A recent online experience left me thinking about how we have access to really great free information, resources, and tools. I was receiving many advertisements focused on various mergers and acquisitions courses after purchasing a few books on the topic. As I evaluated one advertisement for a series of online courses on the topic, I was interested. The “educators” had strong backgrounds and the content appeared to be well done. I was ready to subscribe to the course offering for the year, but then took a pause to listen to a few of their podcasts to think about the decision.
The nearly 150+ podcasts in the library are free. They are a great start to learn more of the language and better understand the focus of the courses. They are like a primer for the courses. At the end of my listening, I made the decision to hold off on subscribing to the courses until listening to some more episodes of the podcast. Who knows… maybe I will subscribe. Or maybe I will continue listening and purchase another book or two on the subject. For now, the free podcasts have been a great learning tool for me. The information is good enough where I would pay for it, but why do that when the free resources are more than meeting my current needs?
This got me realizing that there are an amazing amount of free tools and resources perfect for further learning, researching a potential investment, considering a job change, thinking about a relocation, spicing up a presentation and much more. My favorite free resources include:
- FRED Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis
- The United States Census Bureau
- University Studies
- Your local library
FRED Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis
If you have not visited FRED before, you should definitely take a look. There are data and graphs on what feels like everything. The website has an up to date news feed on economic related items, a robust blog, numerous tools, research papers/publications, and more. Today’s trending search terms as I write this include gdp, cpi, inflation, m2, real gdp, unemployment, unemployment rate, and federal funds rate. This is the free go to resource for economic data.
The United States Census
You have probably heard of the U.S. Census and probably filled out a form or two every four years when they study the United States population. This is an excellent resource to go to if you are doing anything in relation to the population data of the United States. Does it have everything you could possibly imagine, no not really. Does it have a ton of great population data, absolutely. If you are considering an investment into a physical asset like an office building, considering starting a company, thinking about a move, or thinking about where you would like to send your kids to school? This is a great resource to use in doing your due diligence. The data is always great if you need information for a presentation. The website is interactive, where you can run numerous searches and compare on one page which is very helpful.
Colleges and Universities
Although tuition may be insanely expensive, what is not, are the studies, cases and publications that Colleges and Universities do and like to brag about. You can regularly find them shared on University websites that are open and available to review. Sometimes you may only be able to see parts of the publication or study but you would be surprised what you can find at no charge. No need to be a student or affiliate of the University to access and review plenty of great information. I recently attended TEDxMIT at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was full of great people and talks. I have no direct affiliation with the school but was able to attend because I came across the event and registered to attend. Don’t be afraid to use public University resources. They are really great.
Your local library
One of the most amazing resources available for free is your local public library. Not only does your local library have access to physical books, magazines, newspapers and events, they often have access to big digital resource libraries. I know, right? Most people do not realize all of what you can access via your library. The other thing is your local library is staffed with professional librarians that are research ninjas that can help you find or point you in the right direction to find the needed resources you are looking for.
We all know when it comes to data and information, the internet is a treasure trove of finding information if you know where to look and what you are looking for. However, it’s important to remember you may end up paying for resources that others are sourcing through many free channels and then charging you. Save yourself the money – and simply go to the many free resources to find your own information and data.
- In today’s need-for-speed culture, It is often easy to sign-up and pay for something you may easily be able to get for free. The next time you need to gather information or data, take a minute to consider what free vehicles are out there to help you find the data or information. Not only can you save money – it can be fun to do your own research!
Becoming an MFF Fellow
Our Standards of Financial Literacy program is engaging, full of interesting information, and easy to navigate. Adapted from the National Standards for Financial Literacy developed by the Council for Economic Education (CEE), this robust curriculum features six short lessons on such important topics as earning income, understanding the value of saving and using credit. When completed, this program lays the foundation for becoming an MFF Fellow.
Becoming an MFF Fellow is the ticket to access additional MFF programs and opportunities for mentoring, networking, internships and real-world opportunities. These are the opportunities which allow MFF Fellows to continue their journey towards personal financial independence.
Learn more at morganfranklinfellowship.com.