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J.D at Get Rich Slowly shared an interesting “Ask the Reader” post from a librarian who asked which personal finance magazine their library should stock. Apparently, the library is in a low-income, blue-collar area, and many patrons struggle with very basic personal finance concepts (lack of financial smarts is certainly not limited to low-income ares). The reader’s question got me to thinking about personal finance education in general, and wondering where the top publications aimed at educating their readership are missing the mark.
Less High-Brow, More Real-World
As someone who is interested in personal finances, I subscribe to a number of personal finance magazines. My favorites are often the ones with articles like, “What to do with $1,000″ or “The Top Ten Ways to Get Out of Debt.” I get a lot more out of these articles than I do, “The Top Executive Gifts Under $500″ or “How to Select the Perfect Bottle of Wine.” I imagine those representative articles appeal to different types of readers, with different levels of financial resources.
Personal Finance Blogs
So it seems a complaint of most personal finance magazines is that their information is over the head of the average reader. Detailed technical analysis of the Top 70 stocks is not relevant to an index fund investor. Luxury vacation spot reviews doesn’t much appeal to those feeding a family of four on $40,000 a year. So where does the average person turn to get information on “real world” finances?
There are a good number of personal finance blogs cropping up around the web, and many of them are filling the void left by personal finance publications. Some blogs offer much of the same advice as the overly technical finance publications, but others approach finances from the perspective of the everyday individual trying to muddle through college savings, retirement and life in general. That is essentially the approach I’ve taken here at Frugal Dad. I often tell people I write about “family finances” because I want the emphasis to be on how to survive real world financial situations. Sure, I occasionally toss in a more technical article on spousal IRAs, or setting up subaccounts at ING, but for the most part I try to share my common sense approach to money.
Public Education Also Misses the Mark
I’ve mentioned before that I believe our public education system has done a rather poor job of educating our youth on the subject of basic personal finance. Essential skills such as balancing a checkbook, computing interest, and completing a simple 1040 tax form should be requisite lessons for high school graduates. Advanced topics could include a brief history of our banking system, an explanation on how our financial markets and more on taxation. Unfortunately, most kids hit college without a financial clue, unless they were fortunate to have financially savvy parents who took the time to explain basic personal finance concepts.
So, how do you get your personal finance information? Do you read any personal finance magazines–which one is your favorite? Do you have a favorite personal finance blog? Tell us about it in the comments.