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Free Tool Helps You Learn Investment Basics


By Barbara O’Neill, USDA eXtension program

Want to be a more knowledgeable investor? The Cooperative Extension System has a free online home study course for beginning investors called Investing for Your Future (IFYF).

IFYF consists of 11 free-standing modules that cover topics like investing basics, mutual funds, selecting financial professionals and more.

Each month, a new investment topic is added to the IFYF course to keep up with current financial trends. You can find a list of the topics covered dating back to 2004 in the course’s archive.

The IFYF course has won several national awards and is updated regularly for changes in tax laws, financial products, and other current information. It is one of many free online resources contained within the eXtension Personal Finance Web site for consumers.

Ask these questions before diving in: 

What Should a Smart Investor do When Hiring an Advisor?


By Michael Herndon, Consumer Outreach Officer for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Even seasoned investors sometimes miss out on doing a few things that will serve them well when working with an advisor. They usually interview the potential advisor to ask about how they have performed in the past, but too often investors don’t verify the advisor’s background or registration status with a government agency.

It is absolutely essential to check an advisor’s past record to make sure they are clear of violations and other problems. If you ask advisors if they are legitimate, of course they will tell you yes, and that they are registered as required. However, with a few quick phone calls or Internet searches you can confirm that information for yourself.

For individuals under the CFTC’s jurisdiction, consumers can find information in the National Futures Association’s Background Affiliation Status Information Center database (BASIC).

For other investments, you can research brokers, brokerage firms, and investment advisors and firms with this free tool from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, FINRA’s BrokerCheck.

Also, just a simple call to see if the financial professional has a business license or even searching his or her name on an online search engine can help.

My advice is to always consult THREE independent sources for background information before you invest with anyone or conduct any financial transaction.

For trustworthy information about investing, financial products, investment professionals, and more, visit

Visit for trustworthy information about saving and investing. Created by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, is a free, easy-to-use website with objective information on investing wisely and avoiding fraud.

Here are just a few of the helpful resources you’ll find: