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Financial Education Resources

In addition to complete courses, Real Finance offers a financial education library with hundreds of articles, assessments, calculators, and videos.

This Week @ Real Finance offers daily articles on a new financial topic each week. Members can subscribe for home delivery via email.

A partial listing of Real Finance resources are listed below. Log in to your account for full access.


Budgeting and Spending

One of the best ways to achieve financial health is to effectively manage your daily, weekly, and monthly spending decisions.

Creating a budget is a great first step, but a budget is just a plan. You then need to track your actual spending behavior. When your actual spending matches your plan, you will be in great shape for realizing your financial goals.

Tracking Your Spending
Tracking your money can be a powerful way to spot unplanned spending.

Income and Expenses
A big part of budgeting is identifying income and listing expenses.

Introduction to Budgeting
Why budgeting is important, no matter how much money you earn.

Evaluating Your Budget
After you've identified your income and tracked your spending, it's time to compare the numbers, gain perspective, set priorities, and make changes.

Money Saving Ideas
Looking for ideas for ways to save money? Almost everyone can find a way to save using at least one of these tips.

How to Improve Cash Flow
Cash flow is a key indicator of your financial health.

Debt and the Pressure to Spend
It’s wonderful to have the freedom to buy so many products, but unless you’re rich, the key to happy spending is planned spending.

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Buying a Car

Buying a car can be an exciting experience, but it can also involve some complicated financial decisions.
Should you buy new or used, pay in full or finance, or even consider leasing? And to make matters even more complicated, the price you pay for your car is often determined by negotiation, making it hard to tell whether or not you are getting a fair deal.

This material will guide you though the entire process - from choosing the best model to avoiding unnecessary surprises (and costs) at closing.

Buying a Car
An introduction to the basics of this major purchase and responsibility.

Choosing a Make and Model
A look at four important factors to consider when choosing a car: fuel consumption, insurance rates, reliability, and depreciation.

The Total Cost of Ownership
Understanding the many costs associated with owning a car - from financing cost to taxes.

Buy or Lease Decisions
The pros and cons of leasing.

Financing a Car Purchase
How a loan affects the total cost of buying a car.

Evaluating a Used Car
How to "do your homework" before buying a used car.

Negotiating Your Car Purchase
Effective negotiation could potentially save you thousands on your next car purchase.

Setting a Target Price
How to set a realistic target price for both new and used vehicles.

Negotiating Price
Know what to expect when negotiating the best deal.

Avoiding Surprises
Think the negotiating is finished when you agree on a price? Here's how to negotiate dealer extras and extended warranty pitches.

Common Mistakes
Twelve common mistakes to keep in mind when shopping for a car.

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Buying a Home

Owning your own home can make a lot of financial sense - if you are fully prepared for it.

For many, home ownership is a sign of personal and financial success. But home ownership involves both risks and rewards - meaning it's not always appropriate for everyone.

In this section, we'll take a look at some of the issues involved in making a purchase decision, explore some ways of financing a home, and consider situations in which renting is actually the best financial decision.

Buying a Home Introduction
Some pros and cons of buying a home, including a comparison with renting.

Understanding Mortgages
The parts of a mortgage and common mortgage loan options.

Buying vs. Renting a Home
Factors to consider when making an informed "buy" or "rent" decision.

Saving Money for Your Home Purchase
Before you buy a home, determine how much consumer debt is reasonable for you and what upfront costs you will have for your home purchase.

Assembling a Home Buying Team
Having the right people on your side can help you make the best possible buying decisions.

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Debt Management and Financial Trouble

Many people in financial trouble may not realize it - and even think their situation is normal.

Almost everyone experiences financial stress at some point, but out of control debts can have serious financial, social, and psychological consequences. To make matters worse, penalty fees, increased interest rates, and high-fee "alternate" financial services can make it difficult to get out of a bad situation.

In this section, we'll look at some of the reasons why people find themselves in financial trouble, review some of the warning signs, and explore options for getting back on track.

Spotting the Signs of Financial Trouble
Many Americans find themselves in debt, but for some, debt turns into a serious problem with lasting consequences.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
One of the first steps in getting out of debt is to analyze calculate your debt-to-income ratio.

Dealing with Financial Trouble
If you ever find yourself experiencing financial trouble, there are steps you can take to get back on track and to minimize the damage to your credit.

Simple Steps to Debt Reduction
Regardless of how you got into debt or how severe your debt problems are, these seven steps can help you find your way out.

