Being financially literate means having the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage your personal finances and achieve complete financial self-sufficiency.
Financially literate consumers are equipped to make informed financial decisions about a host of money-related matters, such as banking, budgeting, using and managing credit and debt, and saving for financial goals.
If you feel like an incomplete understanding of basic personal finance concepts cost you last year, you’re not alone. In a study by the National Financial Educators Council, the average self-reported cost of deficient personal finance knowledge in 2020 was $1,634. That’s about 2% of the 2020 median household income.
But financial literacy isn’t rocket science. With effort, you can overcome whatever knowledge gaps you face today and cease leaving money on the table.
How to Increase Your Financial Literacy
No one is born with expert-level financial literacy, and no one achieves it overnight. But that’s not to say becoming financially self-sufficient requires years of intensive study — far from it. Here’s what you can do right now to boost your financial know-how.
1. Money Management
From covering your expenses to where you keep your money, learn how to handle your finances on a daily basis.
Make the most of your money by learning how to budget it wisely.
- 12 Steps for How to Make a Budget — Personal Budgeting Tips for First-Timers. Budgeting doesn’t have to be intimidating. Follow this step-by-step guide to craft a sustainable household budget.
- Personal & Household Budgeting Categories — 17 Expenses to Include. Here are the most common budget categories — and how to bridge the gap between your current spending and ideal target budget.
- 4 Budgeting Alternatives to Meet Your Financial Goals. Traditional budgeting doesn’t always work. Learn how to apply these four alternatives to your financial situation.
- How Zero-Based Budgeting Can Help You Better Manage Your Finances. This simple method can help you make the most of each dollar to align your income with your expenses.
- Envelope Budgeting System — How It Works, Pros & Cons. This old-school cash-based budgeting method has long been a viable alternative to traditional banking.
- Understanding Why Budgets Fail — 8 Steps to Fix a Broken Budget. Learn how to shore up a budget that’s not working for you.
- How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck. It’s time to stop living hand to mouth.
Banking & Alternatives
Explore banking and legitimate alternatives to manage your money.
- 4 Different Types of Bank Accounts Explained. Choosing your first bank account isn’t always simple. Learn about the different types of bank accounts and the key benefits and drawbacks of each.
- Checking vs. Savings Accounts — What’s the Difference Between Them. Learn the difference between checking and savings accounts, the key features of each, and which is the best fit for you.
- Credit Unions vs. Banks — Differences, Pros & Cons. Credit unions offer numerous financial products that help people maximize their incomes and increase their savings. Is one right for you?
- 5 Steps to Take When You’re Rejected From Opening a Bank Account. These are your best options if you’re denied for a bank account.
- Should You Choose an Online Bank? — Considerations, Pros & Cons. Is an online bank for you, or are you better off sticking with a brick-and-mortar bank?
- 9 Reasons to Break Up With Your Bank — When Changing Makes Sense. When does it make sense to switch banks?
- How to Properly Close a Bank Account (Checking or Savings). Learn how to close an old account with your former bank properly and open a new one.
- What Is FDIC Insurance? — History, Coverage, Limits, & Rules for Banks. Learn about the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures certain bank account deposits up to legal limits.
- What Is SIPC Insurance? — Coverage for Your Brokerage Account. The Securities Investor Protection Corporation provides some financial protection for assets held in brokerage accounts, though it’s not as comprehensive as FDIC insurance.
Managing Money With Your Partner
Things like budgeting and saving become more complex with two people. Here’s how to navigate household finances with your partner or spouse.
- Should Married Couples Combine Their Finances or Keep Money Separate? It’s an age-old question: Should you merge finances after marriage or keep your money separate? That answer is: It depends.
- 18 Money Management Tips for Newly Married Couples. Avoid financial growing pains with these 18 tried-and-true tips for newlyweds.
- How to Agree With Your Spouse About Money & Avoid Financial Problems in Marriage. You won’t agree on everything with your spouse, but these principles will help you find common financial ground and work as a team.
