There are no shortages of financial issues and decisions that arise in our everyday lives, and the simple fact is that most of us are not financial experts. This makes the prospect of making these important – and often consequential – financial decisions daunting and is the usual precursor to seeking out financial advisors. But not only are financial advisors expensive but finding the right advisor can itself be complicated and very time consuming. As an alternative consumers can take advantage of the vast amount of free financial advice that’s available online. These sources in many cases have the answers to tricky financial questions and in other cases can at least educate you on the topic so you can be better equipped to identify the ideal financial advisors. This article will discuss several of these sources you can use to get free financial advice.
What is “Financial Advice”?
“Financial advice” is itself very broad, can mean a lot of different things and refer to many situations. As such, for the purpose of this article (and for practical purposes) we will break down sources of free financial into 4 situations that many of us find ourselves in at least once a year:
- Buying your first home
- Budgeting and Saving
- Credit Repair
How to get Free Financial Advice on Tax Matters
Taxes are notoriously complicated, and unless you’re a professional accountant or accounting guru, the odds are that every year as you start the process of filing your taxes questions pop up that you need help with. The fact that the tax code and tax laws change frequently makes certain of this. One of our favorite sources of free tax advice is the website eFile.com, which is an authorized IRS electronic filing provider. The site has a wealth of free advice on tax matters such as when to start tax planning, the right amount of taxes to withhold from your paychecks and how to deal with virtual currencies when filing taxes. In addition to this, eFile provides a detailed step by step guide on how to prepare and e-File your Federal and State Income Taxes in a manner consistent with tax laws. The site also has 15 different calculator tools to help you answer questions like what tax bracket you’re in, what your filing status is and whether you qualify for the earned income tax credit.
How to get Free Advice on Buying Your First Home
Buying a home is likely to be the most significant expenditure many of us make in our lives. This fact makes getting this financial decision right so critical. Getting a mortgage is an essential step in the home buying process and to most people outside of the financial world, it can seem daunting trying to decide between a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage with one interest rate, a 15-year fixed rate mortgage with another rate and a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with another rate. Before seeking out a financial advisor, there are two sources of free financial advice related to home buying that we’d recommend. The first is the Learning Center from Rocket Mortgage. As of this writing, there are over 900 articles broken into large categories such as the basics of a mortgage, the various home loan types that are available and the home buying process. This makes it easy to find answers to specific questions you might have and in general can help you get much smarter about the home buying process. The second source is your home state’s housing agency. For example, in the state of New Jersey it would be the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency – your home state’s housing agency will have a wealth of helpful information about buying a home in your home state. This includes information such as first-time home buyer grants, down payment assistance programs and other financial programs specifically designed to help home buyers in your state.
Budgeting and Saving
A recent survey by Bankdash found that 60% of Millennials had less than $2,500 in total savings, which is less than half of the average adult in the United States. Budgeting and saving are a constant challenge for many people. Where does one turn to when faced with the question of how much of each paycheck to save or whether to contribute to a 401(k) plan? We’d recommend listening to two podcasts which are outstanding free financial advice sources: Planet Money by NPR which is available for free through Stitcher or the Apple Podcast app, and the Suze Orman podcast which includes segments where she answers questions on budgeting, saving and retirement. Both podcasts have hours of free financial advice on budgeting and saving.
Your credit score and credit history are an essential input into a lender’s decision on whether to provide you with a loan, so having a good credit score is a must-have. However, it is quite easy to run into issues that can impact your credit, and it could be as simple as falling behind on your bills and missing payments on a credit card. For many consumers in this situation where their credit score and credit history have been impaired, the first step is to search for credit repair companies of which there are hundreds if not more, available online. We’d recommend that consumers instead take advantage of free advice offered by companies such as Credit Karma. Credit Karma displays your credit score, credit history and other details from two of the credit bureaus free of charge. In addition to this, Credit Karma also offers free advice on how you can improve your credit. This feature is called “Credit Coaching” and includes very specific advice such as which credit cards you should prioritize paying down to improve your credit score.
While making financial decisions can often be daunting, there are many sources of free financial advice available that should be taken advantage of. Doing so can improve your own knowledge of these financial matters such that if you end up deciding to seek out financial advisors you’ll be better positioned to pick the best ones.
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