Explore the Financial Library to Learn More

Evaluate Your Alternatives with Calculators

Download Worksheets to Organize Your Finances
Family Records Almanac
A comprehensive tool to organize and record financial and family information.

Disclaimer - The articles in this resource center are meant to be educational in nature. Each person must consider his or her objectives, risk tolerances and level of comfort when making financial decisions. In many cases, seeking the advice of competent professional advisors can ensure the decisions you make will be best suited for your situation.

Financial Library

Facing New Financial & Life Events

Filling Out The Paperwork For Your First Job - After the interview, the salary negotiation and getting hired, you will probably go to the Human Resource Department or see the Business Manager to handle some of the financial details of your job. Understanding those details ahead of time and being prepared to address them can make the paperwork much easier.

Renting your First Apartment - Renting that first apartment can be exciting and a little bit scary. You will probably look at several apartments to find the one that has the location you want, the amenities you need and that is affordable. That is the exciting part. This article describes what come next.

Preparing Your First Budget - A budget is generally thought of as a rigid plan on how you can spend your money. While this is true, you may want to think of it as a "household spending analysis." That does not sound so onerous and it better implies how you can use it to build a solid financial foundation and feel more in control of your finances. A sample spending analysis worksheet is included.

Establishing a Relationship with a Financial Institution - A good working relationship with a financial institution is part of a solid financial foundation. Finding the right one is important. There are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of institutions that offer the products and services you want and need either located close by or with which you can create an electronic relationship. This article describes some of the issues to consider when choosing an institution.

Getting and Using Your First Credit Card - A "first" credit card can be exciting, tempting and intimidating. Credit cards are a great convenience, but they are also borrowing money that must be repaid. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you get your credit card and use it.

Buying Your First Car - Buying a car is exciting, potentially stressful, and often expensive. In fact, for many people, buying a car is the third most expensive type of transaction they have - after a house and an education. To the process easier, consider that there are three parts of the process - choosing the car you want, negotiating the purchase, and paying for the car.

Making Your First Investments - You may already be making investments through your retirement plan at work, but at some point you may have funds that you want to invest on your own. This article focuses on some simple issues you should consider and provides some details on how to take that step.

Buying Your First House - Owning your own home has been part of the "American Dream" for years. The pride of ownership and sense of "belonging somewhere" have been strong factors in motivating over 60% of all households to own their own homes. In addition, there can be true financial rewards from home ownership. But, not always.

Filing Your First Tax Return - It may sound frightening, but it not as bad as it may sound. Filing income tax returns is something that everyone has been doing since 1913 and it is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. You may decide to use a professional to prepare your return or prepare it yourself with or without the help of income tax software. In any case, there are some things you should know to make the whole process easier.

Handling Your First Retirement Plan Distribution When Changing Jobs - If you have participated in a company retirement plan like a 401(k) plan and change jobs, you will probably receive a distribution of the funds you have accumulated in your plan. If you have participated for several years, the distribution could be quite substantial. Over the course of your working career, you may receive several lump sum distributions and what you do with those funds and how you handle the distribution is important.

Marriage and Money - If you are newly married, or planning on getting married soon, be sure to allocate some time to consider some of the financial aspects of marriage. Marriage will change how you handle your finances and it can also be the source of anguish in a marriage. Here are some things you may want to consider.

Having Children and Money - Having a child is a major event in your family and for your finances. As you prepare for being a parent, be sure to consider the financial impact that a child will have. The additional costs of buying diapers and baby food may not seem too significant, but just wait. In 2000, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 was over $160,000, and that did not include the impact of inflation or college.

Divorce and Money - Divorce is one of the most traumatic events that in a person's life, usually only surpassed by the death of a spouse or the loss of a child. The emotional aspects are difficult to handle and then there are the issues with children and the financial aspects. This article addresses some financial issues to consider.

Return to Resource Center Index

Financial Fundamentals

Starting on the Road to Financial Security - Achieving financial security is a process that takes time, takes effort and may take some sacrifices. However, the results are worth it. By starting early, you can put time on your side, do a few things right from the beginning to reduce your overall efforts and minimize the sacrifices you may be forced to make later.

Developing a Financial Strategy - The thought of developing and adhering to a personal financial strategy can be overwhelming. Learn how to create the segments of a total financial approach that can lead to your future financial security.

Fundamentals of Borrowing - The sensible use of debt should be part of a sound financial strategy. Debt can enable you to enjoy things that otherwise are currently beyond your reach. Borrowing can also have its ugly side. Too much, too expensive or the wrong kinds of debt can make life miserable. Developing good borrowing habits early can help you avoid a lot of anguish later.

Fundamentals of Insurance - Insurance provides protection. As simple as that sounds, many individuals spend little time considering all their insurance options to make sure they have the insurance they need at the most reasonable price. To protect yourself and your belongings you should consider several types of insurance.

Fundamentals of Investing - Investing is simply the process of acquiring assets that you hope will grow in value. Investments can include owning a home, owning a business, owning real estate and having money in savings accounts and CDs at a bank or credit union. This article addresses investing in stocks and bonds and various ways to own them.

Fundamentals of Income Taxes - A simple concept with very complicated details. Our federal income tax system was implemented in 1913 simply as a way for the government to collect revenue. Since then, the laws have been expanded and revised dozens, if not hundreds of times. If history is any guide, you can expect the tax laws to continue to change and probably not get any simpler.

Fundamentals of Retirement Planning - Most people identify a financially secure retirement as one of their primary financial goals. As you begin your financial life, retirement may seem to be far over the horizon and not worth thinking about. However, by spending a little bit of time now and doing some relatively easy things, you can put yourself on the road to a financially secure retirement.

Establishing Good Financial Habits - We all tend to develop habits that provide a rhythm or structure to our daily lives. Once those habits are developed, they can be hard to break. Building good financial habits can provide a rhythm, or sense of control, for your financial life as well. This article contains ten good financial habits that can help you build a sound financial foundation and help you reach all your financial goals.

Building Your Financial Literacy - Starting your financial life and making the decisions that go with your independence can be intimidating. The issues can be complex, the consequences of your decisions can be profound and it can be difficult to find someone to rely on. You can turn to your friends or your family for some help and guidance, but ultimately you must assume the responsibility for making and living with your financial decisions.

Have an Organized Financial System - There can be a lot of paperwork handling your finances. Each month you will have bills to pay, every year you will file a tax return, you will have receipts for purchases and you will have important documents that deserve special attention. Having an organized system instead of just putting everything into a drawer or box can save time and reduce the stress of not being able to find something when you need it.

Measure Your Financial Progress - Taking control of your financial future is a process. As with any process, it is important to monitor your progress and measure results. Doing so will help you understand how well you are doing and to determine if the financial strategies you are using are working.

Return to Resource Center Index

Saving for a Purpose

The Importance of Saving - There are many things to consider when saving for the future. No one can control interest rates or accurately predict what will happen in the stock market. The two things you can control are when you start and how much you save.

Choosing the Right Accounts for Your Cash - Too often the convenience of a checking account causes individuals to earn less than they should on their cash balances. A little time spent looking at the alternatives can make your money work harder for you.

Building a Savings Cushion - Saving money for unexpected expenses is never easy. Here are five ideas that can help make saving easier.

Certificates of Deposit for Your Cash Reserves - CDs can be the investment vehicle of choice for relatively short term cash reserves. Learn how these promissory notes can be part of your total investment portfolio.

Building a Ladder of Savings Certificates - Choosing the length of savings certificates is important. Longer maturities usually provide higher rates, but with less liquidity. Building a "ladder" of maturities can result in higher rates without the loss of the liquidity you want.

Use Automatic Savings Programs to Reach Your Financial Goals - One of the simplest and most effective tools to use to reach any savings goal is an automatic savings program. Making the savings decision once and then letting it work every month can help you save for retirement, for college expenses, a major purchase or any other goal.

Health Savings Accounts - An HSA, coupled with a High Deductible Health Plan, can help you manage your health care expenses and save you money. HSAs offer tax benefits along with conveniences that many find attractive.

Articles with Calculators to Help You Evaluate Alternatives

Save for Any Reason - Having more money is almost always better than having less. You may be thinking of a vacation, new car, addition to your home, retirement, or just having a larger savings balance. The amount you want to save is up to you, but an automatic savings plan can make reaching that goal easier. Calculate how much to save each month to reach your savings goal.

Save a Larger Down Payment When Buying a Car - If you are planning on buying or leasing a car, a larger down payment will make your monthly payments smaller. Calculate your payments with a larger down payment and start an automatic monthly savings plan now.

Save a Larger Down Payment When Buying a House - Your mortgage payment is determined by the rate and how much you borrow. There is little you can do to reduce the rate, but you can reduce your make your payments smaller with a larger down payment. Calculate your payments with different rates and different down payments.

Save for College - While costs vary from school to school, the costs of sending a child or grandchild to college are high and getting higher. Calculate what those costs may be for your family and how to start saving the easy way.

Save for Your Vacation - If a vacation is in your plans, consider the financial aspects along with your itinerary. How much is it going to cost and how are you going to pay for it? Use the calculator to estimate your vacation's cost and how much to save monthly before you go.

Save for Your Honeymoon - If a honeymoon is in your plans, consider the financial aspects along with your itinerary. How much is it going to cost and how are you going to pay for it? Use the calculator to estimate your honeymoon's cost and how much to save monthly before you go.

Fund Your IRA With an Automatic Savings Program - Your IRA is one of the four main components of a financially secure retirement. Use the calculator to determine how much to contribute on a monthly basis. Start a monthly automatic savings plan and fund your IRA contribution by the end of the year.

Save for Your Retirement With an Automatic Savings Program - Your personal savings may be the only component of your retirement plan you completely control. Having more is better than having less. Set a goal, determine what you need to save to each and start saving the easy way. Calculate how much to save each month to reach your retirement savings goal.

Return to Resource Center Index

Using Debt Wisely

Fundamentals of Borrowing - The sensible use of debt should be part of a sound financial strategy. Debt can enable you to enjoy things that otherwise are currently beyond your reach. Borrowing can also have its ugly side. Too much, too expensive or the wrong kinds of debt can make life miserable. Developing good borrowing habits early can help you avoid a lot of anguish later.

Developing and Using a Wise Borrowing Strategy -The sensible use of credit is part of a total financial strategy. Using credit can provide benefits, but also can have drawbacks. A few guidelines can help you feel comfortable with your credit use.

Preparing to Borrow - Having an understanding of what a lender considers when making a loan approval decision can help relieve some of the anxiety of applying for a loan. This article also describes some actions to take before applying to improve your chances of approval.

Build a Solid Credit History - A solid credit history can be one of your most useful and powerful financial assets. A record of prudent credit use and prompt payments can enable you to not only qualify for credit when you need it, but it may also enable you to get a lower interest rate on your borrowing.

Review Your Credit Report - A solid credit history can make borrowing easier and cheaper. Learn where to get a copy of your credit report.

Reducing Your Debt Burdens - Taking control of your borrowing can help relieve financial anxiety. Learn some ways to pay down, consolidate and control your debt.

Evaluating Credit Cards - If you are like many, your mailbox is often filled with credit card offers from dozens of issuers. Choosing the right card should be based on your needs, how you use your card, rates, fees and the company issuing the card.

Guidelines for First Time Credit Card Users - Getting a first credit card can be intimidating and tempting. This article reviews some of the decisions credit card users should make and offers some guidelines for the prudent use of this financial convenience.

Pay More Than The Credit Card Minimum - Every month you have the choice of how much to pay on your credit card. This article demonstrates why paying more than what is required can save you money in the short and long terms.

Articles with Calculators to Help You Evaluate Alternatives

Financing Your Auto Purchase - Buying a new car is exciting, but can be stressful. You can reduce that stress by having all of the financial aspects in place before you step into the showroom. Use the calculator to estimate how much you can afford and what your payments would be.

Evaluating Debt Consolidation - Debt consolidation is debt management, not debt elimination. However, you owe it to yourself to evaluate how consolidating many of your debts into one may save you money and make your financial life less stressful. Use the calculator to help determine whether debt consolidation makes sense for you.

Replace Your Credit Card Debt With a Home Equity Loan - Credit cards are convenient, but they often charge high interest rates on unpaid balances. Replacing credit card debt with a home equity loan may save you money and provide other benefits. Use the calculator to estimate what you could save with this strategy.

Consider Combining Your Mortgage and Home Equity Loan - If you have a mortgage and home equity loan, now may be the time to consider consolidating them into a new mortgage. Use the calculator to evaluate your options and make an informed decision.

Evaluating Your Mortgage Options - Choosing a mortgage should include evaluating mortgage types, rates, lengths, terms and your financial objectives. Use the calculator to compare different types of mortgages.

Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage - Periodically examining your existing mortgage and potential mortgage options makes sense. This calculator can help in that review. As part of this review, be sure to review rates, mortgage types, costs and your financial objectives.

Does Your Adjustable Rate Mortgage Still Make Sense? - The spread between rates on ARMs and fixed mortgages has shrunk considerably over the past few years. Now may be the time to refinance into a fixed rate mortgage. Use the calculator to evaluate your alternatives.

Evaluating How a Home Equity Loan Could Work for You - The equity in your home can be a powerful tool in managing your overall financial situation. Home equity loans can provide convenience, attractive rates, tax benefits and flexibility. Use the calculator to see how a home equity loan could work for you.

Return to Resource Center Index

General Financial Articles

Defining and Setting Goals for a Good Financial Life - Defining your financial goals can be difficult, just like reaching them. Also, defining your goals can be a process and they may change over time. Let's start with some general ideas that could be the definition of a good financial life.

Keeping Your Financial Life Simple - Unless you are very different from most other people, you do not want to spend lots of time handling your finances, you do not want to worry about your finances and you do not want to make your financial life any more complex that it has to be. Keeping your financial life simple can save time and reduce stress. This article offers ten ideas for consideration.