Debt Reduction Plans
Whether you do it yourself or work with a credit counselor, creating a debt reduction plan is an important first step for those with financial...

Loan Consolidation and Refinancing
Consolidation and refinancing are tools that may help to reduce your debt.

Credit Counseling
The role of credit counseling organizations and how a debt management plan works to restore credit over time.

Debt Repayment Strategies
When it comes to building your plan for repaying debt, it's important to have a plan of attack.

Choosing a Credit Counselor
The best way to find a good credit counselor is to know what questions to ask.

Credit Repair Scams
There's a big difference between a non-profit credit counseling service and a credit repair scam. Learn how to tell the difference.

Debt Collection
Your rights and responsibilities when dealing with debt collectors.

Do it Yourself Debt Reduction
Whether you do it yourself or work with a credit counselor, creating a debt reduction plan is an important first step for those with financial...

Understanding Bankruptcy
The types of bankruptcy and why bankruptcy should be used only as a last resort.

Repairing Credit
There are no quick fixes when it comes to removing negative items from your credit report or raising your credit score. Only consistent efforts and...

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Financial Aid: Paying for College

A college degree maximizes your chances of being successful. For many families, financial aid is an indispensable part of the equation.

Financial aid involves much more than loans alone. Scholarships, work-study jobs, and service options such as Americorps are all tools that help millions of individuals reach their educational goals. But how do you determine the best path for you?

Here we'll debunk some common financial aid myths, explore the basics of financial aid, and take you step-by-step through the financial aid process.

Dealing with Too Little Aid
Why some students find themselves with too little aid and what can be done to make ends meet.

Financial Aid Introduction
Whether you're considering higher education for yourself or starting to plan for the education of your kids, understanding the financial aid process...

Types of Financial Aid
The main types of financial aid are education loans, grants and scholarships, work-study, and service programs.

Creating an Aid Strategy
Considerations when planning to pay for school, including school choice, employment options, accounting strategies, and the importance of borrowing...

Understanding Financial Need
Some aid is based on financial need and some is not. What exactly is "financial need?"

Independent Student Status
Understanding your financial aid dependency status, including a discussion of what to do if the parents of dependent students refuse to help them pay...

Applying for Aid
The aid application process, including descriptions of the FAFSA and Profile forms.

Education Loans
A description of the main types of student loans, including government loans, consolidation loans, and private loans.

Choosing the Right Loan
Questions every student should be able to answer before taking on a student loan.

Selecting a Private Loan Lender
When federal loans are not enough, private lenders such as banks, credit unions, and non-profit lenders can help to fill the gap.

The Master Promissory Note
An introduction to the agreement that specifies your rights and responsibilities when accepting a student loan.

Repaying College Debt
Common repayment plans are outlined, as well as instructions for finding your loans and the consequences of non-payment.

Borrowing Wisely
Making smart choices about student loans, including a description of the impact of loan capitalization.

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Financial Aid: Repayment Success

There are more options than ever for repaying student loans. Learn how to choose the best option for you.

Student loans are often the first significant debt incurred by people today. Managed appropriately, federal loans offer flexible repayment plans for just about any income level - but the penalties for non-payment can be lasting and serious.

In this section, we explore repayment strategies, cover repayment options, and review common repayment scenarios - including what to do in the event of financial trouble.

The Role of Your Loan Servicer
Your loan servicer is your primary point of contact when you’re repaying your federal student loans.

The Standard Repayment Plan
Of all federal student loan repayment options, the Standard Repayment Plan is the quickest way to repay your loans at the lowest possible total cost.

The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
The National Student Loan Data System, commonly referred to as NSLDS, stores your federal loan information.

The Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan
Exclusively for Direct Loans, this plan offers borrowers of qualifying loans a flexible payment schedule based on yearly income. A financial hardship...

The Income-Contingent Repayment Plan
The Income-Contingent Repayment Plan can be a good way to work out a manageable monthly payment if you have high debt compared with your income.

The Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan
The Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan helps Federal Family Education Loan Program borrowers keep up with payments even if their income is low.

The Graduated Repayment Plan
After the Standard Repayment Plan, the Graduated Repayment Plan is the next least expensive way to repay your federal loan and offers lower payments...

The Income-Based Repayment Plan
This plan offers borrowers of qualifying loans a flexible payment schedule based on yearly income. A financial hardship is required.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness
The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program offers financial incentives intended to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession.

