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Financial Literacy: Frequently Asked Questions


Managing Money Banking & Saving Credit Home Ownership Education Insurance How to Invest Investments Retirement Social Security Kids and Money Difficult Times Protection Getting Help Estate Planning

Managing Money

Am I doing OK with my money?Financially Fit A workbook to help you become and stay financially fit for life

What are some good websites for personal finance basics?

Where can I learn more about managing my money?

I need to find out more about debt and credit management?

The personal finance portal of the federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission (earn, spend, borrow, protect, save, and  invest)

Smart About Money

An interactive, practical site sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education

Money Smart

A favorite course from the FDIC about the basics of personal financial management

Yahoo! Finance

A news aggregator on financial topics with a helpful array of financial calculators

How can I save money?

America Saves

The Consumer Federation of America’s site to help those living paycheck to paycheck

From the FINRA Foundation, this site emphasizes safe and sound financial decision-making

I want to go to graduate school, but I am not sure if I can afford it.

Smart About Money

An interactive, practical site sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education

Yahoo! Finance

A news aggregator on financial topics with a helpful array of financial calculators

Banking And Saving

Is my bank insured? For how much?

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Deposit Brochures

Consumer Protection

Is electronic banking safe?Electronic Banking
What is the difference between a bank and a credit union?Here is some information on Bank Accounts from the FTC
What is my compound interest?Compound interest calculator
I am on a tight budget. How can I save?

Where can I find a credit union?

Credit union locator


What is credit?Experian, a credit reporting agency has information on what credit is.
How is a credit report calculated?The Federal Reserve has information on how credit reports are calculated.
How can I get my credit reportOnly order from
Why should I care about my credit score?

Your credit score can impact your future in many ways. This article by FINRA can explain how. is the only place to get your free credit report.


Here are some links from the Federal Trade Commission

Money & Credit

Credit & Loans

Do I fix a problem on my credit report?The American Institute of CPAs has a website that can help you clear up inaccuracies on your credit report.
How can I repair a poor history?Consumer financial protection bureau
I need to file a complaint.You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Board.
What is the best way to distribute credit card debt?The American Institute of CPA’s also has a portal which can help you optimize your credit card debt to pay less.
Does it pay to consolidate my credit card debt?Find out how much you can save with this tool from the American Institute of CPAs
I need to get a card loan and don’t know where to begin.The FTC can explain the different ways you can finance a new or used automobile.
I need information on Government has information on different types of government loans.

Home Ownership

I don’t know if I should rent or buy?

Freddie Mac has information on whether you should rent or buy.

Fannie Mae also has resources to help you make the right decision for you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency has information on new regulations when it comes to buying a home.

What is the difference between fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgages

Freddie Mac has information on different mortgage options. Beware: PDF

All the literature from the Federal Reserve on Home Mortgages is on this page.

 The Consumer Financial Protection Board has a booklet which you should receive three days within applying for a mortgage loan.
I can’t pay mortgage and don’t know what to doThe Consumer Financial Protection Board has resources to help you if you can’t make your mortgage payments
Do we qualify for housing assistance?The Federal Housing and Urban Development Page has information on which can show you if you are eligible for housing assistance.
I have so many questions. Is there a home buying counselor?Yes! HUD can tell you where your nearest home buying counselor is.
What would my payments be?Fannie Mae has a calculator which can help you determine your payments.
When can I look for section 8 housing?

The Community Development Corporation of Long Island maintains a list of Section 8 properties.

The Patchogue Village CDA also maintains Section 8 information.


What is the best way to save for college?FINRA has information on ways to save for college.
How do I apply for financial aid?The FAFSA is the only way to apply for Federal Financial Aid
 Information is also available from the Federal Student Aid site
Are there any tax benefits to education?IRS Publication 970 has information on Educational Tax benefits. Beware: PDF. This should be updated yearly – 3/17/16
I just got out of the army and wanted to find out about my college benefits. Where should I go?The Bureau of Veterans Affairs explains education and training benefits for Veterans.
What scholarships are available?
How do you pick a vocational school?

The FTC has information on choosing a Vocational School

Accreditation database


I don’t understand insurance. Where should I start?

