Finances can be deceptively tricky to manage. They’re like part of a juggling act, where your mortgage, car payment, school loans, credit cards and other monthly expenses are all up in the air at the same time — and if one or two hit the ground, it sets the rest off balance.
With 62 percent of Americans having under $1000 in savings, and 37 percent thinking they’re too broke to save money, most people don’t know how to be financially prepared. And some people don’t understand how their money works at all.
Not having enough financial education or not knowing how to apply a financial education is a problem that can lead to people making a lot of uninformed money decisions. This can perpetuate a cycle of financial irresponsibility, and that’s why financial literacy is so important.
What Is Financial Literacy?
Financial literacy is all about getting educated on money and learning new ways to take control of your personal finances in every area of life. It’s not just about everyday budgeting, but about long-term goals and planning for the future.
According to a 2015 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 59 percent of Americans would grade themselves an A or B on their knowledge of personal finance — but they’re open to learning more. That’s up from the C, D and F grades Americans gave themselves in 2013, which shows we’re improving drastically, but still have a little ways to go. In the same study, 75 percent agreed that they could stand to benefit from additional advice and answers to their everyday financial questions.
How to Manage Your Money: Today’s Best Financial Resources
With help from the biggest personal finance experts, blogs, apps and publications out there today, this is your guide to improving your financial literacy. With Financial Literacy Month upon us this April, now is the time to sharpen the saw. Whether you don’t know anything about personal finance, or just feel like you could always widen your knowledge, here are the best tools to help you with money management in your day-to-day life.
Best Finance and Budgeting Apps
The acorns in this mobile investment app are pieces of spare change that can sprout into fruitful finances. Use it to link your debit or credit card; Acorns will round each transaction you make up to the next dollar amount and deposit the change into your index fund of choice. Acorns will even automatically balance and manage your portfolio for you.
If you share finances with anyone — like your husband, wife or roommate — Buxfer could be just what you need. The Buxfer app allows you to manage an entire groups finances and even has an IOU view, so you can make sure your slacker brother is paying his half of the rent every month. The app also syncs all of your household accounts into one, see where your money is going, reduce unwanted spending and start saving for the future.
Ignorance means being broke, not blissful, when you’re not informed of the latest business and financial news. Downloading the CNBC app for iOS or Android means quick access to breaking finance info, streaming programming, interactive stock market watch lists and more.
The Digit app is a free tool that tracks all of your spending habits, from deposits and withdrawals to bills and purchases. Then, depending on how much you spend, Digit withdraws a certain amount of money from your checking account and deposits that amount into your Digit savings account. The withdraw amounts range from $5 to $50, depending on how much the app thinks you can afford to save. Plus, you can manage Digit using text messages. So, if you need any money back that Digit has saved for you, just send it a text and it will be back in your account in no time. Otherwise, enjoy having your savings on autopilot, and start building your emergency fund.
The Mint app offers easy and convenient organization of your bank accounts, credit cards and other finances, emailing you when bills are upcoming or if you’re approaching your credit limit. The app also recognizes when you’ve transferred funds, closed an account or opened a new one. If you need something lighter, however, the Mint Bills app offers simplified alerts so you never miss a payment again and can keep up with all of your balances.
Where most budgeting apps show you where your finances have been, Pocketsmith gives you a projected look into the future of where your finances will be. This unique app shows a beautiful calendar view, listing how much you’ll have each day after spending and bills. This way, you’ll know, for example, how much money you’ll have for holiday gifts and parties in December. Pocketsmith offers three tiers of their services ranging from completely free to $19.95 per month if you wish to see what your finances will look like as far as 30 years in the future.
Never pay full price for anything ever again with mobile access to thousands of searchable promo codes, discounts and coupons — you can also check out which deals are currently trending and bookmark your favored retail locations through RetailMeNot.com.
8. Yahoo! Finance
Beat the market and feel like you’re standing on the Wall Street trading floor with the Yahoo! Finance app. The app tracks, follows and updates your stocks to build your investing savvy. Build a list of your top picks, sync them up and follow minute-by-minute updates on the performance of your portfolio. Access to investment and trading news is just as quick.
