Thanksgiving is a time when we can give thanks for all of the blessings in our lives, like health, loving spouse, a wonderful family and amazing friends. But this is a money column, so this week, I would also like to give thanks to all of the amazing people and resources that have improved our financial lives. The Financial Planning Coalition: The collaboration of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (“CFP Board”), the Financial Planning Association® (“FPA”), and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (“NAPFA”) continues to work on behalf of consumers to make the fiduciary standard the gold standard for financial advice-givers.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI): The mission of EBRI is to contribute to, to encourage, and to enhance the development of sound employee benefit programs and sound public policy through objective research and education. EBRI has also developed an easy to use retirement calculator, which I wholeheartedly endorse.
Life Happens: While I have been a critic of some of the practices of the insurance industry, this nonprofit, founded by seven producer organizations, is dedicated to helping Americans take personal financial responsibility through the ownership of life insurance and related products, including disability and long-term care insurance. Of particular interest is the Life Happens Insurance calculator.
Mark Kantrowitz/FinAid.org: Mark created this terrific web site for education funding in the fall of 1994 as a public service. It is the quintessential resource for every would-be college student, providing informative, objective and valuable advice for students and their families, who are looking for ways to finance their education.
SSA.gov: I know that everyone complains about the Social Security system, but the government’s web site is a great tool. You can manage your account online and use the estimator to determine your future benefit.
Jack Bogle: When he was a junior at Princeton University in 1949, Jack Bogle decided to use the concept of index funds as the topic of his senior thesis. That decision eventually led to the creation of the modern index fund. In 1976, The Vanguard Group – then a new mutual fund company – rolled out the First Index Investment Trust, which ultimately became the Vanguard 500 Index Fund. The fund, which was originally referred to as “Bogle's Folly” has become the single best friend to retail investors.
AnnualCreditReport.com: In the aftermath of the credit boom and bust, there were singing pirates and a myriad of online offers to help consumers take control of their credit histories, but there was only one official site, guaranteed by Federal law, where you can obtain a free credit report annually.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): The CFPB was created out of 2010’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The CFPB consolidated most Federal consumer financial protection authority in one place and focuses on one goal: watching out for American consumers in the market for consumer financial products and services. Although various regulators had consumer divisions, none has the sole focus of keep an eye out for us. The CFPB works to give consumers the information they need to understand the terms of their agreements with financial companies. They are working to make regulations and guidance as clear and streamlined as possible so providers of consumer financial products and services can follow the rules on their own.
Ann Marsh: Since we have just celebrated Veterans’ Day, I would like to highlight the work of Financial Planning Magazine’s Senior Editor and West Coast Bureau Chief. Ann’s phenomenal work highlighted how financial problems are weighing on our servicemen and servicewomen, and in some cases, contributing to suicide. Please read her article and if you are interested in supporting our veterans, please check out www.giveanhour.org, which is in the process of considering launching a financial planning arm of its services and www.psycharmor.org, which is putting together a new network of private sector professionals to help soldiers and vets, including financial planners.