- 6 Common Money Arguments Between Couples & How to Deal With Them. How many of these money arguments have you had with your spouse or partner?
- What Is a Prenuptial Agreement? — Do You Need One Before Marriage? Prenups aren’t just for the rich and famous. Here’s why you might need one.
- What Is a Cohabitation Agreement? — Why You Need One Before Living Together. You’ve heard of prenups for married couples, but how do you handle things with a long-term romantic partner? With a cohabitation agreement.
2. Saving Money
From short- and long-term savings to living frugally, these reads will help you stay on budget and meet your financial goals.
Want to put aside more money for the future? Save up for a vacation or emergency expenses? These pieces will help.
- 3 Types of Savings You Should Have Right Now: Emergency, Retirement, & Personal. Every working-age adult should have these three types of savings.
- How to Start & Build Up Your Emergency Fund in Savings. An emergency fund is designed to cover a financial shortfall when an unexpected expense crops up. Here’s how to create yours.
- How to Maximize Your Savings Rate — 12 Tips to Save More Money. Get serious about preparing for your future and building wealth with these tips to boost your savings.
- 27 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving More Money. Stop relying on discipline to save. Instead, try these ways to trick yourself into saving more money.
- How to Stop Overspending & Get Your Budget Under Control. Not all overspending stems from addiction. This article outlines steps you can take to quell overspending in all its forms.
Learn how to make your money go further by spending less.
- 5 Best Money-Saving Strategies Proven to Work for Anyone. Saving money isn’t rocket science. These tips are simple and easy to follow, no matter your financial situation.
- 19 Frugal Home Budgeting Tips That Will Save You Money. There’s never been a better time to look at how much you’re spending each month to find ways to cut back and save.
- 9 Ways to Avoid Lifestyle Inflation — Spending Less When You Earn More. The correlation between higher income and higher spending is real. Learn how to save more as you earn more.
- 8 Ways Extreme Frugality & Chronic Underspending Can Cost You Money. Learn how taking frugality too far can actually hurt your finances.
- How to Avoid Frugal Fatigue by Splurging on These 12 Cheap Luxuries. Even the most disciplined, frugal consumers get tired of pinching pennies. These 12 luxuries make fastidiousness more bearable without seriously impacting your budget.
3. Understanding & Managing Debt
Make the wide and often daunting world of credit and debt less intimidating by reading these pieces.
Learn what common debt-related terms mean.
- What Is Compound Interest? — Definition, Formulas, & Obstacles. Compound interest directly affects your borrowing costs. Understanding it is essential to true financial literacy.
- What Is the Current Prime Interest Rate & How It’s Calculated for Lending. The prime rate affects borrowers and the economy in several ways. What is the prime interest rate, how is it set, and why does it matter?
- What Is Considered Good Debt vs. Bad Debt? — Differences. Not all debt is the same. Learn the difference between “good” debt and “bad” debt here.
Your Credit Score
Your credit score plays a crucial role in your financial health. Learn how credit scores work and what your score means.
- What Is a Good Credit Score? — Understanding Credit Ratings & Ranges. What makes a good credit score? It depends on whom you’re asking.
- How to Check Your Credit Score — Subscription Services & Free Monitoring. Do you need to pay to check your credit score? The short answer is no — but that’s not the end of the story.
- What Hurts & Affects Your Credit Score? — 9 Factors & Errors to Fix. Learn what common financial errors can negatively impact your credit score and blemish your credit history if left unchecked.
- 7 Ways a Bad Credit Score Can Negatively Affect You — How to Track Your Credit Score. Why is bad credit bad? We outline seven ways a subprime credit score can get you into trouble and offer some solutions.
- How to Build Your Credit History Fast — 8 Ways to Establish a Good Score. If you don’t have a credit history, there are a few actions you can take to build yours up fast.
- 8 Tips on How to Improve Your Credit Score Rating. Over time, these simple strategies could improve your credit score.
- How to Rebuild & Fix Your Credit Score — 7 Steps to Follow. Use these strategies to recover from a serious credit setback.
