By Gail Marksjarvis
Whether it's getting rid of debt, paying for college, planning for retirement or investing with skill, just about any task is made manageable -- complete with work sheets and calculators.
Here are some of my favorites.
People don't have to feel out of control as they await their next paycheck.
Gain peace of mind by making a budget. Google "budget work sheet" and find hundreds of easy tools.
One starting place: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling at nfcc.org/FinancialEducation/monthlyincome.cfm. For more detailed, ongoing help: quicken.com, mint.com or greensherpa.com.
When they complete a budget, people are often shocked by how much they waste each month on interest.
Compare rates and terms at cardratings.com and bankrate.com.
Bankrate.com also provides a wealth of information and calculators on everything from mortgages to credit cards and CD rates.
To see how to get out from under debt and how soon: bankrate.com/calculators/credit-cards/credit-card-payoff-calculator.aspx.
Consolidate debt: finance.cch.com/sohoApplets/DebtConsolidate.html.
Affordable house hunting: bankrate.com/aff/calc/newhouse/calculator.asp. Compare loans: calculators.aol.com/tools/aol/home15/tool.fcs.
Your credit score will affect the interest you pay on everything, so you want to keep it in the 700s or higher.
To get a free credit report, which influences your score, visit annualcreditreport.com.
To see your score, pay less than $50 at myFICO.com.
To improve your score: creditkarma.com.
Usually people don't consider college costs until it's so late that options are limited. Start by saving small amounts early, and find information on 529 college savings plans at savingforcollege.com.
Scholarships can help. Find them at fastweb.com, scholarships.com and finaid.com. Finaid.com is essential for understanding student loans. Most sites steer you to private loans, but finaid.com provides real help.
Also try: ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/DirectLoan/index.html.
To see whether you are on course to retire the way you'd like, start with the "ballpark" estimate calculator at choosetosave.org. Your expenses will be different than those now.
For a glimpse of the income your savings will provide in retirement, try finance.cch.com/sohoapplets/retirementincome.html.
Many assume their savings will last longer than they do. See the picture clearly: mindyourfinances.com/calculators/retirement-planner.
Don't forget that inflation will stop today's big sum from going as far tomorrow. See how far at nylim.com/retirement/0,2058,30_1010606,00.html or esplanner.com. And remember Social Security www.ssa.gov.
Legal contracts, taxes
Find an array of legal help at nolo.com.
Broad information on personal finance and taxes at finance.cch.com and fairmark.com/index.htm.
Tax laws and forms are at www.irs.gov.
To check on a credit counselor, try nfcc.org.
To find a financial planner, try napfa.org, garrettplanning.com or cfp.net/search.
If you are interested in investing in individual stocks, try the "research wizard" tool at moneycentral.msn.com/investor/research/wizards/SRW.asp. It teaches you to analyze a stock like a pro.
Lack patience? Stick with mutual funds. Learn what you need and find top funds at morningstar.com. It has a free 30-day trial. For exchange traded funds, etfconnect.com.
The key to investing success is assembling stock and bond funds in the right proportion. Try it free at dinkytown.net/java/AssetAllocator.html.
Diversify, including stock screens, at finance.yahoo.com.
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