Establishing Good Financial Habits - We all tend to develop habits that provide a rhythm or structure to our daily lives. Once those habits are developed, they can be hard to break. Building good financial habits can provide a rhythm, or sense of control, for your financial life as well. This article contains ten good financial habits that can help you build a sound financial foundation and help you reach all your financial goals.

Building Your Financial Literacy - Starting your financial life and making the decisions that go with your independence can be intimidating. The issues can be complex, the consequences of your decisions can be profound and it can be difficult to find someone to rely on. You can turn to your friends or your family for some help and guidance, but ultimately you must assume the responsibility for making and living with your financial decisions.

Have an Organized Financial System - There can be a lot of paperwork handling your finances. Each month you will have bills to pay, every year you will file a tax return, you will have receipts for purchases and you will have important documents that deserve special attention. Having an organized system instead of just putting everything into a drawer or box can save time and reduce the stress of not being able to find something when you need it.

Direct Deposit of Payroll and Government Checks - Learn why having your checks sent directly into your account is a smart and safe thing to do.

Ten Reasons to Consider Online Banking - The Internet continues to change the way we live. Online banking provides many cost and time saving opportunities. Check them out.

Planning for Major Purchases - There will are always things you want to buy in addition to your normal living expenses. It may be a new computer, a gift for a special person, some clothes, a nice vacation or something for your home or apartment. All of these things take money. Let's take a look at some of the financial factors you should consider when making those purchases.

Planning For Your Financial Life Stages - Your financial goals and situation change over time. So should your financial strategies. Learn some of the ways to make sure your strategies match your life stage.

Preparing for Major Financial Events - Every individual encounters or anticipates major financial events and milestones. Some preparation for these events can reduce the associated anxiety and make decision making easier.

Measure Your Financial Progress - Taking control of your financial future is a process. As with any process, it is important to monitor your progress and measure results. Doing so will help you understand how well you are doing and to determine if the financial strategies you are using are working.

Preparing a Personal Balance Sheet - Monitoring your financial progress should be part of your financial management. This worksheet helps you break your assets into categories so you monitor your asset allocation too.

Monitoring Your Monthly Spending - Household budgets can be a chore to create and follow. Here is a worksheet to make the process easier.

Return to Resource Center Index

Home & Residence

Renting an Apartment - Learn what to look for (and look out for) when leasing an apartment. There are also a few tips you may be able to use to get a break on your rent.

Before Buying Your First House - Buying your first house is a big step in your financial life. Be sure to understand some of the pros and cons of home ownership.

Income Tax Implications of Home Ownership - Owning your own home can provide some tax deductions and potentially a reduction in your annual income tax bill. This article explores some of the favorable tax treatments homeowners can enjoy.

Accumulating a Down Payment on a Home - This article includes a table showing what your monthly payments would be for different size mortgages at different interest rates. There are also nine suggested ways of building the funds needed for your down payment.

Mortgage Types - Choosing a mortgage doesn't have to be complicated. The right type of mortgage can help you afford the house you want and manage your long-term finances.

Evaluating Your Mortgage Options - Choosing a mortgage should include evaluating mortgage types, rates, lengths, terms and your financial objectives. Use the calculator to compare different types of mortgages.

Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage - Periodically examining your existing mortgage and potential mortgage options makes sense. This calculator can help in that review. As part of this review, be sure to review rates, mortgage types, costs and your financial objectives.

Should You Refinance Your Home Mortgage - The ever-changing interest rate environment means you should periodically evaluate whether you should refinance your mortgage. Here are some suggestions and worksheets for you to use.

Home Equity Loans - The equity in your home can be a powerful financial tool. Learn how these loans work and why they can be an attractive form of "tax advantaged" borrowing for you.

Evaluating How a Home Equity Loan Could Work for You - The equity in your home can be a powerful tool in managing your overall financial situation. Home equity loans can provide convenience, attractive rates, tax benefits and flexibility. Use the calculator to see how a home equity loan could work for you.

Consider Combining Your Mortgage and Home Equity Loan - If you have a mortgage and home equity loan, now may be the time to consider consolidating them into a new mortgage. Use the calculator to evaluate your options and make an informed decision.

Does Your Adjustable Rate Mortgage Still Make Sense? - The spread between rates on Arms and fixed mortgages has shrunk considerably over the past few years. Now may be the time to refinance into a fixed rate mortgage. Use the calculator to evaluate your alternatives.

The Importance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - These two Government Sponsored Entities have a vital role in the housing economy. Recent market turmoil has resulted in additional government commitments to help them continue to provide mortgage liquidity and help to stabilize the housing market.

Return to Resource Center Index


Insurance

Fundamentals of Insurance - Insurance provides protection. As simple as that sounds, many individuals spend little time considering all their insurance options to make sure they have the insurance they need at the most reasonable price. To protect yourself and your belongings you should consider several types of insurance.

