The Golden Path to Financial Success

The Golden Path to Financial Success Graphic
As a new graduate, it can be overwhelming to try to navigate new life choices. Here you'll be able to find information about investments, insurance, job benefits and retirement plans, mortgages and loans, credit and debit cards, taxes and budgeting and saving.

Thanks to several Class of 2022 UNI Presidential Scholars for creating this resource as part of a year-long service-learning project.

Budgeting and Saving

The Consumer.gov website lays out a clear explanation of what is necessary to know for budgeting and saving. Additionally, this website provides links to information about opening a bank account, your paycheck, using debit cards and many more budgeting and saving topics.

The FederalStudentAid website gives advice for budgeting money. It highlights understanding the difference between needs and wants, managing a budget and expecting the unexpected.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website addresses the issue of getting started when creating a budget and gives readers a few basic steps to break down the process. These include simple questions such as:

  • Where does my money come from?
  • Where does my money go?
  • What are all my bills and when are they due?

Additionally, the site gives tips for not only starting a budget but also sticking to it.

The U.S. Department of Labor website provides a thorough guide to managing one’s money and financial future. By comparing a financial journey to a fitness workout, it goes through each step to consider when preparing for one’s financial future. The end of the article also includes financial worksheets to aid in planning future savings.

These budgeting worksheets are simple tools for planning spending, saving and setting up a successful financial future.

Credit and Debit Cards

The USA.gov website describes credit cards and various terms associated with credit card usage, including annual percentage rates, periodic rates, annual fees and grace periods. There are several laws that protect credit card holders that are explained on the website as well. Lastly, this article contains information about what to do if a credit or debit card is ever lost or stolen.

The Consumer.gov website includes an abundance of information about finances. There are various explanations about paying off credit cards, taking out a loan, handling identity theft and understanding a credit report. In order to keep all the information organized, each topic includes three categories: What it is, What to know and What to do.

The Federal Trade Commission website has outlined all of the steps to take if a credit, debit or ATM card is lost or stolen. There is also information about how much of the fraudulent charges consumers are responsible for paying in several different situations. Lastly, the website discusses tips for avoiding credit, debit or ATM card fraud.

The Federal Reserve System website discusses credit reports and credit scores. Within this website, one can find information about what credit scores and reports are used for, who can access them and what information is used to build them. Additionally, there are tips included to help dispute any incorrect information that may be found in a credit report.

Insurance

The USA.gov website gives some tips on evaluating insurance companies and finding the best rates for coverage. It also includes instructions on how to obtain information about one’s insurance policy and how to file insurance complaints if necessary. To conclude, this link also describes a few of the federal insurance programs available to the public.

The Nationwide Insurance website has laid out the different types of coverages that are available within auto insurance. Each link of coverage gives a description of what events/situations are covered. If needed, the type of coverage also outlines what damage one would be responsible for, most likely a deductible.

The USA.gov website outlines different insurance options for automobiles, homes and rented spaces. Along with describing what a policy may cover, this website also gives tips about what to consider before buying a certain insurance policy. Depending on where a person resides, their living space may also be at risk for damage due to a flood. As this resource explains, not many homeowner’s insurance policies cover flood damage, so it may be important to look into flood insurance options.

Personal insurance includes health, life and long-term disability insurance. The USA.gov website provides further information about these policies along with how one may potentially qualify for certain policies.

The U.S. Small Business Administration website assists individuals with questions they may have about acquiring business insurance. Six different types of business insurance are outlined, describing what type of business it would be best for and what each policy covers. Towards the end of the website, the U.S. Small Business Association also includes four basic steps when it comes to buying business insurance, including assessing your risks and shopping around.

Investments

The Investor.gov website provides complete information about all types of financial investments. It includes links to information about stocks, mutual funds, corporate and municipal bonds, annuities, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), money market funds and U.S. Treasury securities (bonds). Additionally, there are various tabs to learn more about how to maximize investments in a personal way, for example, gauging your risk tolerance, diversifying your investments and more.

The Investor.gov website covers five key questions to ask before investing:

  • Is the seller licensed?
  • Is the investment registered?
  • How do the risks compare with the potential rewards?
  • Do you understand the investment?
  • Where can you turn for help?