The Extended Repayment Plan
The Extended Repayment Plan spreads student loan payments over up to 25 years for those with federal student loan balances over $30,000.

Repayment Strategies
To repay your student loans, you need a comprehensive strategy to put your education debt in a larger financial picture that includes your income,...

Resolving Student Loan Disputes
Your loan servicer’s job is to offer assistance in helping you successfully repay education loans, but even experienced servicers sometimes make...

Perkins Loan Repayment and Forgiveness Options
Perkins Loans are administered differently than other student loans and include expanded cancellation or discharge options.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work in certain fields or for certain employers, a portion of your Direct Student Loan debt may be eligible for forgiveness.

Managing Loans in Times of Financial Distress
You can’t always prevent financial stress, but how well you manage it will make all the difference in how successful you’ll be in meeting your...

Managing Student Loan Debt
Student loan debt is often the first significant debt acquired by adults today. Repaying your debt responsibly helps you establish good credit and...

Loan Consolidation
Loan consolidation can simplify the loan repayment process, but you must review the loans you plan to consolidate carefully – once consolidated,...

Making Smart Repayment Decisions
Flexible federal student loan repayment plans can help you avoid financial trouble and reach your financial goals.

How Repayment Plan Choices Affect Loan Cost
Your repayment plan choice can greatly affect your monthly payment and the total cost of your student debt.

Grace and Deferment Period Strategies
Federal education loans all offer a grace or deferment period – a set amount of time during which repayment is not required. How you manage loans...

Deferment and Forbearance Options
Both deferment and forbearance can help you avoid financial trouble. If you think you might qualify, reach out to your loan servicer as soon as you...

Discharging Student Loans
There are limited circumstances in which a borrower can be released from his or her obligation to repay student loan debt.

Avoiding Delinquency and Default
“Delinquent” and “Default” are similar words. Both refer to late payments, but the consequences of each are very different.

Dealing with Student Loan Default
The consequences of defaulting on federal student loans can be severe, which is why you should take advantage of the options there are to help you...

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Financial Health

Good financial health offers both short and long-term benefits.

Financially healthy individuals set financial priorities, understand exactly where they spend their money, and make sure their financial behavior aligns with their long-term goals.

Setting Goals
Setting financial goals offers the chance to step back from everyday pressures, allowing us to think about how we’d like to be rather than as how we...

Financial Health
The concept of financial health is the foundation of any financial plan.

Nudging Yourself Towards Your Goals
No matter what your financial goal, it's important to have an accountability system in place.

Understanding Your Financial Values
While each of us may have different financial values, we all make decisions based on them.

Choices About Money
Financial decisions almost always involve a trade off - getting something now usually means giving up something else.

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Financial Planning

From setting a monthly spending plan to saving for retirement, financial planning doesn't have to be complicated.

We all have unique financial goals - from minimizing debt to saving for a comfortable retirement. Financial planning is the process of making sure we're taking concrete steps towards reaching our goals, even as our income, employment, and family situations change.

In this section, we'll explore the financial planning process and take a look at some of the tools you can use to turn your plans into reality.

Financial Planning
Learning the "how" and "why" of short, medium, and long-term financial planning.

Creating a Will
A will is the cornerstone of the legal framework of an estate plan, and everyone should have one.

Powers of Attorney
Everyone faces the possibility of temporary or permanent incapacitation. Make sure your wishes are followed.

Estate Planning
Wills, trusts, and other end of life issues.

Talking About Money
A look at some of the financial considerations of getting married.

Planning for the Unexpected
Planning for unexpected events, including accidents, death, and even the possibility of divorce, are all part of a responsible marriage.

The Divorce Process
Nobody gets married planning to get divorced. But sometimes, wedded bliss does not work out. Whether you’re contemplating a divorce or have already...

Getting Divorced: Untangling Joint Accounts
Part of the divorce process is reviewing all accounts, insurance policies and the like and determine what’s yours and what’s your spouses’.

Financial Life After Divorce
If you get divorced, every aspect of your life can be affected including your finances. There are a number of actions you should not overlook.

Medical Care Planning
How to make sure your wishes are followed in a medical crisis.

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Financial Services

Learn how to make the most of everyday financial services.

Banks and credit unions can be important partners in helping you reach your financial goals. In this section, we'll identify strategies for minimizing fees, backing up important financial information, and understanding the pros and cons of optional services.

Choosing a Bank or Credit Union
Key factors to consider when choosing a financial services provider.

Financial Service Providers
Not all financial services companies provide equal value.

