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Navigating the world of financial data

Updated on March 15, 2015

Log on to any financial institution or federal website and you’re bound to run into a wealth of financial information. Businesses and the government alike have lived up to the standards passed after the number of financial violations over the past several years. It has become every institution’s responsibility to educate consumers on the basics of money matters to avoid another financial crisis.

The marketplace is a volatile beast. The value of any investment rises and falls as transactions take place globally. It’s impossible to avoid another financial crisis, but it is important to the economy and how the marketplace performs that consumers stay alert and free from any potential fraud.

Making Sense of the Mess

The problem is that there is now too much financial information available, in every type of format imaginable: videos, websites, handouts, pamphlets online and at bank locations. Most of that information is meant to educate consumers to their rights as investors and savers. The setback though is that sometimes this information can be distributed to either favor a particular institution or to sell a standard financial plan that does not apply to everyone.

The best way to make sense of this data overload is to understand yourself as an investor and identify your goals and needs. What is important is that consumers learn the basics about personal finance and the economy to help make informed decisions. No one is expecting consumers to become connoisseurs in investing with the information available, that’s what the experts are for. You are expected to know enough to aid in the decision-making process.

Who to Consult

The first stop to gain this knowledge should really be at a qualified government site, such as the U.S. Treasury Department, the Security Exchange Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission. These sites have all sorts of information about the economy and finance that help gain some insight into what’s going on in the market world. On the dashboard of each site, there are links to additional sites catered exclusively to laymen with an abundance of information on investing, saving, budgeting, and even starting your own business. If you’re still uncertain about a particular subject or have a specific question, there are now contact links available to submit such inquiries.

The next stop should be at the institution you’re investing with. Identify yourself with the type of financial products your bank or broker is offering, know your rights, and demand answers if something is unclear. Or just schedule an appointment with a relationship agent and walk in prepared with pre-selected questions to ask. These consultations are free and banks are more than happy to have you speak to their representatives because it’s good business.

Consumer as the Priority

It may have been difficult at one time to navigate the world of finance and economics. While the accounting and financial scandals of the century have rocked the marketplace to its very core, they have served consumers wisely. Profit may still be the goal of the financial world, but regulations passed over the past century have made consumers its top priority.

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