When it comes to investing, there are plenty of people ready to “educate” you with everything from dubious information to investment tips.
For good reason, there’s a lot of money out there. The New York Stock Exchange alone trades more than 3,100 stocks, from 22nd Century Group (Ticker: XXII) to ZTO Express (ZTO). So it can be hard to filter out what information is real, what’s hype, what’s hogwash, and what’s a flat-out scam.
Flying under the radar, and free to use, is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) extensive public-facing, easy-reading library of investing and saving material, from the basics of “pay yourself first” to understanding asset allocation, researching potential investment opportunities, and checking up on a financial professional before handing over your savings.
“A few people may stumble into financial security,” the SEC’s Investor.gov site reads. “But for most people, the only way to attain financial security is to save and invest over a long period of time. You just need to have your money work for you. That’s investing.”
Just getting started?
No problem. The Investor.gov site walks newbies through the basics with its “Roadmap to Saving and Investing” section. That’s stuff like defining goals, building a rainy day fund, and understanding how stock markets work.
No problem. Even veteran investors may find themselves with questions sometimes. If you keep hearing about exchange traded funds (ETFs) but were too embarrassed to ask, there’s an extensive chapter on ETFs. Same for topics such as reverse stock splits, microcap stocks, variable annuities, target date funds, and structured notes with principal protection.
Do you need a financial professional? There’s a chapter on that, too.
As deep or as shallow as you want to dive, it’s free information with no sales pitch. The feds won’t tell you what to buy, but the SEC will walk you through the weeds of saving and investing. And there are free tools such as a compound interest calculator, a required minimum distribution (RMD) calculator, and other financial planning aids.
In addition to free information for investors, the SEC provides access to a vetted library of offsite information. There’s a link to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) calculator for analyzing a mutual fund’s fees and expenses, the Federal Financial Literacy Commission’s MyMoney.gov site on good financial habits, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s Stock Market Game, used to help educators teach children about financial markets.
You’ll also find:
• An A to Z glossary of financial terms.
• Tips for checking out financial professionals.
• Tools on digging for information about a particular publicly traded company.
• A library of deep-dive reports on topics including crowdfunding, affinity fraud, cybersecurity.
It just depends on how deep you want to go. But for all the noise coming out of cable tv financial channels, Saturday morning AM radio programs, podcasts, magazines, and online news sites, it’s good to know there is a central, vetted location to find free information with no sales angle.
Things to Consider:
• You don’t have to be a genius to learn about investing, take advantage of free resources available.
• Jump in, the Securities and Exchange Commission website is a great place to start.
• Even sophisticated investors can learn something, go as deep as you want.