Financial Literacy 360 has significant resources on understanding American Insurance

USA.Gov also has information on Personal Insurance

What is the minimum amount of auto insurance coverage required in NY?360 Financial Literacy has a listing of State-by-State Minimum Coverage
Do you have something to help me understand my health insurance?360 Financial Literacy has information on how to understand your health insurance
Do you have something to help me understand my homeowners insurance?360 Financial Literacy can help you understand your homeowners’ insurance policy.
Do you have something to help me understand my automobile policy?360 Financial Literacy has information on understanding your life insurance.
Do you have something to help me understand my life insurance?This Page can help you understand your Life Insurance Policy. It includes a glossary, too.
Do you have something to help me understand my long term care options and riders?

Long Term Care Insurance can apply at any age. This page will help you understand it all.

However, there isn’t a standard Long Term Care Insurance Policy. This page will help you understand its riders and alternative options.

Do you have something to help me understand Obamacare? is the official site that can provide information on Affordable Care Act, ‘Obamacare.’

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine can help libraries understand the Affordable Care Act, too.

How can I find out if I qualify for Medicaid?Fill out the application at and it will tell you if you qualify
Does it make sense to get long-term care insurance? is a great place to start
I can’t afford health insurance, but what about my kids?

Your children may be eligible for Child Health Plus, a government program for families that do not qualify for Medicaid. You can find coverage through the NY state marketplace.


When will I be eligible for Medicare?This calculator from Medicare’s website can let you know, as well as what your potential premiums would be.

How to Invest

I don’t know how to invest. How would I get started?

The FINRA Foundation has a page to help you understand how to invest.

This page helps you in preparation to invest.

This page from the SEC can provide fast answers to many financial questions.

How do I go about finding a financial advisor?FINRA Foundation has a guide which can help you choose an investment professional.
What are the different types of investments? What are the safest investments?There are many kinds of investments, and they can be confusing. This page from the FINRA Foundation can help you understand it all.
How do I diversify?This page from the Federal Government can give you a road map towards diversification.
How do I pick fund choices for my 401 k plan?

Because 401(k)s have replaced pensions, you’ll need more knowledge in selecting your fund. This page can help you understand.

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.

What is NASDAQ?…Or the NYSE, or FTSE, or the Mercantile Exchange? This page from the Securities and Exchange Commission will give you an introduction to the markets.


I want to get into more advanced investing. Where can I go? Is there an online course?

More advanced investing requires more knowledge of the intricacies of the market. FINRA Foundation’s page on Advanced Investing can help you understand the concepts of various market scenarios.

The Cooperative Extension School System also has some courses on investing you could use.

What free financial websites do you recommend for investment information?

Welcome to FINRA’s Market Data Center. This comprehensive tool 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.

Business Data is also available from the Census Bureau, a division of the U.S. Commerce Department.

The Fund Analyzer was designed to help investors evaluate and compare investments in mutual funds, ETFs, and ETNs.

The Business References and Services Section of RUSA, part of the American Library Association, has valuable information on company and industry research.

What should I look for in investing in stocks?Sometimes people say the stock exchange is like gambling, but it’s not that way. By gathering information and knowing where to turn, you can make informed decisions on what you buy.
Where can I get financials on companies I am thinking of investing in?EDGAR is the database where all businesses who are publicly traded in the United States must file. You can find 10-Q’s, 8-Ks and IPO filings here.
How do I read a balance sheet?The SEC has a great beginners guide on how to read a financial statement.
How is day trading different from online trading?There are certain legal requirements to being a day trader. This page from FINRA can help explain those requirements.
My broker pitched an IPO what should I doIf an agent pitches you an IPO, these are the questions you should be asking (from FINRA)
How do I know if my analyst is any good?Remember earlier when I said that brokers aren’t obligated to work in your best interest? Analysts may occasionally have conflicts of interest, so it’s always best to do your research.
I want to know about real estate investingThe 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 about Treasury securitiesTreasury Direct contains information on Treasury securities and other financial products created by the Department of the Treasury.

Getting Help

How do you choose a financial advisor?

Make sure to ask questions before selecting a financial professional. FINRA has a set of questions to ask before you make the decision.

Be aware that credentials and titles don’t mean everything. The Consumer Financial Protection Board advises you not to take them at face value. Ask questions!

It never hurts to check FINRA’s broker check, to find out more about your potential broker or their firm.

Can’t find their information on Brokercheck? You can also check the Investment Advisory Public Disclosure database.

The NY State Department of Financial Services has regulatory authority over many financial entities in the State. You may file a complaint here.

What does the acronym next to his name mean?

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.

This is a handy checklist to use every time you speak to your broker regarding your investments. You could then put them in a file and review them throughout your financial lifetime.

