What will creating financial freedom take? Lots of research, so start here.

Michelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary

Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Columnist, The Washington Post

In 1966, Margaret McNamara took a bag of used books to four boys she was tutoring in reading in Washington. She allowed each child to keep one, and they were delighted.

Her giving soon developed into a program that would bring books to millions of children nationwide: Reading Is Fundamental.

Since I started writing a column, I’ve tried to do something similar, except my mission is to get people to read more about personal finance. I started the monthly Color of Money Book Club to spotlight interesting books that can help you become better money managers.

I believe that reading is fundamental to financial freedom. And by that, I don’t mean showing you how to get more money to buy more stuff. Financial freedom comes down to what my grandmother Big Mama would say: “It’s not how much you make that matters. It’s how you make do with what you have.”

I understand that some of you don’t make enough and are struggling to make ends meet. Many of you are in the middle, making enough to save, invest, take vacations or even splurge every once in a while. Or you might earn so much that you have lavish lifestyles with few, if any, financial concerns.

No matter where you fall financially, you have to keep up your knowledge of money matters. You also have to contend with people who are constantly figuring out new ways to separate you from your hard-earned money.

This month, for the Color of Money Book Club, I’m not selecting a book but recommending that for the rest of July you carve out time to read some free personal-finance resources online.

So you’ve got a summer assignment. Check out the resources on the following three topics, and then I want to hear from you. Tell me how the information helped (or didn’t). You can e-mail me at colorofmoney@washpost.com. Or send a tweet to @SingletaryM.

Raising money-smart kids: Parents and guardians are always asking me how to teach their kids about money. Right now, there are thousands of young adults preparing to head off to college. Help equip them with some knowledge that will save them some financial heartache.

Check out the “Money Smart” guides and curriculums recently created by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The guides and curriculum, available in English and Spanish, are created for four school-grade ranges — pre-K through second grade, third through fifth, sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th. The last one is also targeted to young adults ages 18 to 20.

The guides are prepared for parents and guardians, and the curriculums are more targeted to teachers. Parents and guardians can find a quick link to the guides, which include money activities, at www.consumerfinance.
. Educators can download curriculums for the classroom or a workshop at www.fdic.gov/moneysmart (there are links to the guides here as well). There are classroom-ready presentation materials, including PowerPoint slides, for the appropriate age or grade.

In the curriculum for grades 3 to 5, one suggested activity is to play “I Spy.” To your child, you might say, “I spy something square.” (It’s the TV.) After the correct item is guessed, you’re instructed to talk about whether it is a need or a want and explain why. I love this idea.

There is so much information in the guides, including words the children and teens need to know (some of which you might not even know). You’ll find recommended conversation starters about money.

Cybersecurity: We keep so much of our personal business on our smartphones and computers. But are you doing all you can to protect that information?

OnGuardOnline.gov is a site where you’ll find information about securing your devices, avoiding scams and shopping smart. It’s managed by the Federal Trade Commission in partnership with several other federal agencies.

To supplement the reading material, there are some games that you and your children might like. I recommend these two: “The Case of the Cyber Criminal” and “ID Theft Faceoff.”

Investor protection: So many people think that investment fraud can’t happen to them. But it can.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has created “SmartCheck,” a campaign to help investors help themselves. At SmartCheck.cftc.gov, you’ll find links to check the credentials of certain investment professionals.

Start first with the “Resources” section. There are a series of videos you should watch that illustrate pitches you might hear on TV or at a party or cookout.

If you truly want financial freedom, become informed. And read.

Source: The Washington Post 

To move forward financially, first face your past
WASHINGTON - At the beginning of the year, we often talk about the new things we want to see happen in our lives. When it comes to your finances, you might promise to save more or spend less. You may now have a plan to reduce your debt. But what causes so many people to fail at their financial goals? They can't change and move forward bec...
Read More
College students should master cash before getting a MasterCard
There is a method to what some readers consider my madness. Some people hate that I hate debt. Others disagree when I encourage families not to borrow for college. And, man, do I get a lot of email when I recommend that college students, especially freshmen, not have credit cards. I value this feedback, so I created the Color of Money "Talk ...
Read More
Are you prepared for the coming retirement storm?
Stop complaining about the demise of pensions, and start preparing. As with a category 5 hurricane, Americans are in for catastrophic problems if we fail to address the looming retirement crisis. Retirement planning cannot be shoved down on your to-do list. If you're in your 20s, start thinking about it now, because you've got plenty of time ...
Read More
Don't let rental car snafus wreck your vacation.
Like many rental car customers, my husband and I declined the expensive insurance offered at the counter. We knew we were covered through our auto insurance provider. Additionally, the credit card we use covers rental cars. In my mind, if we got into an accident, I would just use the coverage offered by the credit card company. But during our ...
Read More
What will creating financial freedom take? Lots of research, so start here.
In 1966, Margaret McNamara took a bag of used books to four boys she was tutoring in reading in Washington. She allowed each child to keep one, and they were delighted. Her giving soon developed into a program that would bring books to millions of children nationwide: Reading Is Fundamental. Since I started writing a column, I've tried to do s...
Read More
Personal Finance Books are the Gift That Keeps Giving
Every year, someone asks me what financial books I recommend as holiday gifts to teach children or young adults about money, to help somebody prepare for retirement - or for someone who is trifling with his or her money. Let's be honest, not many people are going to exclaim great joy when they unwrap a personal finance book. They are likely to ...
Read More
Gift Cards No Longer Seen as Presents From The Lazy
My husband and I were talking with our children about what they wanted for Christmas. All of them are in their teens, and any pretense of Santa has long been gone. The holiday has now become their chance to break down our frugal barriers.But we do love to hear their squeals of delight at finally getting a coveted item. And then there are the gif...
Read More
There's Always a Catch With 'No Interest' Offers
We have become a nation charmed by offers that something might be free. Especially when it comes to credit. Let's look at the offers many consumers will receive as they shop for the holidays. Professionals call these promotions "deferred interest plans."; But more commonly the advertising may say something like "No interest for 18 months"; or "...
Read More
Sometimes, It Pays More to Rent Your Roof Than Own It
For as long as I can remember, homeownership has been a home run on the American Dream scorecard. When I graduated from college, my grandmother gave me two choices - live with her or buy a home. In her mind, to rent meant I was a failure financially. "When you rent, you get nothing for your money,"; Big Mama would lecture. Because I didn't ha...
Read More
As the Holiday Shopping Season Approaches, Learn to Spend Wisely
We, the anti-consumerists, are losing the battle to curtail the consumerism that drives America, especially during the holiday season. Again this year, major retailers are leaping over one another in an effort to be the first to open early on Thanksgiving Day - before you even have a chance to cut the apple pie. This trend has been building sin...
Read More