IFYF Action Steps

  • Introduction
  • Unit 1: Basic Building Blocks of Successful Financial Management
  • Unit 2: Investing Basics
  • Unit 3: Finding Money to Invest
  • Unit 4: Ownership Investments
  • Unit 5: Fixed-Income Investing
  • Unit 6: Mutual Fund Investing
  • Unit 7: Tax-Deferred Investments
  • Unit 8: Investing Small Dollar Amounts
  • Unit 9: Getting Help: Investing Resources
  • Unit 10: Selecting Financial Professionals
  • Unit 11: Investment Fraud



  • Study Guide
  • Action Steps
  • Monthly Investment Messages
  • Glossary

Print this page and check Image:Check.gif each action step below as it is completed.

Unit 1: Before You Invest

Image:Square.gif Develop financial management skills and knowledge (e.g., record-keeping, budgeting)
Image:Square.gif Reduce expenditures to free up money to achieve financial goals
Image:Square.gif Complete an annual financial check-up, including net worth and cash flow statements
Image:Square.gif Review financial management strategies periodically and revise when necessary
Image:Square.gif Determine/establish an adequate amount of emergency fund for your individual situation
Image:Square.gif Evaluate current insurance policies and shop around for additional or replacement coverage, if indicated
Image:Square.gif Check your income tax withholding level and adjust, if :Image:Square.gif Maximize tax deductions (e.g., using home equity credit lines versus non-deductible consumer interest)
Image:Square.gif Set written short-, medium-, and long-term financial goals following the SMART goal format
Image:Square.gif Obtain a copy of your credit report to see if it is accurate and complete
Image:Square.gif Establish and periodically evaluate wills and estate plans

Unit 2: Investing Basics

Image:Square.gif Review the places where you are currently holding money and determine if your holdings are in savings or investment vehicles
Image:Square.gif Determine the rate of return for current financial holdings
Image:Square.gif Complete the What Are Your Investment Preferences? exercise to identify your characteristics and needs as an investor
Image:Square.gif Set aside time each week to read one of the personal finance magazines recommended in Unit 9
Image:Square.gif Assess your interest, skill, and time to make decisions about your investment plan and portfolio. Proceed on your own or seek assistance

Unit 3: Finding Money to Invest

Image:Square.gif Develop a plan to insure that you save the money needed to fund your goals
Image:Square.gif Set up a regular savings program, if you do not already have one
Image:Square.gif Identify two strategies you could implement to help you accumulate funds to invest
Image:Square.gif Identify a money-consuming habit that you would be willing to change
Image:Square.gif Calculate the amount of money you can realize in one year by changing this habit
Image:Square.gif Change your behavior, save the appropriate amount of money, and invest it
Image:Square.gif Track your investment and watch it grow

Units 4 and 5: Equity and Fixed-Income Investing

Image:Square.gif Read about equity and fixed-income investments in “the financial press”
Image:Square.gif Investigate equity and fixed-income investments available through your employer plan, if available
Image:Square.gif Obtain additional investment information from Cooperative Extension or financial services firms
Image:Square.gif Identify equity and fixed-income investments that match your goals and available cash flow
Image:Square.gif Research these investments and compare at least three specific products (e.g., stocks)
Image:Square.gif Calculate the percentage of your portfolio allocated to equity and fixed-income investments
Image:Square.gif Determine your marginal tax bracket (see Unit 7) to see if tax-exempt investments such as municipal bonds are cost-effective

Unit 6: Investing In Mutual Funds

Image:Square.gif Investigate mutual fund investment choices (e.g., stock funds) available through your employer plan
Image:Square.gif Decide upon your selection criteria (e.g., minimum deposit, low expense ratio)
Image:Square.gif Identify specific mutual funds that match your investment goals
Image:Square.gif Call at least three mutual fund firms for a prospectus
Image:Square.gif Do further reading on those mutual funds and mutual funds in general (e.g., prospectus, books)
Image:Square.gif Do follow-up research using Morningstar or Value Line
Image:Square.gif Complete a mutual fund application and make an investment
Image:Square.gif Track the progress of your funds at least quarterly