- How Does Bankruptcy Affect Your Credit Score? Learn what bankruptcy means for your credit score. Spoiler: It’s not good.
- 7 Steps to Rebuild Your Finances & Credit After Bankruptcy. Recovering from bankruptcy is a long road. Start here.
The credit card is the most common type of unsecured consumer debt. Here’s what you need to know to be a responsible credit card user.
- Advantages & Disadvantages of Credit Cards — Do They Help or Hurt You? Get an unbiased look at the pros and cons of credit cards.
- How Many Credit Cards Should I Have? How many credit cards do you really need? There are several factors to consider.
- How to Choose a Credit Card That’s Right for You. Learn about the factors that affect your credit card choices and find out how to choose a credit card that’s right for you based on how you plan to use the card.
- How to Use a Credit Card & Rewards Wisely — 6 Tricks to Outsmart Credit Card Companies. Become a smarter credit card user with these tips.
- How to Use 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards Responsibly. Using a 0% APR balance transfer card to pay down high-interest debt can be a smart move — if you’re responsible about it.
Loans & Mortgages
Dive into the dizzying array of debt products available to financially literate consumers and learn how they work.
- Federal vs. Private Student Loans — Which Are Better? (Pros & Cons). Here’s what you need to know to weigh your options between federal and private student loans.
- What Is a Personal Loan? — Pros & Cons of Getting One. Should you apply for an unsecured personal loan rather than a credit card or secured line of credit? We weigh the pros and cons.
- How Payday Loans Work — Biggest Dangers & 14 Better Alternatives. Even when you absolutely need some extra cash to make it through the month, there’s almost always a better way of getting it than turning to a payday loan shark.
- 6 Tips to Get Approved for a Home Mortgage Loan. Planning to buy a house soon? These strategies could increase your loan approval chances.
- Home Equity Loan vs. Line of Credit (HELOC) — Which Is Right for You? Learn more about these two options for tapping into your home’s existing equity.
- What Is an FHA Mortgage Loan? — Requirements, Limits, & Qualifications. FHA mortgage loans offer key benefits for first-time homebuyers with limited capital, but they have some major downsides too.
- What Is a VA Home Loan? — Mortgage Eligibility, Benefits, & Limits. If you or a family member have served in the military, you may be eligible for this unique type of mortgage loan.
- USDA Home Mortgage Loans for Rural Development — Eligibility Requirements. For qualifying rural homeowners and homebuyers, USDA loans offer fantastic benefits.
- Co-Signing a Loan — Understanding the Reasons & Risks. If you have good credit, should you assume the risk of co-signing a loan for someone who might not otherwise qualify?
Paying Down Debt
These articles can help you manage and reduce existing debt loads.
- How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt Fast — 5-Step Payoff Plan. If you’re overwhelmed by credit card debt, you need this step-by-step payoff plan.
- Best Way to Pay Off Debt — Snowball vs. Avalanche vs. Snowflaking. Learn about three methods of paying down your debt and find out which is best for you.
- What Is Credit Counseling? — How Debt Management Plans Work. Credit counseling services offer a new perspective on managing debt and may help you reduce your balances faster. But be on the lookout for predatory lenders.
- What Is a Debt Consolidation Loan? — How It Works, Pros & Cons. Learn when it makes sense to use a personal loan for debt consolidation and when it’s best to pursue other alternatives.
- 16 Ways to Reduce & Avoid Overwhelming College Student Loan Debt. These tips may help you get a handle on your student loan debt.
- Your Options for Paying Back Federal Student Loan Debt. So, you’ve graduated from college or graduate school and — like the vast majority of students — borrowed money to get your degree. Now what?
- Consolidating vs. Refinancing Your Student Loans — Which Is Better? Learn about two popular options to lower your monthly student loan payment.
- Pros & Cons of Refinancing Your Home Mortgage Loan. Before you decide to refinance your mortgage, you need to know more about its upsides and downsides.
