Here are a few of my favourite Web sites that help you learn more about personal finance and consumer rights. If you have any of your own favourites to add, please let me know.
Crimes of persuasion
This is a virtual encyclopedia of every fraud, swindle and scam ever invented. It’s not run by a law enforcement agency, but by a private person who finds this stuff fascinating. Try it if you’re ever tempted by a telemarketer.
Which credit card is right for me?
This is an unbiased database of Canadian credit cards, charge cards, gas cards, retail cards and reward cards.
Mortgage vs. RRSP
Here’s a calculator, brought to you by a retirement software developer, that helps you decide your best move.
Personal Finance Blog
Personal observations, musings and decisions in a journey toward financial independence.
You’ll find an archive of articles published in this excellent magazine, plus calculators and other resources to make you more money-savvy.
What should you save for retirement?
It’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track. And you can’t always trust a financial adviser to give you a straight answer. So, here’s a simple calculator that you can play with on your own. Try doing a few scenarios to see how far your savings will go. It’s based on an excellent book, The Pension Puzzle, by Bruce Cohen and Brian Fitzgerald.
Here’s a simple program that helps you track your pennies and dollars. Unlike Quicken or Microsoft Money, it does only thing (budgeting) but does it very well. It’s a snap to learn and priced moderately. You can download data from your Internet banking files.
Mortgage Facts and Tips
A publication that helps you shop for a mortgage and renew an existing mortgage or switch from one lender to the other.
This is a terrific place to find out how investments work, financed by the penalties levied on disciplinary offenders by the Ontario Securities Commission. You can learn about hiring a financial adviser, planning for retirement, understanding pensions and avoiding frauds and scams.
Are you getting all the government money you deserve? When you supply information about yourself, the Canada Benefits Web site tells you what programs you may be eligible for and how to apply.
Consumer Agency of Canada
What’s the best deal on credit cards or bank service packages? This is where you can compare offerings from different financial institutions. The FCAC is a federal watchdog set up to enforce new banking laws and educate citizens about their rights. It has interactive tools and lots of good consumer advice .
This is a gateway to everthing you want to know about consumer issues in the United States. Gives you a sense of what may be coming to Canada soon. Check out the blog that goes with it, www.consumerworld.blogspot.com.
Cellular telephone plans
Comparing cell phone plans and rates almost takes an advanced business degree. So here’s a Web site that does most of the legwork for you. It also reviews handsets, has links to phone dealers and provides online user guides if you’ve lost yours. Car leasing protection www.walkawayprotection.com
What if you have to give up a leased car before the term ends? This can happen if you lose your job, get transferred or stop driving. Some dealers offer insurance that protects you against early termination. You can search for them at the Walkaway Protection web site.
Air Travel Complaints
This is where you can submit a complaint against an air carrier that has lost your bags or left you sitting on the tarmac for hours. The Canadian Transportation Agency will mediate on your behalf with the airline.
Internet service providers
Fed up with Bell, Telus, Rogers or Shaw as your Internet service provider? At this Web site, you’ll find dozens of lesser-known companies providing Internet service where you live. You can compare their rates and services, check out reviews from users and join the active discussion forums.
Long-distance telephone rates
Use Telecomparisons to find out which telephone companies have the lowest monthly long-distance rates, based on your own calling patterns. You’ll be surprised at the wide gaps in prices.
Shop for energy
If you use natural gas or electricity in your home or business, you may be able to save money by locking into a long-term contract at a fixed price. This Web site compares the offers and helps you decide whether you’re better off with a fixed price or a floating rate.
Consumer information gateway
The Consumer Information Gateway is a great place to start collecting information about any consumer topic. This is a compilation of links to federal and provincial government Web sites, plus those of non-governmental agencies. You’ll also find help organizing and filing a consumer complaint.
50 Plus magazine
Do you have questions about retirement, wills and estate planning or moving to a warm climate? This magazine, published by CARP (Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus) is targeted at baby boomers and their parents. It’s a great source of advice. My Q-and-A columns can be found among the online articles.
You can get information on both my introductory and ingtermediate courses in learning how to become a better investor. Hope to see you this September at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus.
Credit Counselling Service of Toronto
Credit Canada is a non-profit charitable agency. It does great work helping people with credit problems. You can get budgeting advice or arrange a debt management program. Try the online assessment to see if you’re overextended.