9. You Need a Budget (YNAB)
If you’re a big fan of spreadsheets and ready to buckle down and start paying off debts and building savings accounts up, YNAB is for you. This budgeting app ensures you budget with the money you have, giving every dollar a job, so you know what you’re working with without over-spending. Although this is the priciest of most finance apps, YNAB will really kick-start your financial literacy and transform your finances. If you just want to test the waters before diving in, YNAB offers a free 34 day trial.
Best Personal Finance Blogs
10. Budgets Are Sexy
Budgeting helps save money, saving money is the ultimate confidence builder and confidence is sexy — that’s the plot behind J. Money’s Budgets Are Sexy blog. J. Money’s goal is to find the best way to budget your money, using templates, experimentation and recommendations for the best books, apps and sites to achieve it. He regularly posts his net worth and encourages readers to join him on the journey to becoming a millionaire and part of the Million Dollar Club.
11. Get Rich Slowly
Get Rich Slowly, founded by J.D. Roth, covers everything from credit cards to career and education advice. Now written by an entire staff of writers, Get Rich Slowly prides itself on offering personal finance advice for everyone on everything — not get-rich-quick schemes. The focus of this blog is on small steps to better financial health, and literacy, so that you can better your financial future.
12. The Krazy Coupon Lady
The Krazy Coupon Lady is a name most everyone knows now. Heather Wheeler and Joanie Demer, two stay-at-home moms, founded the site after they became avid couponers. They now show the world not just how to clip coupons, but how to save and find easy deals to save money. Wheeler and Demer also authored the book “Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey.”
13. Money Saving Mom
Crystal Paine, known as the “Money Saving Mom,” gives advice to busy moms and dads looking to build their family’s household budget and reduce expenses. Visit her blog for coupons and deals for groceries, low-cost recipes and money management ideas. In addition to MoneySavingMom.com, Paine has also written multiple books, including “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.”
Keep Reading: 13 Children’s Books That Teach Money Lessons
14. Mr. Money Mustache
The famous Mr. Money Mustache motto is “Financial Freedom Through Badassity,” and it’s a combo of frugal living and smart investing that allowed this financial expert to retire as soon as his 30s. MMM started his blog to share some of his savings secrets and encourage people to abandon conventional financial advice — an “exploding volcano of wastefulness” — and create financial leverage by cutting their expenses in half.
15. The Penny Hoarder
Kyle Taylor started The Penny Hoarder to blog about the many strange ways he made extra money. Taylor has used some unconventional ways to earn and save money for paying off debts, without “having to answer to a boss.” From budgeting to working from home to couponing — The Penny Hoarder has it all.
16. PT Money
The PT in PT Money stands for Philip Taylor, famous as the founder of FinCon. A financial expert who started his blog to share his experiences successfully managing his money, Taylor’s focus is to help others do the same through a blend of earning, spending and saving, and eventually, reaching a level of fiscal freedom.
17. Wise Bread
Personal finance with a frugal twist is what you’ll find on the pages of Wise Bread, a community of bloggers who make it possible for you to “live large on a small budget.” With money-saving topics on going green, DIY projects, budget building, career advising, finding the right credit cards, coupons and tech, among others, Wise Bread leaves no financial topic uncovered.
Best Personal Finance Journalists
18. Jean Chatzky
Because she came into the world of personal finance as a journalist, not as a financier, Jean Chatzky asked questions, got answers and gained firsthand her own expert sense of financial literacy that she now works to impart on others. One of personal finance’s most recognized faces on TV, the web and in print, Chatzy’s bibliography includes “Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security,” “Money 911,” “Make Money, Not Excuses” and more.
19. Sharon Epperson
CNBC’s senior personal finance correspondent is Sharon Epperson, who lends her expertise across the airwaves in a spectrum of personal finance topics and advice, like making the right savings and investments, handling different kinds of debt and the right and wrong ways to manage your retirement funding. You can also find Epperson in print with her best-selling book, “The Big Payoff: 8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money — and Live Richly Ever After.”
