Quite a few people enter adulthood without understanding the basics of personal finance.
That’s a sad statement – but it’s a true one. Personal finance is often a lesson that parents don’t feel comfortable teaching to their children and public schools rarely take a major role on this topic, either. It’s rarely included in state education curriculums.
While The Simple Dollar can and does play a role in fixing this problem, there are quite a few websites out there that do a spectacular job of handling the basics of personal finance, from the simplest baby steps of figuring out how to handle debt to explaining the details of how stocks work.
Over the years, I’ve viewed many of these resources, but I find that my recommendations to others often come down to just a small handful of sites.
If you’re looking to learn about personal finance from scratch, these are the four sites that I find myself recommending most of the time. All of them are wonderful resources. They each do a great job of spelling out the specifics of many basic personal finance issues and questions.
Best for: written explanations of personal finance ideas
Whenever I want a clear and straightforward explanation of a personal finance term, this is usually the site I turn to first.
Yahoo! Finance Education is a well-written encyclopedia of personal finance topics, presented almost entirely in an unbiased manner (it’s very difficult to write about everything in personal finance without some bias, but they do a very good job).
If you want to know exactly what debt means or want to learn what a P/E ratio means for stocks or how to buy a bond and you prefer the written word, this is the premier place to go.
Best for: video-based presentations of financial topics
This is the best set of video presentations on personal finance that I’ve found, though I think that in places the tone and level of discourse gets a bit beyond the basics.
The one thing that really sets these videos apart from the rest – well, aside from the fact that they are videos and not text – is that the talks often digress into a wider picture than just personal finance. For example, the discussion on inflation talks about the personal impact of it, but it also focuses on what inflation actually is and how it’s caused.
These videos do a good job of introducing personal finance ideas, but they also dig deeper into the finance beyond the personal.
Best for: a tutorial-style walkthrough of the basics you need to know
If you’re sitting down and thinking to yourself, “I don’t know much about money… I wish I had someone to walk me through all of this stuff step by step,” this is the site for you.
Money 101 presents the basics of what you need to know about personal finance as a series of lessons that you can go through one at a time to teach yourself the basics of personal finance.
If you thrive on an organized lesson-based setting for learning, this might be your best bet.
Best for: people who need a guiding hand as to how to fix their basic financial problems
Some people are simply struggling with debt and with knowing what to do next. They don’t want to or need to know all of the details right now – they’re in a bind and they want solutions first.
In that situation, I think that Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” is the best package of solution-oriented personal finance materials out there.
Rather than feeling like a teacher, the sense you get here is that of a hard-nosed coach who has a game plan that works and wants to motivate you to move on down the path. It’s lighter on the specifics, but heavier on the plan itself and the motivation to do it.