2019 Financial Goals

When asked where to start, Wollan notes that “the right starting point depends on your goal.” With that in mind, she suggests resources suited for several common financial goals.
 
Paying off debt. Wollan directs consumers to PowerPay (www.powerpay.org) from Utah State University Extension. Using the debt repayment calculator lets you see how long it will take to pay off a debt, and how much time and money you’ll save if you make larger payments or find a lower interest rate. “There are plenty of debt calculators on the internet,” says Wollan, “but this one comes without commercials and with related educational material.”
 
Better basic money management. “Take Control of Your Money” is a free on-line web course (https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/take-control) from Iowa State University Extension. “It outlines the core processes involved in managing weekly or monthly cash flow; users can spend as much or little time as they wish on each segment, skipping over some aspects entirely if they are not of interest.” The course also includes Excel-based tools and paper/pencil tools users can download if desired.  For college students, Wollan also suggests CashCourse (www.cashcourse.org) from the highly-respected National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), noting that while it was designed with students in mind, other young adults may also find it helpful.
 
Retirement planning. ISU Extension’s “Retirement: Secure Your Future” resources are used by Extension staff around the nation (www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/retirement), according to Wollan.  A range of publications, recorded mini-lessons, and links to other credible sources address the needs of adults of all ages.
 
Investing. The national Extension system’s online independent study resource “Investing for Your Future” (https://articles.extension.org/pages/10984/investing-for-your-future) provides an excellent non-commercial overview of a full range of investing-related topics.  Wollan also recommends www.finra.org, provided by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and www.investor.gov, featuring resources from the U.S. government.
 
Purchasing specific items.  For unbiased reviews of products from automobiles to vitamins, Wollan recommends Consumer Reports magazine or www.consumerreports.org. “Consumer Reports is the only organization that does strong product evaluation in the laboratory and the real world in a completely unbiased manner,” she reports.
 
What about information from commercial sources? “Many financial businesses have excellent information on their websites, and commercial magazines often contain trustworthy information on financial topics,” agrees Wollan. “However, there is always the possibility that they might omit certain information or skew their recommendations or calculations to promote a particular product or service. With that in mind, I always encourage consumers to consult several different sources before making decisions and to evaluate that information carefully.” A mix of non-commercial and commercial resources is often needed if consumers want to understand a topic thoroughly.

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