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Financial Literacy: Frequently Asked Questions

Managing Money Banking & Saving Credit Housing Education Insurance Investing Retirement Social Security Kids and Money Difficult Times Protection Getting Help Estate Planning

Managing Money

Am I doing okay with my money? 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, a volunteer service/program provided by the American Institute of CPAs, offers general information and resources related to personal financial management.
What are some other good websites for personal finance basics? Where can I learn more about managing my money? A product of the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission; provides news and tools to those seeking to make informed financial decisions. Money Smart: A program from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); offers educational resources on personal financial management.
How can I learn more about saving money? America Saves: A website campaign of the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America “dedicated to helping individuals save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.” From the FINRA Foundation, this site emphasizes safe and sound financial decision-making (site is now retired, but many of its most popular tools and content remain available).

Banking And Saving

Is my bank insured? For how much? The website of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation provides information on how deposit insurance works, brochures on the subject, and a bank finder tool to help you determine the insurance status of your banking institution. The Consumer Resource Center of the FDIC also offers resources on banking and related topics.
What is the difference between a bank and a credit union? This brief video provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on bank accounts demonstrates how someone might go about comparing different types of institutions when considering opening an account.
What is my compound interest? provides a compound interest calculator, among other financial calculator tools.
What is a credit union? Where can I find a credit union in my neighborhood? provides information about how credit unions work, the history of credit unions, and a credit union locator map.


What is credit? This web article published by the Federal Trade Commission provides information on understanding different aspects of your credit.
How can I get my credit report? The Federal Trade Commission explains how to order your free credit report and addresses other related questions.
Why should I care about my credit score? This article by FINRA provides an overview of how a credit score can impact other life decisions and what helps/hurts a credit score. The Federal Trade Commission provides consumer advice on credit and debt, understanding your credit, and more.
If I believe there is an error or inaccuracy on my credit report, are there steps I can take? This consumer advice article on the Federal Trade Commission website deals with the subject of disputing errors on a credit report.
How can I repair a poor credit history? This webpage from the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice website offers information on improving your credit in the form of an FAQ.
How do I submit a complaint about a financial product or service? You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
How do I manage credit card debt? 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, a website from the American Institute of CPAs, has informational resources on mastering credit and debt.
I need to get a car loan and I don’t know where to begin. The Federal Trade Commission reviews different options to keep in mind when shopping for a car.
I need information on government loans. has information on different types of government loans.


I am trying to figure out if I should rent or buy. Freddie Mac has information on considerations to take into account when thinking about renting or buying a home. Fannie Mae also has resources to help you think through the decision.
What is the difference between a fixed-rate and an adjustable rate mortgage? Freddie Mac provides tools and resources to help understand the difference between these types of mortgages and other financial considerations relevant to home ownership. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a range of resources on mortgages available here. The CFPB also provides a home loan toolkit with additional resources for looking into home ownership.
I can’t pay my mortgage and I don’t know what to do. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has resources to help those looking for guidance on what to do when they cannot make their mortgage payments.
Do I qualify for housing assistance? The website of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has information on housing assistance programs, eligibility, and more.
I have so many housing-related questions. Is there someone I can ask? Yes! HUD can tell you where the nearest HUD-participating housing counseling agency is located.
Where can I find more information about the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)? HUD provides information about Section 8 housing. The Community Development Corporation of Long Island maintains information about housing choice voucher opportunities. The Patchogue Village Community Development Agency also maintains Section 8 information.


What is the best way to save for college? The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a government-authorized not-for-profit organization, has information on saving for education.
How do I apply for federal financial aid? The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the only way to apply for Federal Financial Aid. Additional information is available throughout the website.
Are there any tax benefits to education? The IRS provides information on tax benefits for education.
I just got out of the army and want to find out about my college benefits. Where should I go? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides information on VA education and training benefits.
How do I go about looking for scholarships? provides an overview of some starting points for conducting a scholarship search and other related FAQs.
How do you pick a vocational school? The Federal Trade Commission has information on choosing a vocational school or certificate program, including things to look out for, such as accreditation status.