Have an Insurance Strategy - Insurance provides protection against the unknown. This article provides issues to consider for each of seven types of insurance most individuals should have.

What to Look For in a Homeowners or Renters Insurance Policy - Selecting the right amounts of coverage and deductibles will determine your insurance premiums. Be sure to understand the components of policies that cover your home and your belongings.

Understanding Auto Insurance - It is critical to have auto insurance and most state require it. Choosing the right levels of protection should be part of your total financial strategy.

Review Your Insurance Deductibles - Be sure to have the insurance you need, but don't pay for insurance you don't really want. This article includes a simple worksheet to help you evaluate how you may save money with different levels of insurance deductibles.

Understanding and Evaluating Life Insurance - Different types of policies can serve different functions at different times in your life. Learn whether whole life policies are best for you or whether you should "buy term and invest the difference."

Getting the Life Insurance You Need - Life insurance can be an important part of a solid financial plan. Along with what type of policy to buy, you must decide how much coverage to buy. This article offers some guidelines.

Consider a Life Insurance Trust - Life insurance trusts can be used to keep insurance proceeds out of your taxable estate and save large amounts of estate taxes. As you review your estate plan, speak with your attorney about this powerful and useful technique of owning life insurance policies.

Umbrella Insurance Policies - Auto and homeowner insurance policies usually provide some level of liability protection. But, in an age of large jury awards and rising medical costs, you may want some additional protection.

Disability Insurance - Most individuals need disability insurance to protect against losing the ability to work. It is often available as part of an employee benefit program from employers. Others must buy it themselves. Some of the details on how it works could be important to you.

Long Term Care Insurance - If you are concerned about the rising costs of medical care and what it may do to your financial well-being, you may want to consider long-term care insurance. This article offers some tips to consider as you review your options.

Single Premium Tax Deferred Annuities - Fixed annuity insurance contracts have been used for decades as part of long-term financial strategies. While there are advantages, there can also be fees and restrictions.

Return to Resource Center Index

Investing

Fundamentals of Investing - Investing is simply the process of acquiring assets that you hope will grow in value. Investments can include owning a home, owning a business, owning real estate and having money in savings accounts and CDs at a bank or credit union. This article addresses investing in stocks and bonds and various ways to own them.

Asset Allocation - The way you divide your investments into stocks, bonds and cash investments can have effects on the risks and potential returns on your portfolio. Learn how your time horizons and your risk tolerance should be considered in determining the asset allocation that is right for you.

Financial Market Indicators - What to Watch For - Every investment, and every individual's portfolio is different. But, knowing which market indicators to watch can help you better understand how your investments are doing in relation to the overall market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average - This popular measure of stock market activity has been around for over 100 years. A little history about this average and you will better appreciate how you should view daily changes.

Investment Portfolio Diversification or "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" This old adage applies in the investment world too. Learn what spreading the risk can do for you and how to apply this concept to your investments.

Building a Stock Portfolio - Whether you are just starting to invest or already have a portfolio, reviewing some tried and true portfolio building strategies may be helpful.

Investing in Mutual Funds - Mutual funds have become the investment vehicle of choice for millions of Americans. This article explains some of the reasons for the popularity and provides some tips on what to look for when making a mutual fund choice.

Dollar Cost Averaging - Dollar cost averaging is one way to address the "when to buy" decision. An example shows how this common technique will eliminate the risk of buying at "the top of the market."

Mutual Funds and Income Taxes - While mutual funds offer many conveniences, dealing with the income tax consequences of owning mutual funds is seldom simple. This article will help you understand some of these issues.

Investing in Bonds - Bonds can have a place in many investors' portfolios. There are many issues to consider when evaluating a bond investment strategy. Learn how maturities, ratings and types of bonds can influence your strategy.

Interest Rate Risk - With interest rates at the current low levels, there are benefits of locking in lower rates on your borrowing. However, locking in low rates on your savings may present problems if interest rates rise.

Comparing Taxable and Tax-free Bond Yields - Interest on most municipal bonds is exempt from federal income tax. To determine whether these tax-free bonds are right for you, you must compare the after-tax returns of similar taxable bonds. A simple chart can help.

Investing in Municipal Bonds - The interest from most bonds issued by states, cities and other municipal organizations is exempt from federal income tax. Learn whether municipal bonds are right for you.

Investing in US Treasuries - Many individuals buy U. S. Treasury obligations as part of their investment strategy for one reason - safety. However, there is more to Treasuries than just safety.

Make Sure Your US Savings Bonds Are Still Paying Interest - Many older US Savings Bonds have stopped paying and earning interest. Learn which ones have stopped and what to do if yours are included among them.

