Financial Education From FINRA

Navigating finances can be difficult: you have to know about budgets, interest rates, mortgage calculators, IRA’s, 401k’s, durable power of attorney documents…the list can seem endless.

Thankfully the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has a helpful way to educate everyone in these matters and more. FINRA.org explains in their “About FINRA” page that they are…

“…dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation of broker-dealers.

FINRA is not part of the government. We’re a not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the broker-dealer industry operates fairly and honestly.

So, in that spirit they have created a detailed, free educational resource to help consumers, even those who may not be investors per se, navigate just about every conceivable financial situation.

When you visit the FINRA Investor Education Foundation you will find the following setup:

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Since that type is a bit small, let me just tell you that each of the fifteen boxes you see here link to a detailed tutorial on a particular financial subject. The fifteen subjects are as follows:

  • Managing Money
  • Banking & Saving
  • Credit
  • Home Ownership
  • Education
  • Insurance
  • How to Invest
  • Investments
  • Retirement
  • Social Security
  • Kids and Money
  • Difficult Times
  • Protection
  • Getting Help
  • Estate Planning

Each training is self-paced, full of helpful information and may even be paused and completed at a later time. All you have to do to participate is sign up for a free account, choose the course you want to try, then follow the links. The program leads you through the process at the pace you desire.

 

 

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Improve Your Typing

For those interested in improving their typing (or learning to begin with) there is a great site called typing.com.

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This site is great, because while you may pay a fee to rid the site of ads, you may also take many lessons, from basic beginner to advanced, absolutely free. Additionally, you may practice to sharpen your skills as often as you like.

I advise you to sign up for the free account so you may keep track of your progress, which includes how you progress with increasing your words per minute and error rate.

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The display of all available classes is not only thorough and helpful, but you can choose any lesson in any skill level–you don’t have to complete the beginner lessons before you move on to higher skill levels, so if you just feel weak in a particular area you can go directly to lessons and practice for that area.

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When you choose your lesson you’re given an overview of what skill you’ll be measuring/practicing:

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This one is, obviously, for the u, r and k keys. Once you start typing it will begin measuring your error rate and typing speed.

Here’s a more basic one for the r and u keys.

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Once you complete the exercise you are given a score in this manner:

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You can also set up a teacher account, but I have to plead ignorance on that aspect of this site, as I have not explored it at all.

We type so often in this time of the internet, and especially as librarians we need to be able to type quickly and efficiently, so this site is a great way to keep our skills sharpened. It is also so user friendly, and free, that we may confidently recommend this site to patrons needing to improve their skills.

SPECIAL NOTE: Using the number pad is a much quicker, more efficient way to enter material item numbers, library card numbers and other long numbers. Check in this site for tutorials on how to best use the number pad and increase your speed and accuracy.

What’s a MOOC?!

A MOOC is a Massive Online Open Course. The basic idea is that various institutes of learning will allow people to essentially audit courses for free, or even to pay a fee to gain various types of credit, from certificates, which have limited use, to actual college credit. Details vary according to who is offering the course, but the learner is the one who decides if they wish to learn simply for curiosity and the love of learning (most common) or if they want to earn some sort of certificate or some other validation of the time spent learning (less common).

There are several websites that specialize in hooking people up with such courses, with just a few being coursera.org, udemy.com and edx.org. You can find out so much about these courses and how they work at various sites around the web, but Forbes posted a good summary recently about the future of MOOCs. Additionally, you may find the following illustration helpful in understanding how an MOOC works:

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Basically this illustration asks several questions pointing out that the concept remains in the evolutionary stages despite being a web presence for quite some time. So, when you go to various outlets to experience an MOOC you won’t necessarily find the same experience as any other site. Some learners find this exciting, some frustrating. The MOOC doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, so, let’s look at how one in particular works.

I signed up for a course on coursera.org:

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As I became a registered, free user I was given limited access to class materials: I can follow along, complete readings and assignments but cannot take tests or quizzes or receive any sort of grade. To gain these features I would need to pay a fee to participate officially in Berklee College of Music courses. The fact that I have that option demonstrates one of the advantages of an MOOC–choice.

So, here’s just one example of what I can get for free: a video lecture from the teacher:

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As I progress through the course I will share the progress and, when the course is complete, I will give my opinion on how helpful (or not) I felt the course was.

