is a good book. The big advantages of print are that you can go at your own pace and home in on the topics that interest you the most. Any good library will have a pretty vast selection to choose from, but here are some highly regarded titles to start you off.
‘Personal Finance for Dummies’ by Eric Tyson
Sure, opening up a book designed for “dummies” takes some humility, but those who dig through Eric Tyson’s expansive tome are usually rewarded. At more than 400 pages, Tyson covers it all—from budgeting and investing in mutual funds to understanding automobile insurance and navigating the financial aspects of divorce.
Don’t expect a deep dive on every topic, but for a quick introduction to some key concepts, it’s a good place to start.
‘Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together’ by Erin Lowry
Those first few years after college are often a time when we learn financial lessons the hard way. That needn’t be the case.
Erin Lowry’s 2017 work takes square aim at the pivotal money decisions faced by young adults. Of course, she delves into some of the bread-and-butter stuff, such as how credit scores work and how to budget. However, you’ll also find chapters on assessing your emotional relationship with money and discussing financial issues with your significant other. Best of all, Lowry’s conversational style shows that a finance book can actually be a pretty good read.
‘Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?’ by Cary Siegel
If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of how various financial products work, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you want some easily digestible advice on how to make smarter money choices, Cary Siegel’s “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School?” is a gem. Crammed inside are 99 basic principles involving standard topics such as budgeting, investing, and housing. Siegel argues, for example, that marrying a financially compatible spouse is a key to happiness and explains why high-deductible health insurance plans are almost invariably the best.
Subscribe to a Financial Magazine
With so much great content available on the web, forking over money for a print magazine might seem like an antiquated approach. Still, finding a publication in your mailbox every week or every month keeps you from falling off the finance wagon for too long. In addition, magazines have a way of introducing you to topics and ideas you wouldn’t have sought out on your own. Below are some of the best when it comes to developing your financial acumen.
There are other publications that contain personal finance information, but Kiplinger is the only print magazine left that’s focused entirely on investing and money management. Unlike a number of other finance outlets clearly geared toward the business class, Kiplinger has always focused on clear-cut advice for everyday investors. Published once a month, it contains articles on investments, tax strategies, estate planning, and more.
For someone who already has a fairly strong grasp of how markets work, Barron’s is a great tool for discerning the outlook of specific industries and companies. The weekly newspaper-magazine offers stock picks, breakdowns of top-selling mutual funds, and other actionable content designed to give active investors an edge.
Compared with the other publications on this list, the Economist casts a broader net. Readers will find articles on economics as well as politics, technology, and the arts. It’s not the straightforward advice-based content you’ll find in, say, Kiplinger, but for readers hoping to get a sense of which events are shaping the global markets, this U.K.-based magazine is a treasure.
Tune in to a Podcast
Whether you’re in the car, going for a jog, or doing work around the house, podcasts are an easy way to absorb some money management tips without a whole lot of effort. The iTunes landscape is pretty crowded, so you’re bound to stumble upon any number of worthwhile shows. Here are a few of our favorites, in addition to The Investopedia Express, Editor-in-Chief Caleb Silver's weekly take on all things financial.
A certified financial planner turned podcaster, Shannah Compton Game says her goal is to demolish the taboo of talking about money. Released twice a week, the podcast features interviews with fellow finance experts on topics ranging from paying off student loan debt to negotiating your salary. If you’re looking for something geared toward the financial lives of young adults, this accessible show is hard to beat.
The guests on this popular podcast are ordinary folks who happened to turn their financial lives around by adopting smart money strategies. Led by hosts Scott Trench and Mindy Jensen, BiggerPockets is all about sharing actionable advice that can work for everyday people.
Those seeking a better understanding of what’s going on with the economy will probably find Planet Money from NPR a great starting point. The podcast likes to take recent news stories—the development of a COVID-19 vaccine or trade wars with China, for example—and give them added context. The show doesn’t always take aim at the big headlines, though; one recent episode tackled the economic effects of lowering food prices at a football game. If you’re curious about all things economics, this is for you.
Explore Community Events
In-person and virtual events are another opportunity to deepen your financial literacy and start making wiser choices with your money. Public libraries, for example, sometimes host seminars led by local financial professionals. Many of these events feature question-and-answer sessions where you can get pointed advice on a specific financial scenario you’re facing.
There are also a number of community-oriented financial literacy programs around the country that offer a variety of resources aimed at low- and middle-income adults, including budgeting and investment classes. Some offer free counseling sessions for eligible participants, where you can talk one-on-one with a financial coach.
The Bottom Line
Improving your financial literacy is a good way to make sure that you’re building healthy money habits and investing wisely. With the growth of podcasts and other digital media, there are more places than ever to get valuable information.