Finances can be deceptively tricky to manage. They're like pieces of one big juggling act, where your mortgage, car payment, school loan, credit card and other monthly expenses are all up in the air at the same time — and if one or two hit the ground, it upsets the balance of the rest.
Statistics show that most people don't understand how their money works. Fifty-six percent of Americans have no idea what their credit score is. Sixty percent don't keep a budget. And more than a quarter have zero savings in place. Last year, consumers were racked with more than $11.52 trillion in debt.
According to Sophia Bera from DailyFinance, "studies from organizations like the Jump$tart Coalition indicate that the average American doesn't have enough financial education — or at least doesn't understand how to apply this knowledge in the real world." It's a problem that can lead to people making a lot of uninformed money decisions, perpetuating a cycle of financial irresponsibility.
What is Financial Literacy?
Financial literacy is all about getting educated about money and learning new ways to take control of managing your personal finances in every area of life. "Personal financial literacy is more than just being able to balance a checkbook, compare prices or get a job," according to PBS.org. "It also includes skills like long-term vision and planning for the future, and the discipline to use those skills every day."
Forty percent of Americans, according to a 2013 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, would give themselves a C, D or F on their knowledge of personal finance — but they're open to learning. In the same study, 78 percent agreed that they could stand to benefit from additional advice and answers to their everyday financial questions. Now that April is Financial Literacy Month, it's time to turn those grades into A's and B's.
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, we've compiled a guide to the top resources for improving your financial literacy, budgeting and 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.
Ignorance means being broke, not blissful, when you're not informed of the latest business and financial news. Downloading the CNBC app on your smartphone (it has iOS and Android compatibility) means quick access to breaking finance info, streaming programming, interactive stock market watch lists and more.
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.
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.
5. Yahoo! Finance
Beat the market and feel like you're standing on the Wall Street trading floor with Yahoo! Finance's mobile app, which 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.
iPhone and iPad owners who want a user-friendly personal finance mobile portal can download the app version of the popular LearnVest website. You'll get the articles and content LearnVest is known for, but also interactive features like programs to organize and maximize your funds, track your assets, see your debt and net worth, and work toward savings goals.
Best Personal Finance Blogs
7. Crystal Paine
Known as the Money Saving Mom, Paine 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, check out Paine's book, "Say Goodbye to Survival Mode."
8. Consumerism Commentary
GOBankingRates contributor Luke Landes is best known for founding Consumerism Commentary, a blog helping people be more than just conscious consumers, but to thrive financially by building healthy credit, eliminating debt and finding the best mortgage, banking and investment plans.
9. 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 the Millionaire Club.
10. Jeanette Pavini
"Knowledge is power!" was Jeanette Pavini's advice for people looking to grow their finances in 2015, and Pavini's been helping them do just that for more than two decades as a personal finance journalist, Coupons.com's Good Stuff blogger and money-saving expert. She has one of the most diverse blog rolls on the net, covering seasonal finance issues, parenting and money, saving on household items — the list is endless.
11. Money Crashers
Financial literacy and financial fitness go hand in hand at Money Crashers, one of the top personal finance blogs on the web. Founders Andrew Schrage and Gyutae Park rely on 11 key financial principles to help get people in the habit of making financially sound decisions in how they spend, how they save and what they invest in. "People, young and old," they say, "will no longer be targets of financial predators. Instead, they will take control of their money and their future by demonstrating common sense and self-control."
12. 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.
13. Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche
Tiffany Aliche's goal as The Budgetnista has always been to help women improve their finances and achieve their goals fully and quickly. Aliche sponsors the online Live Richer Challenge, a contest prompting contestants to reach seven money goals in 36 days. She's also the author of the best-selling book, "The One Week Budget."
14. 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.
15. Mr. Money Mustache
Mr. Money Mustache's 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.
Best Personal Finance Journalists to Follow
16. 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 911," "Make Money, Not Excuses" and "The Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness."
17. Cameron Huddleston
Huddleston is a familiar face to Kiplinger readers, as the author of the site's award-winning "Kip Tips" column — a daily tackling of new money problems or issues in a pragmatic, enlightened way. According to Huddleston, many Americans might not earn the financial success they want because of a lack of planning and literacy. Setting financial goals, she says, is the answer.
18. 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, and a host of other financial news programs on TV and across the web.
19. Sharon Epperson
CNBC's resident financial 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. 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. 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.
21. Gregory Karp
For Gregory Karp, saving money and building a personal financial plan is as easy as one, two, three — it's the basis of his popular book, "The 1-2-3 Money Plan." In it, Karp does what he does best and distills a complex topic into techniques that are easy to understand and implement. Isn't that what financial literacy is all about? Find more finance advice in the Chicago Tribune, where Karp's "Spending Smart" column is a highlight.
22. 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."