Return to Resource Center Index

Retirement

Fundamentals of Retirement Planning - Most people identify a financially secure retirement as one of their primary financial goals. As you begin your financial life, retirement may seem to be far over the horizon and not worth thinking about. However, by spending a little bit of time now and doing some relatively easy things, you can put yourself on the road to a financially secure retirement.

Beginning to Think About Retirement - Retirement is probably many years, if not decades, in the future. Yet, being able to afford a financially secure retirement is expensive and understanding some of the basics now and taking a few steps can make that retirement you dream of a reality and a few years closer than what you think.

Four Components of a Financially Secure Retirement - Most people identify a financially secure retirement as on of their primary financial goals. Reaching that goal can be easier by examining the four sources of income you will have during retirement and identifying steps you can take now to increase each of those sources.

Save for Your Retirement With an Automatic Savings Program - Your personal savings may be the only component of your retirement plan you completely control. Having more is better than having less. Set a goal, determine what you need to save to each and start saving the easy way. Calculate how much to save each month to reach your retirement savings goal.

An IRA Refresher - Individual retirement accounts are the basis of many individuals retirement planning. Even with a company retirement plan, the right IRA can help business owners accumulate the wealth they desire.

Maximize the Value of Your IRA - The 2001 Tax Law improved an already good financial planning tool. Increased contribution limits and the potential for additional contributions by those ages 50 and over make these accounts better than ever.

IRA or Roth IRA? - Many individuals have the opportunity to convert their traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and enjoy some additional benefits. However, there are restrictions and costs. You should examine this opportunity to see if it is right for you.

Can $5000 IRA Contributions Really Add Up? - A wise person once said that humans tend to over-estimate what they can accomplish in the short-term and under-estimate what they can accomplish in the long-term. This holds very true for IRA contributions.

Fund Your IRA With an Automatic Savings Program - Your IRA is one of the four main components of a financially secure retirement. Use the calculator to determine how much to contribute on a monthly basis. Start a monthly automatic savings plan and fund your IRA contribution by the end of the year.

IRAs for Teens - Many teenagers have income from summer or part-time jobs. Establishing a Roth Individual Retirement Account may be the beginning of a secure financial foundation. It can also help the teen develop some good savings habits.

Taking Money Out of Your IRA - Many people think of an IRA only as a savings tool. Yet, at some point, every dollar in an IRA will be distributed. Learn how different tax rules apply at different times of your life.

Take Full Advantage of Your Employer's 401(k) Plan - This popular type of retirement plan can be a major source of wealth. Understanding more about 410(k) plans will make your decision making easier.

Reviewing Your Options for a Retirement Plan Distribution - If you receive a lump sum distribution from your qualified plan as you change jobs or retire, there are important decisions you must make. The consequences of those decisions can have a very significant impact on your financial future.

Understanding the Social Security System - The Social Security system is the foundation of many individual's financial plan for retirement. This article includes information on benefits and costs of this important part of retirement planning.

Review Your Social Security Record - The Social Security Administration is sending reports titles "Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement." This report shows your history of earnings and benefit estimates. Learn what to look in your report.

What Should You Expect to Receive from Social Security? - Social Security retirement benefits are usually only one source of retirement income. This article describes current average benefit levels.

Rethinking Retirement - The volatility of the stock market often causes many to re-evaluate how to save for retirement, when to retire and how to live after retirement. There are several things to consider as you plan for a financially secure retirement in light of the current stock market.

Add $100,000 to Your Retirement Savings - It is probably safe to assume that you want to accumulate more funds for your retirement. Having more is better than having less. This article demonstrates how starting early and saving regularly can put that additional money within reach.

Return to Resource Center Index

Income Tax & Estate Planning

Fundamentals of Income Taxes - A simple concept with very complicated details. Our federal income tax system was implemented in 1913 simply as a way for the government to collect revenue. Since then, the laws have been expanded and revised dozens, if not hundreds of times. If history is any guide, you can expect the tax laws to continue to change and probably not get any simpler.

Understand the Tax Implications of Financial Decisions - Income taxes can be confusing and frightening. All too often, misunderstandings cause people to make financial choices that are not in their best long-term interest. Learn a few basics that will put taxes into the proper perspective.

Developing an Effective Income Tax Strategy - While it may be too late to reduce last year's tax bill, it is the right time to start planning to reduce your future income taxes. This article offers some ideas that may make every April 15th less taxing.

Year Round Tax Savings Strategies - Income taxes are not something that should only be considered once a year. This article provides several ideas that can be put to work to make your tax bill smaller.

Beware of the Alternative Minimum Tax - The AMT is becoming a problem for millions of taxpayers and many are not aware of its presence. It may be difficult to totally avoid the AMT, but an understanding of what it is and how it works may provide some ideas on how to reduce it.