How should broker fees work?FINRA’s page can help you understand how brokers get paid.
How do I resolve a dispute with my broker?Pace Law School and FINRA have created a document to help you settle disputes with your broker.
 For Seniors, FINRA has a separate helpline. Check this page to see what they have available.


How do I begin to plan for my retirement?The retirement planner from Social Security can help you forecast your retirement.
How much do I need to save to fund my retirement?These calculators from Choose To Save can give you an idea.
My job offers two different retirement plans. How can I tell which one is better?This site from gives you an idea of the various types of retirement investment vehicles available to employees in the United States.
Roth IRA?Confused with what a Roth IRA is? This page can help you understand it better.
403b?A 403b is another type of retirement vehicle available to some public school employees, non-profit staff and members of the clergy.
Esops?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.
Pensions?Private Industry Pensions are best explained in this section of
I wish I could get my children to plan for retirement

The earlier you start, the more money you have. This page from the Department of Labor can help you understand.

If you’re near retirement, this brochure can also help you take the mystery out of retirement.

I am self-employed. How do I plan for my retirement?

The IRS has some retirement options with tax benefits for individuals who are self-employed.

The IRS has a publication for Small Businesses who are looking to choose a retirement plan for their employees.

How can I figure out what my IRA’s required minimum distribution will be for next year?

General Information on Social Security and the latest news can be found here

Information on Required Minimum Distributions for Social Security and vehicles like IRAs can be found here.

What’s the point? I started too late.

Even if you start saving late, you’ll potentially be reaping the benefits of interest for decades. This workbook can help you even if you’re starting late.

There are also ‘Catch-Up’ Provisions for savers over 50 that could reduce your tax bill.

My job doesn’t offer a retirement plan. What can I do?MyRa is a retirement plan available for people who aren’t offered plans at work.
What should I know about managing my retirement?You may need that retirement income for a long time. Here are some things you should keep in mind from FINRA.
What will I need when I retire?Choose to Save has a Ballpark Estimate Calculator, which will let you put in your age and how much you have saved so far.

Social Security

Will I get my social security and what will my benefits be?

This Benefits planner from Social Security should help you. Depending on when you were born, you may have a different age of full retirement.

This calculator will help you estimate your payments.

Should I opt to start receiving my social security benefits?

It’s a personal decision. This sheet should help you understand how much you would get depending on the age you retire.

Do you have other things to consider, like your health or deciding to work after retirement? Take a look at this page.

How early should I apply for social security benefits?Are you currently 61 and nine months of age? Are or aren’t, take a look here.
What documents do I need?These are the documents you will need when you apply for retirement.
How do I apply?You can apply online, on the phone or in person. Visit this page for more information
If I am not going to file for social security yet, can I apply for Medicare?You can. Visit this page for details.
I am 65 but don’t need payments yet. Should I claim and suspend?

You can ask Social Security to suspend your payments in a variety of ways. Visit this page for more information.

You may delay retirement after full retirement age. Here’s the breakdown on your monthly and yearly rate of increase.

Information regarding Social Security Legislation passed in November of 2015 can be found here.

Are my social security benefits taxable?

This short interactive questionnaire will let you know if your benefits are taxable.

 The National Endowment for Financial Education can help explain your retirement paycheck.
What is my full retirement age?This page from Social Security can help you find out your full retirement age.
How much social security will I receive when I retire?This estimator from Social Security can help you estimate your retirement benefit.
What will my reduction be if I choose to retire early?The table on this page will help you determine your reduction if you retire before your full retirement age.
What info do I need to apply for social security?This checklist from Social Security gives you all you need to apply.

Kids and Money

How can I teach my toddler about money?Thrive by Five, a program designed by the National Credit Union Alliance, is a bilingual program designed to give your toddlers age-appropriate financial literacy tips.
I have an 8-year-old and a teenager. What can I use to teach them about money?

The Consumer Financial Protection Board has a page devoted to resources for parents and caregivers.

My Credit Union, an Independent federal agency, has tips for all ages.

The American Library Association also has a list of books that talk about money, broken up by age group, an age-appropriate site where children can learn and play games, has a section devoted to money matters.

I am trying to teach my child about having a jobThe Bureau of Labor Statistics has a section dedicated to teaching your child about working.
My teen needs help with their taxes.

This guide from the IRS can help young adults understand taxes.

Your son might also be surprised and confused by the difference between their gross and net payment. This page can help you explain to them how it all works.

