It's Your Money

Ready to Grow Your Money? Educate Yourself with These Free, Unbiased Investing Tools

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PHOTO: TAX CREDITS

The idea of investing your money can be scary. We hear so much conflicting advice from investment "experts"—from financial gurus on TV to the friend who boasts about having the hottest stock tips—that we don't know who to listen to.

That's not a bad thing in itself; investing, first and foremost, is about risk, so you're smart to hesitate to jump into something you don't fully understand. But there are varying degrees of risk, and if you can safely set aside a portion of your earnings toward wise investing, it can be an excellent way to grow your money. So how do you learn to invest wisely?

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a nonprofit agency authorized by Congress, can help. FINRA provides free, unbiased educational tools for investors on their website—all designed to help you calculate how much risk is safe for you, choose your money-growing options wisely, and protect your investments.

For the rookie investor, FINRA's Prepare to Invest page lays out the minimum level of financial stability you'll want before even thinking about putting any money into the market. Once those basics are covered, you can put your knowledge of key investing concepts and the different types of investments to good use, either with the help of a well-qualified professional or by investing directly online yourself. There are even handy tools and calculators you can use to compare thousands of mutual funds, protect yourself against scams, and even investigate a particular broker's background

While there's no such thing as a risk-free investment, it's good to know that watchdogs like FINRA work hard to provide you with the knowledge you need to navigate the world of finance in the smartest way possible. Total beginners and seasoned investors alike will find lots of relevant information on their website—and knowing it's offered without bias or commercial interest makes it even more valuable.


 

Fun Around Town with No Money Down

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Lots of free entertainment, culture, and education can be found in Monroe County (aren't we lucky?). Here’s a selection for the upcoming week: Read more »

How Much Credit Do You Get? Find Out at Tuesday's Free Info Session at the Library

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PHOTO: LILLIAN CAMERON

Some well-off people are fortunate enough to avoid debt altogether; for the rest of us, though, it's difficult to get things like cars, education, businesses, and homes without borrowing the money. Of course, it's all too easy to take on debt for any number of less worthwhile things, too: the latest electronic gadgets, expensive clothing, and even dinners out all seem to find their way onto our credit card statements if we're not careful.

And while high-interest lenders are often happy to front you more money than you're easily able to pay back—it's the reason they exist, in fact—you'll end up repaying far more than you borrowed if don't learn to say "Thanks, but no thanks" when the pre-approved enticements to go deeper into debt come calling.

But you need to show you're creditworthy, and you do that by borrowing, right? So how much is enough when it comes to credit (also known by its less sexy name: debt)? Is it possible to play the credit game without getting burned?

Sandra Ross, an unbiased credit expert, leads Give Me Some Credit!, a free info session at the Library Tuesday night. She says you can safely take on a certain amount of debt—IF you're smart about what you're doing. On Tuesday Sandra shows you how to calculate the amount of debt that's right for you, how to spot debt traps, and how taking on certain kinds of debt can actually help you build wealth. You can register on the Library's website, by calling 812-349-3263, or by emailing rstacy [at] mcpl [dot] info. See you there!

Learn the Basics of Wise Investing at this Free Presentation at the Library

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Ever think about growing your money through investing, but weren’t sure where to start (or who to listen to for advice)? Unbiased answers will be provided by Dr. Richard Shockley, Associate Professor of Finance at IU’s Kelley School of Business this Thursday night—and you won’t want to miss it. Dr. Shockley introduces you to different types of investments, how to think about risks versus returns, and where you can learn more about growing your money.

No pressure, no sales pitches, no product endorsements—just unbiased information to make you a wise investor. To register, go to the Library’s events calendar or call 812-349-3263.

Fun Around Town with No Money Down

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Lots of free entertainment, culture, and education can be found in Monroe County (aren't we lucky?). Here’s a selection for the upcoming week: Read more »

Pick Up Money Concepts Quickly with Love Your Money

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Love Your Money is a new series of interactive video-based money lessons that's fun (and free!) to use. A project of the University of Tennessee extension, LYM offers a light-hearted approach to understanding debt, savings, and more through practical scenarios and sharp-looking presentation. And you'll do more than just watch and listen—the calculators, downloads, and quizzes built in to the topics make Love Your Money more than just another passive-learning experience.

Proposed Indiana Law Would Give Students a Clear Picture of Debt

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 PHOTO: IMAGES MONEY

The author of a recent opinion piece in the Bloomington Herald-Times voices her support for House Bill 1042, a proposed law that would require Indiana colleges to provide students with a detailed snapshot of their school debts each year. The report, provided annually, would be designed to provide students with an idea of what repayment of their loans will look like—and discourage unecessary borrowing. Indiana University already provides such documentation, notes StateImpact, and their  efforts to keep students informed might serve as the template for the law's requirements.

 

Money-Saving March Energy Challenge: Search & Destroy Air Leaks

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The Monroe County Energy Challenge is in full swing, with a suggested new task each month for saving pennies as well as kilowatts. This month the challenge is to seal those tiny leaks and cracks that allow cold air into our homes—to the tune of up to $70 a year.

MCEC's Task of the Month Poster, as well as their year-round energy-saving checklist, can be downloaded and shared with your friends and family; be sure to check out the Library's display of books and DVDs on home energy conservation for more money-saving ideas. Thanks for doing your part!

Don't Get Taken to the Cleaners—Make Your Own! DIY Cleaning Products

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Making your own cleaning supplies is better for the environment, keeps harmful chemicals out of your house, and often times is cheaper than buying ready-made products. By keeping a few go-to cleaners on hand, you can dramatically cut your cleaning products bill.

The Big Three

The three most useful cleaning ingredients to have in your cupboard are vinegar, baking soda and borax. Vinegar's antimicrobial properties make it one of the best natural cleaning products, baking soda is great for removing dirt and grease because it’s a mild alkali (it deodorizes as Read more »

Easy, Every Day Money-Saving Tips, Part 2

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PHOTO: Neerav Bhatt

Getting control of your finances can be overwhelming.  Here are some easy, everyday steps you can take to get on track.

Plan Your Meals. It's tempting at the end of a long work day to opt for take-out instead of deciding what to cook for dinner at home.  Make it harder to eat out by planning meals for the week before trips to the grocery store. Just by having a plan, and sticking to your shopping list, you'll save money by curbing impulse purchasing, and by eating at home.

Pro-tip: Plan meals with similar ingredients to use up the food you purchase.  Trent at The Simple Dollar, for example, writes about how he used a whole chicken to make two different meals, plus one leftover meal for a family of four—along with chicken stock for future meals.

Wash Laundry in Cold Water. On average, washing a load of laundry with hot water costs 68 cents, whereas washing clothes in cold water costs a whopping 4 cents.  You are literally throwing money down the drain exclusively washing in warm water.

Plan a Night Out In. Socializing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  Invite your friends for dinner at your place, with each of them bringing their specialty dish. You’ll get to try different dishes, save money, and have a night with friends; what could be better?

Keep Your Money in Your Pocket… Not in the Bank’s. If you’re using an ATM to take out money frequently (not a great idea anyhow), make sure you’re at least using one of your bank's, so you aren’t hit with a $2-$3 fee each time.  Better yet, join a bank that doesn’t charge fees for ATM withdrawals from any machine. If neither of those work for you, then pull out money in larger amounts less frequently to save on the number of transaction fees.

It's Your Money is made possible by a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through Smart investing@your library®, a partnership with the American Library Association.

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