4. Financial Planning
Start here for guidance on financial planning and related concepts, such as taxes and goal setting at different stages of life.
Basic Finance Concepts
- How to Calculate Your Personal Net Worth — Definition & Calculations. Want to know how much you’re worth financially? Here’s how to figure it out.
- What Is Inflation (Definition)? — Causes & Effects of Rate on Prices & Interest. What is inflation, what causes it, and what does it mean for you?
- 7 Effects of Inflation & How to Protect Yourself From the Consequences. Learn how inflation affects you and how can you plan for it — or even use it to your advantage.
- What Is Deflation? — Definition, Causes, & Effects. Deflation is a sign that something is seriously out of whack with the economy. Find out what it means for your finances.
- What Do Rising Interest Rates Mean for You? — Effects & How to Prepare. While you can’t control interest rate fluctuations, you can take steps to reduce their impact on your assets and financial goals.
Setting Financial Goals & Principles
These articles cover the art and science of establishing your financial principles and setting achievable goals.
- Setting Your Long-Term Personal Financial Goals & Priorities — Examples. How do you determine your financial priorities? How do you achieve them? Welcome to your official cheat sheet.
- How to Become Financially Independent Quickly Using the FI Formula. Learn about a simple but accurate calculation that reveals how long it will take you to achieve financial independence.
- FIRE Movement: Can I Achieve Financial Independence & Retire Early? The FIRE movement aims to upend the traditional retirement timeline and allow followers to reach financial freedom and retire early. Learn how FIRE works and find out if it’s right for you.
- How to File Your Tax Return — Basics & Guide. Whatever your tax situation, we’ve got you covered. Learn about tax basics, prepare for completing your return, and understand the various credits and deductions you may be entitled to.
Help With Financial Planning
- 7 Types of Financial Advisors & Professionals & When to Hire Them. Financial professionals don’t all fit the same mold. Learn about seven distinct types and their core functions.
- Choosing a Financial Planner vs. an Investment Advisor — What’s the Difference? You might need both, but maybe not at the same time.
- How to Find & Choose a Financial Advisor — 7 Things to Consider. Use this guide to evaluate financial advisor candidates and narrow down your choices.
- Why You Should Hire a Certified Financial Planner — Benefits. Learn more about the benefits of using a certified financial planner to realize your long-range financial vision.
5. Protect Your Money
Learn to protect your money, whether from a disaster or financial scam.
You never know what the future holds. Here’s how to decide how much health insurance coverage you need to protect yourself against the unforeseen.
- What Is Health Insurance? — Definition & How It Works. Most people have health insurance, but many don’t understand how it works. Here’s your crash course.
- 3 Reasons Why You Need to Get Health Insurance. Even if you’re young and healthy, there are plenty of reasons buying health insurance is the smart thing to do. Here are the three biggest ones.
- How to Choose the Best Health Insurance Plan for Your Family. Choosing the right health insurance coverage can be complicated. Follow these steps to find the right plan for your family.
- 9 Ways to Get Health Insurance Coverage Without a Job. Whether you’re unemployed, self-employed, or your employer doesn’t offer health benefits, there are several solutions to cover your medical costs.
Protect your loved ones financially in the event of your death.
- How Much Life Insurance Do I Need? — Typical Coverage Amounts. Use this guide to determine whether you need life insurance and how much.
- What Is Term vs. Whole Life Insurance? — Types of Life Insurance. Learn the differences between these two types of life insurance and how to find the right policy for you.
Insure the physical things in your life, from your home to your car.
- What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover & How Much Do I Need? Learn the basics about homeowners insurance.
- What Is Renters Insurance Coverage & How Much Does a Policy Cost? Learn the basics about renters insurance.
- How Much Renters Insurance Do I Need & What Does It Cover? Learn about what renters insurance covers and how to calculate how much renters insurance coverage you need.
- Do You Need Renters Insurance for Your Apartment? Pros & Cons. Before rushing to purchase a policy you don’t need or writing off renters insurance as unnecessary, take a few minutes to consider the benefits and drawbacks.