20. Emma Johnson
Single working mothers have a financial champion in Emma Johnson. Author and founder of the Wealthy Single Mommy blog, Johnson meshes financial advice with her own personal experiences in a witty, honest manner that tackles the money issues many moms are facing today. Johnson is also a staple on the RetailMeNot website, a host of other financial news programs on TV and across the web and also has her own podcast, “Like a Mother.”
21. Kathy Kristof
Earning credit card rewards, handling debt and taxes, investing your earnings and finding new ways to grow your savings: These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content covered by Kiplinger and CBS MoneyWatch journalist Kathy Kristof. An author who takes financial literacy to heart, some of Kristof’s published works include “Investing 101” and “Taming the Tuition Tiger.”
22. Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman wears many hats: He’s an economist, professor at Princeton University, a New York Times columnist and much more. He’s the author and editor of over 20 published books, including “End This Depression Now!” which focuses on the past and current states of the economy. Krugman also won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008 and has written for many other publications like Slate and Newsweek.
23. Kimberly Palmer
As the senior editor for U.S. News Money, Kimberly Palmer‘s financial advice strategy is twofold: Find new ways to earn money, and then learn how to manage it. It’s part of Palmer’s Planners, a blog dedicated to new and creative ways of tackling debt and growing wealth, and in her top-rated book, “The Economy of You,” a tome that takes a financially introspective approach to discovering the reader’s inner entrepreneur.
24. Andrew Ross Sorkin
Probably one of the most prominent financial journalists today, Andrew Ross Sorkin is an author, writer for The New York Times and co-host of CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Sorkin’s book, “Too Big to Fail,” is a behind-the-scenes look at Wall Street, the banking crisis and the world’s economy. He’s well-known for his award-winning reporting for The New York Times and for being the founder of DealBook, a daily financial report about making deals on Wall Street.
25. Mandi Woodruff
A Yahoo! Finance writer and reporter, Mandi Woodruff offers specialized financial advice for young, career-driven men and women looking to earn more money, balance their finances, save for marriage, start a family and buy a home. She weighs in on the best money management tools and how factors like health insurance can impact your portfolio. Woodruff also hosts the podcast “Brown Ambition,” which focuses on building wealth on your own terms.
Best Financial Podcasts and Radio Shows
26. BiggerPockets Podcast
You’ll need some deeper pockets to fit all the cash you’ll save by listening to Josh and Brandon of the “BiggerPockets Podcast.” If real estate investing is your game, this is a must-listen show, with advice on renting, buying, selling, flipping, renovating, negotiating and make some money in the process.
27. The Clark Howard Show
Clark Howard has consumers in his corner. Between his website, blog and radio show “The Clark Howard Show,” Howard’s nationally syndicated advice teaches listeners to “Save More and Spend Less” through a variety of ways to make their dollars go further (from shopping to negotiating), but better yet, the best piece of financially literate wisdom: to prevent ripoffs and overspending.
28. The Disciplined Investor
Financial literacy must contain an element of financial discipline to work. It’s one of the hallmarks of “The Disciplined Investor” podcast, hosted by investment adviser Andrew Horowitz. Because investing is such a broad issue, Horowitz tackles it with aplomb and expertise, ably reaching out to both budding and experienced investors alike. Find the podcast on iTunes and learn everything you need to know about making some money off the stock market.
29. Entrepreneur on Fire
John Lee Dumas, host of “Entrepreneur on Fire,” offers comprehensive solutions to becoming your own boss with an side-preneur spirit. Here, you’ll hear firsthand from guests who’ve successfully ventured on their own business path — their failures, their “aha!” moments, and the financial skills and resilience it takes to be your own boss.
30. Freakonomics Radio
“Freakonomics Radio” offers entertaining and irreverent coverage of money and human behavior, looking to uncover “the hidden side of everything.” It’s the brainchild of economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, who discuss the outside-the-box financial problem solving that’s also found in the duo’s best-selling series of books.
