Personal Finance: Organize, Manage, Research, and Invest Online
The Internet can streamline your ongoing personal finance tasks and keep you informed about changes and opportunities in the financial world that may affect you. There are tools for learning the basics, doing your banking online, and managing your budget, credit, and loans.
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With the variability of social security a constant topic of discussion, everyone should be aware of their own retirement needs. Still, the idea of extensive, long-term financial planning can be quite daunting. You have to begin somewhere, and the Internet provides many resources for understanding and preparing a retirement plan.
- Once you've started to think about retirement, you can begin executing your plan online. Many banks and brokerage houses will let you open an IRA online.
- Rather than go it alone, you may decide to hire a financial planner. Finding one who is trustworthy and unbiased is not always easy, but the Web sites described below can help by offering advice or directing you to prescreened professionals.
- Check with your bank or investment firm-it most likely offers retirement planning services.
- In addition to your own research and investments, signing up for your employer's 401(k) plan is often one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to save for retirement.
- In addition to sites devoted entirely to estate planning, most financial magazine Web sites and bank Web sites have sections devoted to estate planning.
- Part of planning your retirement may be deciding how you distribute your wealth to your heirs. Estate planning is an emotional and technical ordeal, but the Internet can be a good source of information and guidance. Of course, when you're ready to finalize arrangements, you're best off turning off the computer and talking to a lawyer.
For retirement basics ...
The AARP financial planning page
has an entire section on retiring that outlines all the necessary steps to take and questions to ask. You can start with the retirement planning calculator and then research the various elements of planning. Or for an overview, watch the "Mission: Retirement" video.
's "University" section has a retirement planner that provides information and a calculator that allows you to enter your current financial information and tells you how to change your lifestyle in order to adequately fund your retirement.
is the homepage of the Internet Retirement Alliance. You select a topic in retirement planning, such as IRAs, financial planners, social security, or insurance, and the site provides an explanation and advice. In addition to basic information, it also posts news briefs related to retirement and financial planning.
includes this handy section that answers, as its title indicates, "Nine Frequently Asked Questions About IRAs." This page provides a slightly deeper look into these cornerstones of retirement planning.
The Motley Fool
is a site devoted to providing you with smart, honest, and easy-to-understand financial advice. In the retirement planning section, everything you need to consider is broken down and explained in short, readable chunks. The Motley Fool also offers a paid service called "rule your retirement" that will help you plan.
To find a financial planner ...
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
site guides you through all aspects of financial planning including how to do research for yourself and how to find a trusted financial adviser. In addition to having a sidebar for basic information, the site also posts featured articles.
The National Financial Planning Support Center
hosts the Planner Search
, which gives you access to a nationwide database of financial planners. You can enter your zip code or city and then, if you want, refine your search by selecting the type of service you need. The service asks that you register an account but you can also elect to search anonymously.
CCH's Financial Planning Toolkit
calls itself "your personal financial adviser" and offers a planning guide, financial calculators, and tools for planning your future. It also highlights top financial news stories and allows you to search for help by topic with a clear table of contents.
For estate planning ...
has a section on estate planning that breaks down the subject into manageable elements and explains the importance of each step of the process. If you're not sure how estate planning should factor into your financial plan-or if it will-CNN is the place to find the basics.
teaches you about estate planning from the legal perspective. You can choose to read about the topics that pertain to you or you can check out the whole 23-page guide. You can also use the site to get a free online case review from an attorney.
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