When should I start giving an allowance?This page from the Mint gives parents a good idea when it comes to structuring allowances and what important concepts your kids learn when they manage their money.
I want to help my daughter understand credit history. What can I use?If you want to help your child start their credit history, this page from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency should assist you with their first steps.
Should I request a credit report for my daughter?Credit reporting companies will not generate a credit report when they know that the information concerns a child. In other words, if a file about your child exists then a credit report should not be created or provided to anyone requesting the information until your child turns 18. However, you can claim all the information in your child’s credit files from the credit reporting companies if you provide documents showing you are the child’s legal guardian.
I just adopted. How do I get a social security number for my child

This page from Social Security Administration should explain everything you need to know about obtaining an SS number for your child.

I am looking for materials to teach my sixth grade class about money

The Jumpstart Clearinghouse has a host of financial literacy resources for educators, parents and students.

These are the National Standards for the Jump Start Coalition to assess student knowledge.

Is there a game to help my middle school son learn about money?Yes! The Council for Economic Education has a game on their website.
Where can my college age child learn about investing and other money matters?Love Your Money was developed by FINRA to help young adults and 20 somethings understand finances
Are there any videos for teens?Save and Invest has videos related to money matters.
Savings, investing, debts and bondsKids can learn more about saving and investing from Treasury Direct, too. Watch retro videos and play money games.

Difficult Times

How can I avoid foreclosure?

If you’re behind on your mortgage or having a hard time making payments, we want to get you in touch with an HUD-approved housing counselor. You can find a counselor on this site.

Find a Housing Counselor Search

State Housing Financing Agencies can also help you.

The Making Home Affordable Program may also be an option for you.

Who can help me with a natural disaster?

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a brochure which dispels the myths about the National Flood Insurance Program.

America’s Prepareathon are community organizations that prepare for all kinds of natural disasters. can also help you prepare for natural disasters.

I can’t pay back my college loans. What should I do?If you can’t pay back your loans, this site can give you advice on how to talk to your servicers.
My husband and I are divorcing. Do I qualify for spousal Social Security?

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if he or she has remarried) if:

Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse

I am under a mountain of debt and don’t know what to do.

Here’re articles and resources on how to cope with debt.

The Department of Justice also maintains a list of authorized credit counseling agencies.

Unemployment and do I qualify for other assistance?Recently laid off? These are resources available to you. You may also qualify for federal government benefits.


How can I tell if an investment opportunity is a scam?

Check out these resources to avoid Fraud from the SEC

These are recent investor alerts provided by FINRA

Protect your Finances with Save and Invest – Learn these tools to avoid financial scams

I think I am a victim of identity theft. What should I do?

The Federal Trade Commission maintains a list of resources in case you have had your identity stolen.

These are some Clues that someone has stolen your information

Report and Recover from Identity Theft at, a federal website.

How can I tell if this email is a scam?

On Guard Online is a Federal website devoted to protecting your identity.

The FBI also keeps a list of scams and how you can stay safe.

A new friend of my elderly neighbor is selling off her stuff. How can I help?

The National Center on Elder Abuse has information you can use.

NCEA’s page on Elder Abuse FAQ’s has information on Financial Abuse and how to prevent it.

How can I protect my money?FINRA also has information on protecting your money from PONZI schemes and Pump and Dump scams

Estate Planning

Glossary of real estate termsVisit this Glossary of Estate Planning Terms
Where to get started?

The California Bar also has information on estate planning. Keep in mind some information may be state-specific.

What’s the difference between a trust and a will?

What are Revocable Trusts? This page can explain.

The American Bar has an introduction to Wills

Nolo has a listing of resources on Wills, Trusts, and Probate

Do I need to update my will?Are you too busy to make a will? Nolo can help you answer that question.
My uncle asked me to be the executor of his estate. What is involved?

These are Guidelines for Individual Executors & Trustees

This is a Checklist for Executors

How is an estate settled if there isn’t a will?How an Estate Is Settled If There’s No Will: Intestate Succession
My father just died. How can I avoid funeral scams?These are Funeral Planning Tips created by the FTC
Planning your funeral and other end of life decisions

The FTC also has tips on planning your own Funeral.

The National Institute of Health has various publications on the End of Life

The National Institute of Health has publications on Financial Decisions regarding the end of life, too.

I can’t afford a lawyer. What can I do?The Alzheimer’s disease resource of publications includes information on obtaining a lawyer if you cannot afford one.
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