Checking Accounts
Checking accounts are a place where income is deposited and expenses are paid either electronically or through paper checks.

Balancing Your Checking Account
You are ultimately responsible when it comes to keeping track and managing your checking account.

The Unexpected Benefits of Savings Accounts
A savings account can be a powerful tool for helping you manage your money.

Managing Accounts
Account management strategies for checking and savings.

Avoiding Fees
Checking and savings accounts strategies for minimizing fees.

Alternative Financial Services
Understanding why payday loans, check cashing services, and similar services may be bad deals for consumers.

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Having a Baby

The financial realities of caring for a baby can be daunting, but the major risks can be managed with simple planning.

In this section, we'll review short and long-term steps you can take to give your child the best possible financial future. From getting off to a great start by auditing your pre-baby spending to making sure your health insurance covers everything you'll need, we'll explore just about everything you'll need to know to make informed financial decisions.

If a baby is in your near future, be sure to use our checklist suggestions to make sure you cover common tasks.

Growing Up - Childhood and Beyond
A look at the additional costs of raising a child beyond the first few years including the indirect costs.

Children and Taxes
A review of the tax benefits that can help you manage the expenses incurred with children.

Managing Risks
Life is filled with unexpected events. Learn how to ensure the financial security of your child in the worst case scenario.

Childcare Choices
An overview of different childcare choices and the financial implications of each.

Paying for the Baby Years
The non-childcare costs you can expect when having a baby, from cribs to health insurance.

Babies and Budgets
How to get your finances in shape before a baby arrives, including a budget review, paying down debt, making sure you're getting the best on any...

Introduction
Having a baby is not just a family decision, it's a financial decision too.

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Identity Theft

Identity theft costs Americans billions of dollars per year, but there are steps you can take to minimize the chance of it happening to you.

Did you know that there are many kinds of identity theft? In fact, some forms can remain hidden for months or even years - doing damage that can can be tough to undo entirely. In this section, we'll review what exactly identity theft is, how to protect your identity, and what to do if you become a victim.

Identity Theft
Understanding ID theft and how to prevent it.

Avoiding Identity Theft
The three Ds of identity protection: Deter, Detect and Defend.

Dealing with Identity Theft
Understanding the different types of identity theft and what to do in each scenario.

Protecting Your Digital Information
There are many data backup solutions available designed to protect personal information that vary in their security and ease of use.

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Insurance

Insurance is an important tool for managing financial risk, even for those with few assets.

Most of us don't think about it often, but life is filled with uncertainty. In fact, life can seem downright predictable - until something unpredictable happens. From covering medical bills related to a serious illness to paying for car repairs in the event of an accident, it's not difficult to imagine how insurance can be useful for avoiding financial trouble. Unfortunately, many individuals are underinsured, meaning they may be more vulnerable than they realize.

In this material, we'll review common insurance options and look at some low-cost strategies for making sure your insurance truly meets your needs.

Insurance
Understanding how insurance plays an important role in our financial lives.

Auto Insurance
Types of auto insurance, factors influencing cost, and choosing a policy that's right for your situation.

Life Insurance
Who needs life insurance, types of policies, and how to determine coverage.

Renter's Insurance
Understanding the benefits (and potential pitfalls) of this type of inexpensive insurance.

Health Insurance
The various health insurance choices.

Disability Insurance
The benefits and costs of these often complex policies.

Protecting Your Success With Insurance
Insurance can play an important role in our financial lives, but only if you seek out the coverage you need.

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Managing Credit

How you manage credit can affect your life in ways you may have never considered.

Most people accept the fact that a late credit card payment will result in a penalty fee. But the consequences of missed or late payments don't end there - they can even affect your ability to find a job or rent an apartment.

In this section, we'll learn how credit reports and scores are calculated, how to get free copies of your credit reports, and how protect your hard-earned credit rating.

Credit Reports and Scores
Credit reports and scores determine the rates you pay when borrowing and can affect your ability to get certain jobs.

Credit vs. Debit Cards
Credit and debit cards each have pros and cons. When should you use each?

Risks and Benefits of Credit Cards
Credit cards offer benefits for many consumers, but it's important to understand the risks of unsecured credit.

Building Credit
Understanding the decisions and behaviors that can lead to improved credit scores.

Reading Your Credit Report
A detailed description of what to expect and look for when viewing a credit report.

Understanding the Credit Card Act of 2009
How the new regulations work to protect card holders.