Navigating the Thrills and Spills of Insurance

With all of the recent natural disasters you may have taken stock of your own home and thought about what you might do to replace items you might lose in such a scenario. Here is a helpful link from the site United Policy Holders that helps explain how you might go about dealing with such issues.

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United Policy Holders is a non-profit [501 (c)(3)] dedicated to helping consumers successfully navigate various types of insurance to make sure each gets the best deal and fair shake when it comes time to both buying and using insurance. Think of them as a sort of Consumer Reports of insurance.

In fact, here is their mission statement posted on the home page:

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Just to the right of the mission statement is a short list of broad topic areas covered on the site:

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Today let’s focus on what can be done in the event you have to make a claim on your property due to some sort of disaster. They have a detailed, step by step tutorial on how to successfully make claims to replace much of, if not all of, your damaged property here:

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They even offer tools to help inventory your household items in advance to avoid having to complete the arduous task after a disaster has struck. There is even an app to assist in the process, if you get into that sort of thing:
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Another helpful feature I found was an example of an actual letter sent to an insurance company requesting an extension on the time allowed to complete a claim:

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This site offers a wealth of information from which anyone may benefit because nearly all of us have insurance of one type or another. This site aims to help us identify how to proactively take advantage of all our insurance carriers promise and to avoid being taken advantage of by what can be a bloated, dense bureaucracy.

All About the Presidency

Did you know that even though we are the Business/Science department we also have some materials concerning Political Science? In the 100’s there are Philosophy works with a heavy political bent, and in the 300’s you may find works on Economics, Law and Statistics that discuss politics as well.  Add to that all the Gov Docs we have, and there is a sizable collection of works directly related to politics in general and specifically the United States. So, in the spirit of completion let’s discuss a site that is all about the United States Presidents.

The Miller Center of the University of Virginia hosts The Presidency, which uses many different resources that allow a user to go deep on any president.

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The opening page is like any other–there are a few banner-highlighted stories, followed by featured content. Then you can choose many different paths. Though you should get on the site and explore it for yourself, I’ll show you a few things I found on my own & how I got there. When I clicked the icon in the upper left hand corner:

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I was taken here, where I chose “Issues & Policy”

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Which, among other things, linked me to an article on a proposed Carbon Tax to help battle climate change.

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If you don’t like that route you may just scroll down the main page to find more conventional topics, such as the impact and legacy of each president:

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You may also experience original documents, such as Secret White House Tapes, in which, among other treasures, you can hear a rather bawdy LBJ order some clothes directly from the founder of Haggar men’s wear.

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There is so much more to explore on this site, and it seems pretty complete and authoritative. I encourage you to check it out, so that you may impress a patron with how helpful you are in answering questions about the presidency.

 

Handyman Help

Here in Business & Science we regularly get requests for information on home building and repair. Today I will detail a site that can help, as our resources on this topic needs building up.

The site for The Family Handyman magazine is largely free and very helpful for Do It Yourself projects.

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The site is a little ad heavy for my taste, but the good thing about that is the content appears to be free, though I did not exhaustively check out every possible link on the site–there may be some pay areas, but I did not come across any.

The site is organized in a familiar format, with videos, links to full instructions for various projects and the like. I chose this topic:

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All I have to do here is click the link and I can see pictures with detailed instructions on how to stop a running toilet (hint: it does not involve chasing). I can print out the directions, email them or share them to my favorite social media site.

There are many topics from which to choose and they all appear free for the user. They do push subscriptions to their magazine, but it is not particularly obnoxious.

This may be a good resource for us to refer patrons to if/when we cannot locate a book or other tangible item on a particular DIY topic.

Learning Express Library Can Help Patrons Who Cry “Computer Illiterate”

The Learning Express Library has proven helpful to many of our patrons seeking various testing materials for tests such as the HiSET or nursing areas like the HESI or NCLEX. However, did you know that Learning Express has so much more? One tutorial area that could help many of our computer challenged patrons is the Computer Skills Center :

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I selected the “Getting to Know Your Computer” link on the left (red circle) and “Computer Basics 2” on the right (blue rectangle):

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This brought me to a video tutorial:

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On the tutorial you are in total control: the video has a transcript that you can follow along with, download or even print:

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…and you can toggle between chapters as well:

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There are many other computer tutorials in Learning Express, ranging from basic topics detailed in this post, to more complex issues, such as the intricacies of learning how to navigate the internet, to even specific programs, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe products:

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For the willing patron these tutorials can lead to increased productivity and less frustration on the computer.