Unit 7: Tax-Deferred Investing

Image:Square.gif Inquire if your employer has a tax-deferred retirement plan (e.g., 401(k))
Image:Square.gif Find out what investment choices are available within the employer plan
Image:Square.gif Find out if your employer matches your investment dollars and, if so, by how much
Image:Square.gif Set a date to start contributing or to increase contribution- either a dollar amount or a percentage of your salary
Image:Square.gif If you are self-employed, determine the type of retirement plan you could start, set an amount to save, and begin making contributions
Image:Square.gif Investigate IRAs and determine which is best for your age and income level
Image:Square.gif Increase contributions to your tax-deferred plan each time your pay increases

Unit 8: Investing With Small Dollar Amounts

Image:Square.gif Investigate inexpensive investment options available through your employer, if available (e.g., 401(k) and savings bond purchase plans)
Image:Square.gif Attend an employer-sponsored investment seminar
Image:Square.gif Identify at least three “shoestring” investments that match your goals and available cash flow
Image:Square.gif Research these investments and compare at least three specific products (e.g., three large company growth funds). Use the Shoestring Investment Comparison Worksheet to record the key features of each
Image:Square.gif Dollar-cost average mutual fund purchases and/or enroll in an automatic investment program
Image:Square.gif Investigate the initial minimum deposits required for specific investments and ways that they can be reduced (e.g., automatic investment plan)

Unit 9: Getting Help: Investing Resources

Image:Square.gif Start reading the business and financial pages in the newspaper on a regular basis
Image:Square.gif Subscribe to a personal finance magazine
Image:Square.gif Find out if an investment club meets in your area and ask to visit one of their meetings
Image:Square.gif Read business and finance news on the Internet at Web sites www.usatoday.com/money, www.wsj.com, and www.quicken.com/investments
Image:Square.gif Read a business or finance magazine on the Internet (e.g., www.smartmoney.com)
Image:Square.gif Investigate mutual fund information online at Web sites www.morningstar.com, www.mfea.com, and www.lipperweb.com
Image:Square.gif Set up a “portfolio” online of stocks you own or are watching
Image:Square.gif Research a company or industry online (e.g., search the SEC’s EDGAR database)

Unit 10: Selecting Your Team of Financial Professionals

Image:Square.gif Develop a financial plan to guide your investment choices
Image:Square.gif Read at least one financial planning resource and decide if you can prepare and execute a plan yourself
Image:Square.gif Match your financial goals with the professional adviser best suited to help you achieve them (e.g., lawyer, financial planner)
Image:Square.gif Use the six-step plan described under Choosing Your Team of Financial Professionals in this unit to select the right professional for you
Image:Square.gif Become familiar with resources on investing and consult them often
Image:Square.gif Stay involved in the process—stay educated enough about investing to ask hard questions and closely monitor a professional’s work. Balance your trust in a professional with a healthy amount of consumer skepticism

Unit 11: Investment Fraud

Image:Square.gif Get a copy of a form for taking notes, so you remember what questions to ask when someone calls to sell you an investment from the SEC Web site www.sec.gov/complaint/callform.htm.
Image:Square.gif Keep notes of your conversation when you talk to a financial professional who makes recommendations
Image:Square.gif To learn more about telemarketing fraud, get a copy of Swindlers Are Calling from the National Futures Association www.nfa.futures.org/investor/SAC.shtml. Also read Cold Calling Alert from the SEC: www.sec.gov/investor/pubs.shtml.
Image:Square.gif Download and print out information about investment opportunities you read about online if you think you want to consider investing. If you later decide to invest, you’ll have proof of the offer
Image:Square.gif Maintain a filing system to keep all confirmation slips, statements, and notes about each investment
Image:Square.gif Ask to be put on the “do not call” list if a salesperson’s calls are annoying you
Image:Square.gif Report any suspicious sales activity to your state securities regulator and to the SEC
Image:Square.gif Read about How the SEC Handles Your Complaint or Inquiry at the following Web site: www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/howoiea.htm.
Image:Square.gif Get the name of your state securities regulator from www.nasaa.org/nasaa/abtnasaa/find_regulator.asp and put the phone number in a handy place
Image:Square.gif Call your state securities regulator and check the central registration depository (CRD) file for your broker to see if there are any disciplinary problems on file