31. Money For the Rest of Us
Former Chief Investment Strategist David Stein hosts the “Money For the Rest of Us” podcast in which he explains money matters in an easy-to-understand way. Using stories and analogies he teaches about finances, investing and the economy in a very uncomplicated way, making learning come easy.
32. The Money Girl
Laura Adams is the host of the podcast “Money Girl” and lives up to the title, leaving no financial topic untouched and no money problem unsolved. In her podcast, Adams draws inspiration from current events, social media, her listeners’ questions and everyday conversations with friends, putting those ideas into action.
33. Motley Fool Money
The Motley Fool website is known for being chock-full of financial news and info for just about any need. Its podcasts, like “Motley Fool Money,” are worth tuning in to for discussions, opinions, tips and guest interviews with the world’s preeminent money gurus.
34. The Truth About Money With Ric Edelman
Ric Edelman’s financial advice is trusted by his thousands of podcast listeners and seminar attendees. A financial advisor by trade, Edelman is experienced in the nuances of every personal finance issue you can think of. Though-provoking and always consistent in finding solutions, “The Truth About Money With Ric Edelman” is financial literacy and education on a high level.
Best Personal Finance Books and Authors
35. Robert Kiyosaki
“Rich Dad Poor Dad” has become a household name — and, arguably, the greatest personal finance book of all time — thanks to financial expert Robert Kiyosaki, who tells the story of opposite financial lessons learned from his real father (his “poor dad”) and the father of a friend (his “rich dad”), and how it shaped his perspective on life and money. If there’s one “desert island” money book you should get, it should be this New York Times best seller.
36. Nicole Lapin
As the GOBankingRates Best Money Expert of 2015 winner, and author of “Rich Bitch,” Nicole Lapin aims to empower people through her straight-forward approach to finances. Lapin focuses on helping women and millennials with their finances using common sense to engage readers and teach personal finance in a simple way. Lapin also serves as the host and judge of the CW’s “Hatched,” which is a reality show for young entrepreneurs who compete against each other.
37. Suze Orman
Suze Orman‘s honest, transparent, no-nonsense approach to money makes her a popular fixture on CNBC (where she hosts her own show), on the web and in print, where she’s published 10 books designed specifically for different financial needs. Start with “The Laws of Money,” “The 9 Steps,” “The Courage to be Rich” and “The Road to Wealth.”
38. Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey is dedicated to helping people get out of debt as one of the top financial experts today. Famous for his invaluable seven “baby steps” for transforming debt into wealth, Ramsey is a best-selling finance author, too. “EntreLeadership,” “The Money Answer Book” and “Smart Money, Smart Kids” are all good choices, but “The Total Money Makeover” is the must-have book on your personal finance shelf.
39. Jeff Rose
With a blog and book both titled “Soldier of Finance,” certified financial planner Jeff Rose blends his military and money backgrounds to help people build a more disciplined approach to making and managing their earnings, and investing for the future. Rose is also the founder of the Good Financial Cents blog, a great complement to the valuable advice contained in the pages of his book.
40. Farnoosh Torabi
Readers turn to Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert, author and host of the podcast “So Money,” because she covers a wide number of financial topics that anyone from students to families, retirees and businesses can apply to their daily lives. With a bibliography of best-sellers like “You’re So Money” and “Psych Yourself Rich,” Torabi’s latest release, “When She Makes More,” suggests 10 rules for women who earn the most in their households.
41. Jeff Yeager
GOBankingRates contributor Jeff Yeager may have earned the nickname “Ultimate Cheapskate,” but his financial wisdom is priceless. Humorous and informative, Yeager’s personal take on living below your means and coming out ahead financially can be found in his three books: “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches,” “The Cheapskate Next Door” and “Don’t Throw that Away!” — all essential titles for the frugal person looking to live better on less.
Becoming More Financially Literate
Now that it’s Financial Literacy Month, and you’ve got a list of the essential people and resources to start getting educated, ask yourself: How financially smart are you really? By reading more personal finance blogs, listening to money-smart podcasts and budgeting better with the help of apps and other technology, you’re well on your way to becoming more financially literate.
Paul Sisolak contributed to the reporting for this article.