These questions are important to determine the quality of certain investments. Additionally, there are tabs on this website about researching investments, allocating assets, understanding fees and more.

The USA.ov website covers all topics to consider before making investments, such as earnings, diversification, risk and more. It also includes information about treasury securities and savings bonds, as well as choosing a financial professional.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website explores ten different things to consider before making financial investments. The website explains that investors should weigh all facts before making rapid financial decisions.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority website contains quick informational tabs about all the different types of investments. These links will provide readers with knowledge on the investments’ general set of features, risk factors and how it can be used by investors. Along with these, there is a link to key investing concepts, which contains topics such as stocks, bonds, investment funds, bank products and much more.

Job Benefits and Retirement Plans

The CNBC Make It website provides information on what to look for when considering if a potential job provides good benefits. It provides insight on five of the most essential benefits a company can offer. Under each benefit, the article gives a few prompting questions for one to consider in their search.

If wondering why receiving a retirement plan is a key benefit from an employer, this article may be a helpful place to start. The Internal Revenue Service website provides insight into some of the primary benefits of having a good retirement plan put in place early. The four-step plan outlined on this website will help clarify the retirement planning process from start to finish.

While one of the most well-known retirement plans is 401(k), some companies offer different kinds of retirement packages. The Internal Revenue Service website provides a list of over a dozen packages one’s employer may offer, as well as links to assist in understanding the pros and cons of all of them.

Through the Social Security Administration, one may qualify to receive monthly benefits from the government. These benefits are paid for through a tax that is taken out of paychecks to employees. Visit the USA.gov website for information about what other types of benefits the SSA offers, as well as how to apply to receive aid.

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an account that one can contribute money to every month that can then be used to cover any qualifying medical expenses and may be useful to have around for those in tight situations after unforeseen accidents. Visit the HealthCare.gov website for more information on the basics of an HSA, as well as the maximum amounts that can be contributed in a given calendar year.

Mortgages and Loans

The USA.gov website provides basic mortgage information, from mortgage refinancing, reverse mortgages, FHA loans and HUD homes and generally how to obtain a mortgage. Also present on this website is insight on potential protections from predatory loans and lenders.  

 The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website hosts answers to common questions about mortgages. The responses to the questions include information on how to buy a home, find a housing counselor, submit complaints regarding mortgage application difficulty, maintain an existing mortgage and so on.

The GovLoans website discusses all types of (state or federal) government loan information. It informs individuals of the loans they may be eligible for, describes loan terms and loan application processes and supplies insight about government assistance. Users are given direct access to thousands of loan and assistance programs through this site as well as links to additional resources.

When planning to purchase a house, exploring interest rates is important. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website provides a tool that takes one’s credit score and other various information to help explore viable rate options. It gathers data from banks and credit unions, and the site updates projected rates biweekly, so a user knows what to expect. Other factors beyond interest rate, such as fees, points, mortgage insurance and closing costs are addressed on this site as well.

If deciding whether to buy or rent, the MyCreditUnion.gov website gives insightful comparisons of the common advantages and disadvantages one might deliberate. It addresses questions such as, “Do you prioritize having the freedom to change decor and landscaping or would you rather possess less responsibility for the home’s maintenance?” and many other relevant considerations.

Taxes

The USA.gov website provides the documents necessary to be able to file a tax return in a printable form. Additionally, it provides resources to request past tax returns. For small business owners, it gives directions on how to file taxes for small businesses.

The USA.gov website explains how taxpayers with special circumstances, including senior citizens, military personnel and families and low-income families, can find tax assistance. This resource includes several articles that may help, as well as locations to receive assistance in person.

The Internal Revenue Service website provides information about the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, a program that allows lower-income families and individuals to get free assistance with their tax return. It outlines the basic requirements for VITA assistance, how to find a VITA center and what to bring with.

The Internal Revenue Service website is useful for those in situations where they are facing a tax, or tax-related debt, with the IRS. It explains how to pay off any tax debts may have. In addition, it provides a link and support for the form needed to request a payment plan for tax debts.