I don’t understand insurance. Where can I get more information? 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy provides several articles on different types of insurance, including health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, and more. USA.Gov has information on health insurance.
What are the auto insurance coverage requirements in New York? The New York State DMV website has information on insurance requirements in New York State.
What is homeowner’s insurance? This article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website provides an overview of homeowner’s insurance (the date at the top of the article tells you when the article was last reviewed).
What is long-term care and what is long-term care insurance? offers information about long-term care and services. The NYS Department of Financial Services provides information on long-term care and long-term care insurance in New York State.
Where can I go to get more information about the health insurance marketplace? provides information about open enrollment, coverage options by state, local help in your area, and more. NY State of Health is the official marketplace website for New York State.
How can I find out if I qualify for Medicaid? What about my kids? provides information on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) including how to find out if you and/or your children qualify.
When will I be eligible for Medicare? This calculator from the website can help you estimate your eligibility and premium.


I don’t know how to invest. How would I get started? provides an introduction to investing and other resources such as information about different investment products, understanding fees, choosing an investment professional, crypto assets, and more. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation provides a set of web pages to help you begin to understand how investing works. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also provides investor education resources for investors.
How do I diversify? provides a “roadmap to saving and investing” that covers such ground as diversifying investments.
How do I pick fund choices for my 401(k) plan? FINRA provides an overview on 401(k) investing, including basic information, portfolio management, and more. Mutual funds are a popular way to invest because they provide diversification and are professionally managed. This page can help you understand a little more about mutual funds. also provides information on researching investments and additional resources. for investors.
What is a stock market? What is a stock exchange? provides information on how stock markets work. The Library of Congress offers a research guide/resources on the history of Wall Street and stock exchanges in the United States.
I want to start to learn more about how investing works beyond basic information. FINRA’s page on Advanced Investing offers a starting point for understanding more advanced aspects of investing.
What other web resources are there for conducting investment research? FINRA’s Market Data Center is designed to assist investors with market and investment research, both through the market data information provided as well as through the FINRA Investor Education material and tools. The Census Bureau provides economic data across the entire economy. The FINRA Fund Analyzer was designed to help investors evaluate and compare investments in mutual funds, ETFs, ETNs, and money market funds. The Business Reference & Services Section of RUSA, part of the American Library Association, has valuable information on company and industry research.
Where can I get financials on companies I am thinking of investing in? The EDGAR database provides free public access to corporate information, allowing you to research a public company’s financial information and operations by reviewing the filings the company makes with the SEC.
How do I read a balance sheet? The SEC has a beginners’ guide on how to read a financial statement.
What is day trading? There are certain legal requirements to being a day trader. This page from FINRA can help explain those requirements.
How do analysts arrive at their recommendations? The SEC provides an overview of the different factors to have in mind when analyzing analysts recommendations. Analysts may occasionally have conflicts of interest, so it’s always best to do your research.
I want to know about real estate investing. The Business Reference, and Services Section of the American Library Association has a collection of information related to the real estate industry.
I want to know more about Treasury securities. Treasury Direct contains information on Treasury securities and other financial products created by the Department of the Treasury.
Are there other resources that can help with choosing a financial professional? provides information and steps to consider when choosing a financial professional. FINRA also provides information and an “Ask and Check” list to keep in mind when choosing an investment professional. Make sure to ask questions. It never hurts to do a search on FINRA’s BrokerCheck to find out more about a potential broker or their firm. You can also check the Investment Advisory Public Disclosure database at The New York State Department of Financial Services has regulatory authority over many financial entities in the State. If needed, they provide a system for filing a complaint.
What does the acronym next to that person’s name mean? FINRA provides a professional designations decoder with details to help you understand what the letters next to someone’s name might stand for; the North American Securities Administrators Association has resources that can help you understand what they mean.
What questions should I ask about my investments? The SEC has a list of questions you can ask your broker or advisor regarding your investments. The SEC also provides a handy checklist to use when speaking to a broker.
How should broker fees work? FINRA has information about typical compensation methods for investment professional services.
How do I research how to handle a possible dispute with my broker? The Pace Law School Investor Rights Clinic with the support of a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation published an investor’s guide to securities industry disputes that might be helpful to review.
I am a senior citizen with a question or concern about an investment account. Is there someone I can speak to? FINRA provides a helpline for senior investors, along with other investor resources. Check this page to see what they have available.