23. 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 also weighs in on the best money management tools and how factors like health insurance can impact your portfolio.
24. John Waggoner
Looking for a bullseye view on the Fed, the state of affairs on the investing front or the newest tech? USA Today's John Waggoner explores these topics and more, keeping readers informed on the status of money and the markets in America today.
Best Financial Podcasts and Radio Shows
Related: 13 Easy Ways to Save Money From Robert Kiyosaki, Clark Howard and Others
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. 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.
33. Epic Real Estate Investing
Matt Theriault's "Epic Real Estate Investing" podcast explores some of the questions many property investment sites and podcasts don't answer. How do you find the best properties and leads? What's your plan when a deal falls through, and how do you financially recover from it? When's a good time to buy, and what's the difference between active and passive deals? You'll also get a chance to hear advice straight from special guests like Robert Kiyosaki.
34. Smart Passive Income
Pat Flynn took getting laid off and transformed it into a lucrative online business and a learning experience for listeners of his "Smart Passive Income" podcast. Taking an alternative look at earning money and managing your income, it's a great financial resource for people looking to become more active about passive income.
Best Personal Finance Books
35. 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.
Read: I'm Using Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps to Get Out of Debt
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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.
Read: How Ultimate Cheapskate Jeff Yeager Retired at 47
39. 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.
Read: Robert Kiyosaki Answers: Is It Smarter to Save More Money or Earn More Income?
40. 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."
41. Liz Weston
In print and online, Liz Weston is a fixture in the personal finance expert community; you can find her common-sense advice on MSN Money and in her Money Talks column. Weston elaborates more on her financial savvy in several books that should be part of any financially literate person's library: "Easy Money," "The 10 Commandments of Money" and "There are No Dumb Questions About Money."
Are You Financially Literate? Test Your Knowledge
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?
Start by finding out your financial personality type and then using that to decide where to bank. Does financial literacy differ around the globe? Find out some personal finances strategies predominant in other countries. Lastly, don't forget to test your money smarts in our financial literacy quiz.
Think your money skills are solid? Test your will and try saving $1,378 in one year by taking the 52-week savings challenge.
Find Support Through Leading Financial Literacy Partners
Whether you want to greatly improve your own knowledge or help set your children up for financial success, read on for more information about how these Financial Literacy Month partners can help.
Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy
Jump$tart was the original promoter of April as Financial Literacy Month after the idea was developed by the National Endowment for Financial Education, one of Jump$tart’s founding partners. The coalition continues to promote Financial Literacy Month with its annual awards program and the popular Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill.
Jump$tart is also well known for its online clearinghouse of financial education resources and as the publisher of the National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education, now in its fourth edition. The Jump$tart Teacher Training Alliance and Jump$tart Financial Foundations for Educators teacher training model set the standard for consistent and effective training, and the Jump$tart National Educator Conference is the only national conference devoted to classroom financial education and the professionals who teach it.
National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
The NEFE High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP) focuses on basic personal finance skills that are relevant to the lives of pre-teens, teens and young adults. NEFE supports teachers and community organizations as they help youth build a solid foundation for financial independence and decision-making.
Additionally, NEFE developed CashCourse, an online personal finance tool available to colleges and universities to help students build real-life financial skills. Students at more than 900 schools across the country use it today.
“At Ally, we believe all consumers should be armed with the knowledge to make smart, well-informed decisions about spending and financial habits," said Gina Proia, chief communications officer and head of corporate citizenship at Ally. "To that end, we provide a variety of financial education resources to consumers to help them get educated on their personal financial matters, such as Ally Wallet Wise, a program that teaches consumers the basics of budgeting, credit, banking and investing, and auto financing through online and in-person courses."
Visit media.ally.com and follow @Ally on Twitter during Financial Literacy Month for tips and resources.
Bank of America
“At Bank of America, we are committed to making financial lives better by helping people fulfill their everyday financial needs and achieve their long-term goals," said a spokesperson from Bank of America. "Partnering with education innovator Sal Khan and Khan Academy, we've developed BetterMoneyHabits.com, a free and objective education resource aimed at empowering people in their financial decision-making.
"The program pairs Khan Academy’s expertise in online learning with our financial know-how to take users through a goals-based experience that delivers engaging and informative content on a wide range of personal finance topics. By helping people learn more about the fundamentals of personal finance through this innovative approach, we hope to strengthen the connection between financial knowledge and behavior, and truly empower people to meet both their short and long-term financial goals.”
American Financial Services Association (AFSA) Education Foundation
The AFSA Educational Foundation developed a free online personal finance course called MoneySKILL which covers income, expenses, savings and investing, credit, and insurance. The stated goal of the course is to educate students on "money management fundamentals and provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to make sound financial decisions and to avoid the pitfalls of over-indebtedness, repossession, home foreclosure and bankruptcy."
