Click the links below to learn more.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA, a private organization, is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. It creates investor education programs and materials for the public. The website contains helpful investor alerts about scams that affect investors, along with the FINRA BrokerCheck and Investor Complaint Center services.
FINRA BrokerCheck provides a way to check the professional background, registration or license status and conduct history of FINRA registered brokerage firms and brokers, as well as investment adviser firms and representatives.
FINRA Investor Complaint Center
The FINRA Complaint Center provides online information on when and how to file investor complaints about a firm or a broker.
FINRA Foundation Special Resources
SaveAndInvest.org, a free services of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, contains helpful resources for many audiences, including the military, investors, and people seeking money management information. The site offers unbiased information about spending, saving, debt and protecting your money. Visit www.saveandinvest.org/FraudCenter to find tools for checking financial professionals, as well as avoiding and reporting investment scams.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
SEC Tips for Checking Out Brokers and Advisers
http://www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml or firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of Investor Education and Assistance: (202) 942-7040
The Securities and Exchange Commission is a government agency and the primary regulator of the U.S. securities markets. The SEC website provides helpful information on investing, making it easy to check required registrations and filings of domestic and foreign companies that offer financial products regulated by the SEC. To get this information for free, search the EDGAR database through the SEC website.
Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission
This Federal government website is dedicated to helping Americans understand more about their money - how to save it, invest it, and manage it to meet personal goals.
Alliance for Investor Education
The Alliance for Investor Education is a nonprofit group dedicated to facilitating greater understanding of investing. The Help for Investors website is a "one-stop" way to find different resources for checking brokers and advisers, reporting fraud, and filing complaints. The Alliance's investor education site contains more tips.
National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
NEFE is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to promoting financial literacy. Its Smart About Money educational website is a one-stop resource for important information about financial planning, credit, debt, saving, investing, and retirement. Through its www.nefe.org website, NEFE also provides a national clearinghouse for information about financial literacy efforts that may be useful for teachers and community educators.
Business Sources of Financial Information
Most of the primary news websites and web search portals have extensive online resources devoted to money management issues. Many feature information for beginner investors. There are also many printed publications that report on the investment industry, such as magazines and newspapers, with useful related websites. Take advantage of free or low-cost commercial sources of information about investment choices - understanding that these firms are in business to sell you their services. Examples include these well-known websites:
This website provides information on choosing financial products like mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Many of the site's personal finance articles are free and publicly available, and its fund selector tool is helpful. Be sure to check out the details of a fund's performance history, not just its rating. Some parts of the site are for subscribers only.
Bankrate's website is a source for free comparative information on interest rates paid on CDs and savings accounts at banks across the nation, plus rates charged on personal loans and credit cards by providers.
Choose to Save Campaign / EBRI Education and Research Fund
This program is a project of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) Education and Research Fund, and its American Savings Education Council (ASEC) coalition. In addition to savings tips, the website contains useful online savings calculators that can assist you with number crunching for retirement savings, budgeting, home or auto purchases, credit cards and more.
College Savings Plans Network
This website provides information about 529 college savings plans. The site is a project of the College Savings Plans Network, an organization that is an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers.
JumpStart is a coalition of groups that fosters the financial literacy of young adults by evaluating and promoting the teaching of personal finance in grades K-12. The website contains links to a wide variety of educational materials on personal finance intended for younger people and their teachers.
Managing Credit and Debt
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
To find HUD-approved housing counselors: www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm (800) 569-4287 or TTY (800) 877-8339
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counselors can help you with legal issues, answer financial questions, and help you talk with your lender about money problems, if needed.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling
Locate NFCC Member Agency: (800) 388-2227 (English) and (800) 682-9832 (Spanish)
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a nonprofit credit counseling organization with over 100 member agencies that provide free and affordable money management and debt counseling services to individuals. Members can be identified by the NFCC member seal. Many are known as ClearPoint Financial Solutions, formerly called Consumer Credit Counseling Service R (CCCS). DebtAdvice.org is an informational NFCC site that provides information on managing credit or locating a credit counselor.
Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA)
The AICCCA is a member organization that aims to provide help to individuals with debt or financial troubles. The association provides standards and best practices on its website that members are required to follow. It also provides a searchable database listing all members nationwide.
Credit Counselors Approved by Federal Government
Find U.S. Department of Justice approved credit counselors with this online tool.
Ordering Credit Reports and Scores
Free Annual Credit Reports
Hearing impaired TDD # (877) 730-4104
Write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105283, Atlanta, GA 30348-5283.
Order report: (800) 685-1111 Report fraud: (888) 766-0008
Order report or report fraud: (888) 397-3742
Order report: (800) 888-4213 Report fraud: (800) 680-7289
Fair Isaac Corporation
Information and reports about credit scores.
Local Help with Legal Issues
Find information about locating and qualifying for free or low-cost legal services, in your state. www.FindLegalHelp.org. This American Bar Association (ABA) website
features links to sources of qualified legal help in your state.
Locating Financial Advisers
You may wish to seek a professional financial adviser to help you invest a large sum. It is a good idea to choose an adviser who has passed professional exams, showing that he or she has achieved serious financial competency. There are many different kinds of financial certification programs. If you are unsure about what a particular certification means, be sure to check out the certifying organization and learn about its requirements and procedures. Ask your local business librarian to help you.
Financial advisers can be paid on a flat fee or a commission basis. Look for an adviser who will reveal in advance any special incentives or circumstances that could influence the adviser’s judgment about financial products. Seek out a professional who will give clear answers to all your questions about suggested investments. Check to make sure that the products recommended for purchase suit your personal financial goals. Sellers of investments should be registered and licensed as required by your state and by the federal government. Examples of well-known professional organizations include:
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards is a nonprofit organization that encourages professional standards in personal financial planning. Certified planners must pass a significant exam and abide by industry standards. The website allows you to search for a Certified Financial Planner.
Chartered Financial Analyst Institute
This nonprofit membership organization awards the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, considered a significant credential for financial professionals. Chartered Financial Analysts must pass a significant exam. You can search the website for a local member society of CFAs.
Financial Planning Association
This website provides information on financial planning and a Certified Financial Planner search engine.
Locating Tax Help
Internal Revenue Service
Free Tax Counseling
Locate VITA and TCE sites: (800) 829-1040
Taxpayer Advocate Service: (877) 777-4778
Under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the IRS provides free tax preparation help for low to moderate income ($51,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. The IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program provides free tax help to people age 60 and older. The IRS website warns of common tax scams, and also contains an online educational tool on the Earned Income Tax Credit, known as the EITC Assistant.
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
The AARP works with the IRS on its Tax Counseling for the Elderly program and offers Tax-Aide counseling nationwide for low to middle income people, focusing on those 60 and older.
Tax Credit Resources
This website is run by the nonprofit organization Community Resources Information, Inc. and provides information about both federal and state level sources of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), as well as other tax-related issues.
Military personnel and their families may be entitled to free tax help. Consult your commanding officer or the VITA program of the IRS to locate a source of help near you.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
www.ftc.gov or www.ftc.gov/espanol (in Spanish)
General Information: (202) 326-2222
Toll-free help line: (877) 382 4357
The Federal Trade Commission is the government’s primary consumer protection agency. It provides helpful information on investing, credit, debt, and other personal finance issues.
The National Consumer League (NCL)
www.nclnet.org and www.fraud.org
Phone: (202) 835-3323
The National Consumer League is a private, nonprofit consumer advocacy group. The organization provides information on money issues and it operates the National Fraud Information Center at www.fraud.org.
Better Business Bureau®
Visit bbb.org to check a business or charity, file a complaint, and learn more about scams. For over 100 years, BBB has been helping people find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on over 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on about 11,000 charities, all available for free. There are 113 independent local BBBs across the U.S. and Canada, working together through the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). CBBB is home to national and international BBB programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.
This educational program was created with generous support from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
Prepared as a service to the public through the Better Business Bureau® system.