- 11 Factors That Affect Car Insurance Rates — How to Lower Your Costs. Knowing what affects your rate can help you make a more informed decision when purchasing car insurance and lower your expenses.
- Do I Need Flood Insurance? — What It Covers & Policy Costs. Regular homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. If you live in a flood-prone area, that’s a problem.
Don’t forget these other types of insurance, which you may or may not need depending on your situation.
- What Is Umbrella Insurance — Do I Need a Policy? Umbrella insurance could protect you from otherwise ruinous liability claims. Learn how it works and when it makes sense.
- What Is Disability Insurance? — Benefits & Why You Need It. Learn about the benefits, suitability, and cost of disability insurance, which provides financial protection if you become unable to work for an extended period.
- What Is Pet Health Insurance? — Cost, Policies & Coverage. Vet bills can be expensive. Pet health insurance can help, but it’s not for everyone.
- What Is Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance? — Pros & Cons. Mortgage protection insurance will cover some or all your monthly mortgage bill in the event you lose your job or become disabled. But do you really need it?
- What Is Travel Insurance & Do I Need to Buy It? Travel insurance reduces the financial risk associated with travel nightmares like lost luggage, missed connections, canceled flights, and sudden illness. But is it really necessary?
Avoiding Financial Scams
Financial scams are far too common. Learn how to spot them ahead and seek redress if you’re a victim.
- 7 Government Imposter Scams to Watch Out For. Some of the savviest financial scams prey on our inherent trust of government employees. Learn how to spot “government” outreach that doesn’t seem quite right.
- 12 IRS Tax Refund Scams — Common Frauds to Avoid. With billions of dollars in refunds going out, there are bound to be fraudsters trying to take advantage of people. To avoid becoming a victim, know the common types of tax scams.
- How to Avoid Bait-&-Switch Advertising Scams Offering “Free” Stuff. Equip yourself to resist offers that seem too good to be true.
- How to Spot & Avoid Predatory Lending (& What to Do if You’re a Victim). Predatory lending practices come in many forms. These are the most common and how to seek recourse for them.
- How Payday Loans Work — Biggest Dangers & 14 Better Alternatives. Payday lending isn’t an outright scam, but it’s inherently predatory and almost never appropriate, even for unbanked consumers with poor credit.
- Work-From-Home Scams — How to Avoid These Fake Job Opportunities. Keep these red flags in mind as you seek legitimate ways to earn income from home.
- Mortgage Relief & Loan Modification Scams You Should Watch Out For. Learn how to spot common home loan scams likely to leave you worse off.
- 12 Elder Fraud Scams That Target Senior Citizens — How to Stay Protected. Protect yourself and your loved ones by knowing these common financial scams that target seniors.
- How to File a Complaint With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If you suspect you’ve been victimized by an unscrupulous or predatory financial institution, your best course of action may be to file a complaint with the CFPB, a federal agency charged with protecting consumers.
Explore the concepts and principles you must understand to make informed investing decisions.
- 65 Financial Terms Every Investor Needs to Have in Their Vocabulary (List). Get a crash course in investing lingo with this handy glossary.
- 17 Different Types of Financial Investment Vehicles to Save & Grow Wealth. There are many investing vehicles, including some you might not have heard of.
- Certificates of Deposit (CD) Definition & Comparison to Other Investments. Certificates of deposit (CDs) are a very low-risk way to invest your money through banks, credit unions, brokers, or lenders. Here’s how they compare with other types of savings and investment vehicles.
- Investing in Index Funds vs. Managed Mutual Funds. Mutual funds and index funds have many similarities but also some key differences. See how they compare.
- What Is an ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund)? — Definition, Types, Pros & Cons. ETFs are an easy way to gain instant diversification by owning a fund that pools investor’s assets to invest in a variety of securities. Learn everything you need to know about them here.
- Investing in Stocks vs. Bonds — Differences to Consider. Stocks and bonds are some of the most widely known investment vehicles on the market today. Learn how they stack up.