The Power of Tax Deferred Compounding - No one likes to pay income taxes. Delaying the actual payment of taxes can be satisfying from an emotional and financial point of view. Learn some of the types of investments and types of accounts that can help you delay the final tax bill.

Taxable, Tax Advantaged, Tax Deferred and Tax Free - Certain investments and certain types of accounts can help you reduce, or at least delay, paying income taxes on investment earnings, Learn some of the why's, how's and when's of this important issue.

Charitable Giving Strategies - Americans continue to open their wallets to support their favorite causes. Understanding your options may help you save some additional taxes while you help your favorite charity.

Consider Charitable Contributions of Appreciated Stock - With the recent strong performance of the stock market, many people should consider how giving stock to their favorite charity can further their favorite causes and create an income tax break.

The Basics of Estate Planning - Estate planning is not just the wealthy or the elderly. A few steps can help ensure that your family will be cared for as you intend if tragedy strikes.

Beginning to Think About Estate Planning - When you hear the term "estate planning," you probably think of estate taxes and think that estate planning is only for older people or those with lots of assets. Estate planning is about estate taxes and quite a bit more. It also includes what would happen to you if you could not make financial and medical decisions and what would happen to your loved ones if you died.

Estate Planning is More Than Minimizing Taxes - People often think that estate planning is just for the wealthy and usually undertaken just to avoid or reduce estate taxes. However, there is much more. The proper planning can reduce the stress often associated with choices over medical decisions and financial management for the dying or disabled.

Estate Taxes Under the New Tax Law - The new tax law reduces, eliminates and reinstates estate taxes. Many expect even more changes to the estate tax laws over the next few years. Review some of the recent changes and prepare to discuss your estate plan with your professional advisor.

Making Annual $13,000 Gifts - Many individuals are able to help their families and reduce potential estate taxes by using this popular gifting technique. It can work for anyone and be a critical part of family financial planning.

Revocable Living Trusts - These popular forms of asset ownership are often "touted" as ways to avoid the expense of probating an estate. Learn what they are, how they work, how you may establish one and what to watch out for.

Consider a Life Insurance Trust - Life insurance trusts can be used to keep insurance proceeds out of your taxable estate and save large amounts of estate taxes. As you review your estate plan, speak with your attorney about this powerful and useful technique of owning life insurance policies.

Return to Resource Center Index

Issues Facing Parents

Custodial Accounts for Children - Transferring funds to children with UGMA or UTMA accounts serves many purposes. Children can learn about finances and there may be some tax advantages. However, ultimately the children take control of the assets.

Beginning to Think About College Funding - As you probably know, college is expensive. As you may not know, college costs are rising faster than inflation and almost no one is predicting that college costs are going to go down. As a result, you may want to start thinking about funding your children's college costs now. The sooner you start thinking (and hopefully saving) the easier it will be.

College Funding Options - The 2001 Tax Law made several changes in ways to save for college costs. The changes were all good. If funding a college education for a child, or grandchild, is in your future, you should be aware of these changes.

Save for College - While costs vary from school to school, the costs of sending a child or grandchild to college are high and getting higher. Calculate what those costs may be for your family and how to start saving the easy way.

Saving Early for a College Education - Starting early to save for a child's college education makes the process easier. College costs are continuing to rise faster than the general inflation rate. That's why taking steps now can enable your child to attend the college of choice.

Investing College Funds - Learn how a changing mix of equity and fixed income investments can help you take advantage of the historical higher returns of equities and have the funds available for college costs.

Guidelines for First Time Credit Card Users - Getting a first credit card can be intimidating and tempting. This article reviews some of the decisions credit card users should make and offers some guidelines for the prudent use of this financial convenience.

IRAs for Teens - Many teenagers have income from summer or part-time jobs. Establishing a Roth Individual Retirement Account may be the beginning of a secure financial foundation. It can also help the teen develop some good savings habits.

The Kiddie Tax or How Children Are Taxed - Children are taxpayers just like adults, almost. This article explains how the IRS provides some tax breaks for children and how they prevent some parents from reducing the overall level of family tax.

Return to Resource Center Index

Small Businesses

Considering Starting a Business - Starting a business and being your own boss is a dream of many young people. It can be an opportunity to put innovative ideas to work, to fill a needed niche in a market and potentially to build your wealth. It can also be an overwhelming task. However, millions have been successful and millions have failed. There are no guarantees, but here are some of the issues you should consider.

Choosing the Right Form for Your Business - Choosing the appropriate legal form for a business is one of the first issues most entrepreneurs face. It is an important decision at the formation stage and also as a business grows.

Developing a Business Plan - Having a business plan can make running your business easier. Your advisors, creditors and others will better understand your business after reviewing your plan.

