"As America recovers from the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression, it's critical that we strengthen every aspect of our financial system," Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin said in a press release announcing the launch of the site. "Financial education and access is a priority for this Administration, and we're pleased to provide this critical resource to help Americans find free, reliable and unbiased information that can help inform their daily financial decisions and plan for the future."All the information on the website could have been found on the Internet prior to this website launch, but before, it was like searching for a needle in a haystack of information. You needed to know which Federal agency was the right one to go to for the information you needed. Now you can go to just one site and find what you need on just about any financial topic.
The website is organized in three key sections:
- Life Events. In this section, you can find necessary information for such events as the birth or adoption of a child, attending college, marriage, divorce, buying a home, starting a job, losing a job, starting a business, buying a business, saving for retirement, living during retirement and, finally, dealing with the financial issues surrounding the death of a family member.
- Resources. This section is organized by the needs of particular groups. There are sections for youths, parents, caregivers, teachers, women, employers, military personnel, retirees, researchers and financial education providers.
- Tools. In this section, you'll find easy-to-use calculators to solve just about any financial dilemma; budgeting worksheets for planning a basic household budget, saving for retirement and other key topics; checklists that offer tips on how to do just about any financial task, such as how to shop for a mortgage or how to protect your checking account. You'll also find checklists that will help with college preparation or shopping for an equity loan.
If you're looking for something more specific that's not in one of these major categories, the site offers an excellent search tool that will point you to all relevant resources based on your search term.
What the government has essentially done is pull the best of what each agency has to offer into one location to make it easy for you to find just what you want. My favorite section was the interactive tools section where I found calculators that were simple to use but gave you the financial weapons you need to make a sound financial decision. For instance, try using the Debt Payoff calculator. If you enter your principal use sliders for interest rate and possible payment, you'll find out how long it will take to pay off your loan and how much you'll pay in total for principal and interest. You can easily change the sliders for 'what if" scenarios. Suppose you want to find out how it will impact your payoff if you pay an additional $10 or $15 per month. You can easily figure that out with this calculator.
Wonder how long it will take you to save for what you want? The Savings Calculator lets you try out different scenarios based on the amount you save and the interest rate you can get. You can set the savings by months or years. You'll also find calculators that will help you develop a ballpark savings estimate for retirement, compare mortgage options and repay your credit card balance. There's even a calculator developed specifically for farm families to help them save for retirement.
With all the information that this site provides, this is definitely one website you'll want to bookmark and visit regularly when you need essential financial information or tools.
Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Bankruptcy and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score.