- Stock Market Volatility — Definition & How the VIX Index Calculates It. Understanding volatility is important for investors because it gives an idea of the risk and reward associated with an investment.
- Is Stock Diversification Actually Important for Your Investment Portfolio? Is diversification a virtue or a vice? Learn both sides of the debate so you can decide for yourself.
- 4 Asset Allocation Steps to Build a Balanced Investment Portfolio. A balanced investment portfolio is key to investing success. Create one with these steps.
- Active vs. Passive Investing — Which Strategy Is Right for You? You can break most investing strategies down into two categories: active and passive. Explore the pros and cons of each.
- Fundamental vs. Technical Analysis — Which Is Better for Investing? Fundamental analysis and technical analysis are two approaches to identifying good investment opportunities. Learn which is best for you.
- How to Do Research on a Stock to Buy Before Investing in the Company. A step-by-step guide on how to find the information you need to make educated stock investments.
- Why Emotion Is the Enemy of Investing — How to Avoid Herd Psychology. Emotions can get in the way of earning strong returns on your investments. In fact, removing emotion from your investment decisions can increase your returns by up to 23% over 10 years. But to do that, you first have to know what motivates you to make emotional decisions.
- How Much to Save for Retirement — Planning Strategies for Every Age. How much is enough when it comes to retirement savings? While the answer varies from person to person, some universal rules apply.
- 13 Retirement Planning & Savings Mistakes You Need to Avoid. These long-range mistakes are as common as they are avoidable.
- 6 Best Investments for Retirement Planning. For retirement investors, not all financial instruments are created equal. These six are among the best.
- What Is a 401(k) Plan & How Does It Work? — Limits, Rules, & Benefits. The traditional 401(k) plan is the most popular workplace retirement plan.
- What Is a Roth 401(k)? — Retirement Plan Rules & Limits. The Roth 401(k) is an alternative to the traditional 401(k).
- Traditional IRA Retirement Account — Benefits & Restrictions. The traditional IRA remains one of the easiest and most popular tax-sheltered accounts.
- What Is a Roth IRA Retirement Account? — Benefits, Rules & Restrictions. Roth IRAs combine flexibility with tax savings. The catch? You don’t see those tax savings until you retire.
- Safe Withdrawal Rates for Retirement — Does the 4% Rule Still Apply? How much can you safely withdraw from your retirement accounts? Find out whether the longstanding 4% Rule applies today.
- Sequence of Returns Risk — How It Can Make or Break Your Retirement. Learn how to mitigate the risk of a serious market downturn early in your retirement.
7. Estate Planning
The sooner you start thinking about estate planning, the better.
- What Is Estate Planning? — Basics & a Checklist for Costs, Tools, Probates, & Taxes. Think of this as Estate Planning 101 — everything first-timers need to know about the daunting world of estate planning.
- How to Write & Update a Will — The Process You Need to Know. Learn how to express your final wishes in a legally binding document and update that document as your personal circumstances change.
- What Is a Trust Fund? — How It Works, Types, & How to Set One Up. “Trust fund” is often seen as a pejorative term, but guaranteeing income to an entitled kid is far from its only function.
- What Is Probate? — Definition, Process, & How to Avoid It. Learn how a court of law handles your legal and financial matters after your death.
- Estate & Inheritance Tax — Threshold, Rates & Calculating How Much You Owe. Are you liable for estate tax? Most Americans aren’t, but other taxes may apply to assets distributed from deceased taxpayers’ estates.
- What Is the Gift Tax? — IRS Rules, Rate, & Maximum Exclusion Limit. Learn about the gift tax, which may limit what you’re able to distribute to your heirs before and after your death.
It bears repeating: Financial literacy is a journey, not a jaunt. These articles are only a portion of the content we offer on various financial topics.
The best thing you can do for your personal financial literacy is to become a voracious, educated consumer of finance-related content. As you increase your information consumption, use your existing value system, personal circumstances, and life goals to inform your opinions and objectives.
Keep reading to become a smarter, more confident consumer.