How Interest Works
Why understanding interest is crucial for comparing loans and for investing for your future.

Understanding Daily Simple Interest
How lenders charge interest can have a big impact on your interest charges - and how you should manage the loan.

Cutting Credit Card Interest and Fees
With credit cards, interest on your purchases is only part of the equation - late payment fees, annual fees, and cash advance fees could cost you...

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Money Smart Kids

Talking about money is often a challenging subject, mostly because there’s so much to know, and a lot of it is very confusing.

Here are some suggestions for starting the right conversations with your kids.

Money Smart Kids
Develop an understanding of what you want your children to learn about money and why it's important they do.

Financial Influences for Children
Children face a multitude of external and internal influences that impact their beliefs and habits with regards to money. Each has a different level...

Allowances
There is a lot of debate over whether or not you should give a child an allowance. Learn about the different types and the pros and cons of doing so.

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Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment is a rite of passage for many people.

Whether you're renting an apartment for the first time or you've been renting for years, it can be complicated to understand your rights and responsibilities. Further, without a mortgage and the home owner's insurance required, renters may be at increased risk for the loss of personal belongings through theft, fire, or other accident.

In this section, we'll explore lease agreements, how to protect your possessions, and some strategies to consider if you're moving in with roommates.

Renting an Apartment
Your rights and responsibilities when signing a rental agreement.

Roommates and Money
Simple strategies for managing your financial relationship with roommates.

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Saving and Investing

Investing offers the chance of earning better returns on your money than savings accounts, but there are risks as well as rewards.

When saving for a long-term goal, like retirement or college for your kids, many individuals choose to invest their money in stocks, bonds, or other assets. There's no guarantee than any investment will consistently earn more money than cash alone, but investing offers a unique opportunity - rather than you working for your money, your money works for you.

In this section, we'll cover some common investment categories, explore investment accounts, and take a deeper look at how to save for retirement.

Saving and Investing
The difference between investing and saving, and how to tell what's the best option for your needs.

Types of Investments
The pros and cons of stocks, bonds, and cash. The concept of asset allocation is explained.

Investment Accounts
The types of accounts available to investors, including both taxable and tax advantaged accounts.

Saving for Retirement
Why save for retirement and the impact of fees on investment performance.

Retirement Saving Strategies
How to develop a comprehensive retirement savings strategy.

Retirement Savings Ideas
A few simple things to keep in mind when starting a retirement savings plan.

Retirement Accounts
An overview of the major retirement accounts, include Individual Retirement Accounts, Simplified Employee Pensions, and 401(k) plans.

Individual Development Accounts
Understanding the benefits of IDAs, how to qualify, and where to find a program.

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Taxes

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

When Benjamin Franklin wrote these words in 1789, he could scarcely have imagined the sheer number of taxes paid by Americans today. But in addition to being an expense to pay, there are many benefits that can come through our tax code - from education benefits to saving accounts for retirement.

In this section, we'll look at some common taxes, how they could benefit you, and how to make sure you're paying exactly the right amount.

Paycheck Tax Deductions
Making sense of the deductions taken from your paycheck. How "independent" workers have unique tax challenges.

Tax Benefits for Higher Education
The federal government provides a number of tax deductions and credits that can help reduce your cost of attending college.

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Workplace Transition

Whether you may be starting your first job or transitioning to a new one, learn key financial and social skills.

From making decisions about employer benefits to understanding the how and why of professional networking, a new job offers both risks and opportunities.

From College to the Workplace
No matter what your financial outlook is after leaving school, the concept of financial health is an important step towards long-term financial...

Earning a Paycheck
A brief overview of common paycheck deductions and how to increase earning potential.

Salary Expectations Versus Reality
Most young people tend to overestimate their starting salaries.

Day One of a New Job
First impressions are important. New employees should take the time to prepare for the first day to ensure that they start off on the right foot.

Employer Benefits
There are four main types of employee benefit programs: health insurance, retirement plans, tax-advantaged savings, and supplemental benefits such as...

Making Decisions About Employee Benefits
Employee benefits vary between employers, so it’s up to the employee to make the most of whatever benefits are offered.

The Concept of Professionalism
Being a “professional” paves the way for both current and future success, no matter what career you choose. Professionalism requires you to draw upon...

Time Management
To be successful in today’s workplace, you need to know how to manage the limited amount of time you have to accomplish all of your tasks.

Networking in the Workplace
Effective networking can lead to success in your career both now and in the future.

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