Internet offers wealth of advice on finances

By Russ Van Arsdale Executive director Northeast Contact, Special to the BDN
Posted June 13, 2010, at 9:05 p.m.

Last week we called for more financial literacy education for young people. Here’s our quiz for the rest of us.

Spend five minutes surfing the Web or flipping through TV channels, and you’ll find a dozen ways to spend your hard-earned cash. Spend a few seconds to open a website filled with useful, trustworthy information you can use every day, and pay nothing for it.

Which sounds like the better deal? The second choice, of course, although “pay nothing” was a bit of a stretch. Our federal tax dollars actually paid for the website, www.MyMoney.gov, which you can find from a number of federal websites dealing with consumer issues.

The website brings together information from 21 federal entities. Its creation was part of the charge by the Financial Literacy and Education Commission. That group was set up through passage of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, and its task is to make information on federal consumer issues useful and easier to find.

It does both. A featured item notes that changes in overdraft rules will take effect July 1. When you overdraw using a debit or ATM card, your lender can charge you in a couple of ways: by imposing a standard fee each time an overdraft occurs, or by selling you overdraft protection which may cost less in the event of multiple overdrafts.

Until now, many banks or credit unions could enroll you automatically in an overdraft protection plan. After July 1, you will have some choices. The details, too complex for this article, are discussed at the Federal Reserve’s website, www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo. (The MyMoney website redirects you to the Federal Reserve site for this information.)

The MyMoney site is a great place to beef up your financial literacy quotient. Helpful topics include ways to formulate a spending plan, dealing with mortgages, making a retirement plan, arranging for a loan or insurance, and saving and investing.

There are also scam-fighting suggestions to guard against a range of ripoff schemes. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has tips on money management in good and bad financial times, safe ways to do your banking on the Internet and protecting your financial privacy.

The online information is organized in several ways:

1. Around life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child, buying a home or starting (or losing) a job.

2. Outlining resources by categories, with advice geared specifically to the needs of young people, retirees, teachers, military personnel, women, parents and caregivers. You can access calculators to figure out how long it will take to repay a loan based on various interest rates or see how compound interest works.

We urge consumers to do all they can to educate themselves about the rigors of an increasingly complex financial world. It’s a lifelong journey, and reliable resources are worth knowing and using.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or go to http://necontact.wordpress.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/06/13/business/internet-offers-wealth-of-advice-on-finances/ printed on July 24, 2014