Council for Economic Education (CEE)
The CEE has been the leading organization in the United States that focuses on the economic and financial education of K-12 students for over 65 years. It does this by educating the educators: providing the curriculum tools, the pedagogical support and the community of peers that instruct, inspire and guide. All programs are delivered by CEE’s national network of over 240 affiliates. Last year, CEE reached 55,000 teachers in person, and over 1.2 million unique visitors accessed EconEdLink.org — the go-to portal for free online teaching resources.
Now in its third year, Pathway to Financial Success, a program created by Discover, is committed to addressing financial education. To date, the program has impacted classrooms across the country; it has been implemented at more than 900 schools and districts, awarded nearly $8 million in grant money, and improved financial literacy test scores an average of 24 percent — equivalent to two letter grades — at many of these schools.
“Through education, guidance, tools and life stage-specific offerings, Fidelity supports financial development and helps customers feel in charge of planning for the lives they want to live," said Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments.
"As part of Fidelity’s commitment to financial education, we launched MyMoney.Fidelity.com — a site that helps young adults build plans for their future and reach their financial goals by addressing topics such as saving, investing, spending, borrowing and preparing."
“Money touches the lives of everyone, and that’s why it is so important for people of all ages to have the basic financial skills to be successful,” said Carol Clarke, head of the Regions Financial Education Institute. “At Regions Bank, we are developing practical and innovative programs to teach the basics of money management, and have seen first-hand the difference that becoming financially literate can make in people’s lives.”
Those programs include the Regions Financial Scholars Program, a partnership with Scholastic to provide financial education lesson plans to schools, and the online financial resource center My GreenGuide, which helps people save, plan and make smarter financial decisions.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation and daughter of founder, Chuck Schwab, said, “In today’s complex financial world, people of all ages and backgrounds need help with the basics of personal finance. We believe that having the knowledge to make good financial choices is the essential foundation for building life-long financial well-being. That’s why we devote our time and resources to providing programs that can help people sharpen their financial understanding and skills, like Money Matters: Make It Count through Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and our educational website SchwabMoneyWise.com.”
The SIFMA Foundation helps financially educate people, regardless of background, providing them with tools, programs and resources with help from experts in the financial industry.
The Stock Market Game is a global stock market simulator that teaches students in grades four through 12 about personal finance and the economy.
InvestWrite, a national competition for language arts, encourages students to confront real-world financial issues in an essay about saving and investing.
Capitol Hill Challenge awards its winners a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet their Congress representatives, tour the city's landmarks and learn about financial policy.
Invest It Forward matches teachers and classrooms with professionals in the financial industry to teach students about capital markets.
According to Ken Chaplin, SVP at TransUnion, "Understanding a credit report and score is key to financial literacy, but consumers often view it as a confusing or time-consuming process. Credit scores play a significant role in determining lending terms and rates, so it’s important for consumers to take an active role in understanding what factors contribute to their credit score and what information is included in their credit report."
Chaplin said that, in order to help consumers keep a close eye on their credit, "TransUnion offers a suite of tools that share insights about what information and payments are included in credit scores and reports." In addition to tools and products, TransUnion offers free resources to help consumers better understand the basics of what comprises a credit report and score, including a TransUnion blog that's continually updated with information and tips about credit scores and reports, budgeting, and protection against identity theft.
Dixcy Sulistyo, U.S Bank's program manager for financial education, said commitment to helping people understand money and how to make it work in their favor is at the core of U.S. Bank’s financial education program called Financial Genius.
"Our Financial Genius online program is a one-stop-shop, guiding resource for consumers of all ages at any life stage," Sulistyo said. "Financial education fosters financial stability for individuals and entire communities. The more people know about credit and banking services, the more likely they are to increase their savings, start businesses, buy homes, and improve their financial health and well-being."
"My Classroom Economy is an absolutely free financial responsibility program for K-12 students that Vanguard offers to teachers to help with lessons about earning, budgeting, saving, and delaying gratification," said Nate Prosser, who leads the program and its employee volunteers for Vanguard. "The robust classroom management program, which is specifically designed to overlay and not interrupt an existing curriculum, uses fun, experiential learning to teach students how to make wise money decisions.
"Learning how to make good investment decisions is very important, but a prerequisite to that is the ability to develop good foundational habits. Learning those skills at a young age and in a safe environment prepares you to face major financial decisions as an adult."
“We believe it’s our responsibility to help our customers and communities succeed financially and our Hands on Banking program is designed to help do just that,” said Wells Fargo’s Heather Benedict, program manager for the bank’s Hands on Banking program. “The program guides participants through everything from budgeting, to credit management, to retirement planning. Last year, our team member volunteers taught the curriculum to 136,000 people, and another 640,000 people visited our free Hands on Banking website and took the courses there. Financial education can be life changing.”