Getting Ready to Borrow - At some point, almost every business will need to borrow money. Being prepared for the loan application and approval process can make the whole experience less stressful.

Developing a Marketing Plan - Having a written marketing plan can make everyday decision making easier and save you time. Here are some ideas to use when creating a plan.

Giving Customers the Respect They Want and Deserve - Keeping existing customers, as well as finding new ones, is more critical than ever. Better understanding the customer relationship from the customer's point of view can help you strengthen, lengthen and leverage one of your most valuable business assets - your customer relationships.

Marketing With Direct Mail - Marketing through the mail is effective for some and not for others. Learn some of the ways to evaluate and use this marketing tactic.

Marketing With Newsletters - Finding ways to stay in touch with customers and prospects is critical for the success of your business. Newsletters provide "a reason and a means" to communicate. Learn why many companies use newsletters to keep interested parties informed.

Trade Show Marketing - Industry gatherings and conferences can be an ideal way of getting your marketing messages in front of potential buyers. This article helps identify what types of shows may be best and how to use your attendance or exhibiting more effectively.

The Science and Art of Generating Referrals - Asking for referrals can be uncomfortable. Learn some of the when's and how's to make the process more effective and easier.

Using the Trade Press to Generate Results - Trade publications you and your customers read are an ideal way to spread the word about your company. Following a few steps can help you take advantage of this "free" advertising.

Preparing a Business Speech - Opportunities to speak in front of customers and others should be seized and capitalized on. Many business managers let the anxiety of public speaking prevent them from taking full advantage of these opportunities.

The Importance of Job Descriptions - Giving employees an understanding of what is expected will help them perform better. It can also help in the evaluation, promotion or termination of the employee.

Interviewing Job Applicants - Good employees are critical for the success of any business. Asking the right questions during a job interview can help you make the right employee decisions.

Evaluating Your Employees - While performance evaluations are seldom looked forward to, they can be a critical and valuable step in effectively managing your business.

Terminating Employees - No matter how carefully you hire employees, there will be a time when you must terminate an employee. If you do it carefully, you can reduce the risk of any legal action and maybe learn something that will help in running your business.

Retirement Plan Options - You have many choices for a retirement plan for your business. Be sure to consider all the costs and your objectives.

Return to Resource Center Index

Protect Your Financial Identity & Safeguard Your Financial Information

Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Credit Identity - When someone uses your credit identity the costs and aggravation can add up. Learn some tips to keep your credit identity secure.

Examples of Email Common Scams - Most email scams end up involving requests to send money, cash checks, establish business relationships or requests for information. Being aware of these scams and using common sense can help protect you and your finances.

Protecting Your Credit Card Activities - Credit cards are convenient, accepted by most stores, eliminate the need to carry cash, often easier to use than a check, and they can temporarily delay when you have to pay for your purchases. Along with these benefits, comes the risk that a thief will steal your card or your card information. Learn some guidelines to protect your credit card activities.

Monitor Your Financial Identity by Reviewing Your Credit Reports - One step to ensure that no one has stolen your financial identity or established fraudulent credit in your name is to review your credit report. There is now a program that enables you to receive copies of your credit report from each of the three large credit reporting agencies each year at not cost.

Protecting Your Internet Activities - With more of our financial activities occurring over the Internet, it is important to be aware of risks these activities entail and steps you can take to reduce the risk that someone will illegally gain access to your private information or financial accounts.

Protecting Against Investment Scams on the Internet - The Internet has become the communication channel of choice for many investors. The Internet has also become a popular place for thieves and scam artists to find victims. Learn about some of the types of scams and how to protect yourself.

Disposing of and Shredding Personal Documents - When you put a piece of paper in the trash it can be difficult know what happens to it. Every step that occurs once the trash leaves your control has risk that someone will find personal information they can use to cause you harm. One way to safeguard personal information is to shred it before it goes into the trash.

Protecting Your Mail - The mail you receive and send includes information that deserves special attention. Everything from account numbers and balances on financial accounts to the name and account number on checks you mail can be valuable to thieves and other scam artists.

ATM Security and You - Automatic Teller Machines have become integral for many individuals. Learn a few tips to use them wisely and carefully.

Tips for Organizing Important Papers - Knowing how long and where to keep tax records and other important papers can help individuals better manage their finances.

Using a Safe Deposit Box - Safe deposit boxes are handle tools. They provide a safe place away from your home or office to store valuables. Learn some of the ways to most effectively use your safe deposit box.

Be Prepared if Disaster Strikes - As survivors of Hurricane Katrina or any disaster can attest, it is essential to be prepared for the unexpected, both physically and financially. Being adequately insured and having an emergency savings fund are important. But so is having the personal and financial information you may need to manage your finances if you lose access to your home.

Return to Resource Center Index