How do I begin to plan for my retirement? The Social Security Administration offers a set of online tools for helping you forecast your retirement. also provides information on planning for retirement.
My job offers two different retirement plans. How can I tell which one is better? This page from provides an overview of the range and types of retirement investment vehicles that may be available to employees in the United States.
What is an IRA? This page from provides an overview of the several types of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).
What is a 403b? As explained on this page of, a 403b is another type of retirement vehicle available that certain public insitutions, nonprofits, and church organizations may offer.
What is an ESOP? As explained on this page of, an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is a retirement plan in which an employer contributes its stock to the plan for the benefit of the company’s employees.
What is a pension plan? U.S. private industry pensions are explained on this page of
I wish I could get my children to start planning for their retirement… This publication from the U.S. Department of Labor website reviews steps both younger and older adults can take to prepare for a more secure financial future in retirement. The U.S. Department of Labor also provides other retirement information resources for consumers.
I am self-employed. How do I start planning for my retirement? The IRS provides information on some options to save for retirement for individuals who are self-employed. The IRS also provides an informational publication for small businesses that are considering a retirement plan for their employees.
How can I figure out what my IRA’s required minimum distribution will be for next year? The IRS provides information on required minimum distributions, in addition to other retirement-focused resources, including different types of retirement plans, related forms, etc.
I waited too long to start planning for retirement. What’s the point of starting now? It is never too late to start. The U.S. Department of Labor provides resources on preparing for retirement. The IRS also provides information on several types of ‘Catch-Up’ contributions for individuals age 50 or over.
What should I know about managing my retirement? You may need that retirement income for a long time. FINRA provides this resource on managing retirement income.

Social Security

What is my full retirement age and what can I expect from my social security benefits? The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a retirement age calculator and other helpful resources for understanding and managing your retirement benefits. The SSA also provides a list with links to pdfs of annual program fact sheets, frequently used brochures, social security laws and regulations, and other useful information here.
Should I opt to start receiving my social security benefits? It’s a personal decision. The SSA provides this information sheet with details that should help you understand the factors that may be involved. Do you have other things to consider, like your health or deciding to work after retirement? Review the information the SSA provides on this page.
What documents will I need to apply for social security? The SSA provides a list of possible documents you may need on this page.
How do I apply? You have the option of applying online, over the phone, or in person at a local social security field office. Visit this page of the SSA website for more information.
I am not going to file for social security yet. Can I apply for just Medicare? Visit the Medicare benefits section of the SSA website for more information.
I have reached my full retirement age, but I don’t need the payments yet. Should I suspend payments? The SSA provides information on what you should keep in mind if you are considering this option as someone who has reached full retirement age but is not yet 70.
Are my social security benefits taxable? The SSA provides information on income taxes and your social security benefit.
How do I get a sense of the benefit amount I might receive? The Social Security Administration website offers online services including personalized retirement benefit estimates.
How much will my benefits be reduced if I choose to start them early? The chart on this page of the Social Security Administration website can help you determine your reduction.

Kids and Money

How can I teach my toddler about money? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides financial education resources for parents and caregivers. Through a collaboration with librarians and FINRA, the American Library Association provides a publication that includes lists of inclusive financial literary resources organized by reading level.
I am looking for career exploration resources for my kids… The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers their K-12 “Student’s Desk”, a set of online educational materials including the BLS Career Resource Guide.
I have a teenager who needs help understanding taxes. This guide from the IRS helps explain the hows and whys of taxes. Your teen might also be surprised and confused by the difference between gross and net pay on a paycheck. This brief article from the “Ask CFPB” section of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website might help.
Should I give my child an allowance? 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy offers tips related to this question.
I want to help my teenager understand what credit is… This brief article from the “Ask CFPB” section of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website offers guidance about some relevant points to discuss. The Bureau also provides information on the topic of credit reports.
When does credit reporting begin? Refer to this article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, which reviews the topic of credit reporting and those under 18.
How do I get a social security number for my child? This page from the Social Security Administration website should explain everything you need to know about obtaining a social security number for your child.
I am looking for materials to teach my sixth grade class about money… Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy offers Jump$tart Clearinghouse to help educators, parents and students find financial education resources. Information about the national standards for financial education published by Jump$tart Coalition and the Council for Economic Education is available here. FINRA also provides resources for educators introducing personal financial concepts to young adults and teens. provides a Tools for Teachers section on its website, and a Kids section that includes retro videos and money games.

Difficult Times

How can I avoid foreclosure? If you’re behind on your mortgage or having a hard time making payments, you can reach out to a HUD-approved housing counselor. You can find a counselor through this page of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website. State Housing Financing Agencies also provide foreclosure assistance. The New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal provides foreclosure information and resources on this page of its website. “Making Home Affordable,” a program of the U.S. Department of the Treasury & the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Program, may also have resources to offer.
Who can help me in the event of a natural disaster? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides flood insurance resources on its website. FEMA’s Preparedness Community can connect you with preparedness information and programming that addresses a range of risks and emergencies. can also help you prepare for different disaster scenarios and emergencies.
I can’t pay back my college loans. What should I do? Visit for information on student loan debt relief and related resources.
My husband and I are divorcing. Do I qualify for spousal social security? The Social Security Administration website provides information on eligibility for social security benefits for a divorced spouse.
I am under a mountain of debt and I don’t know what to do. The Federal Trade Commission website provides a series of articles about how to cope with debt and seek legitimate help. The U.S. Department of Justice website also maintains a list of authorized credit counseling agencies.
I am in need of an assistance program for a particular issue and do not know where to start. The U.S. Department of Labor website and offer information on a variety of situations, related benefits and insurance, and how to seek assistance.


How can I tell if an investment opportunity is a scam? Check out these resources from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commmission (SEC) that offer advice on avoiding scams. FINRA offers resources on protecting your money, including investor alerts.
I think I am a victim of identity theft. What should I do? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a list of resources if you believe you have been the victim of identity theft. The FTC also provides a page to explain what identity theft is, what to be on the lookout for, and how to protect yourself.
How can I tell if this email is a scam? The Consumer Advice section of the Federal Trade Commission website offer resources on online privacy and security. The FBI also offers information on precautions to take when you are online.
I am concerned that my elderly neighbor, friend, or relative is experiencing financial abuse. How can I help? The National Center on Elder Abuse offers information on different types of elder abuse, including financial exploitation.
How can I protect my money? The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) offers guidance on protecting your money.

Estate Planning

I’m not sure what the different terms used in estate planning mean. Is there a glossary of terms? The American Bar Association provides a glossary of estate planning terms. The American Bar Association also provides an overview of what estate planning is and an FAQ for those looking for resources on where to begin.
What’s the difference between a trust and a will? The American Bar Association provides an FAQ-style article about what a revocable living trust is as well as an introduction to wills and related topics.
A family member has asked me to be the executor of his or her estate. What is involved? The American Bar Association provides a set of guidelines for individual executors and trustees.
What happens when there is no will? The New York Courts website provides a brief overview and related information about what happens under New York State law. Laws vary from state to state.
A loved one just passed away and I am in charge of planning the funeral. How do I know what is required and what isn’t? The Consumer Advice section of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website offers resources on funeral planning, including how to calculate the cost. The National Institute on Aging of the National Institute of Health also provides end-of-life resources.
I can’t afford a lawyer to help with estate planning. Is there someone I can speak to?, a collaborative project of the New York LawHelp Consortium, provides general resources related to wills and estates (and other legal topics), as well as a directory of organizations that may be able to offer further assistance.
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