Investing For Your Future



A Cooperative Extension System Basic Investing Home Study Course

Sponsored by Rutgers Cooperative Extension in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Financial Security for All community of eXtension, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Dear Home Study Course Reader,

Welcome to the home study course Investing For Your Future. This 11-unit home study course was developed by the Cooperative Extension System for beginning investors with small dollar amounts to invest at any one time. It is updated annually to keep it current. We assumed that many readers will be investing for the first time or selecting investment products, such as a stock index fund or unit investment trust, that they have not purchased previously.

The course units were developed in a logical order. “Basic” topics such as setting goals, investment terms (e.g., diversification, dollar-cost averaging, asset allocation), and finding money to invest lay a foundation to help readers understand how and why they’re investing. You’ll also begin to understand that there’s generally a trade off between risk and reward. The more risk an investor assumes, the greater the chance of a high long-term return, as well as the greater chance of short-term losses along the way.

After exploring “the basics,” the course describes specific types of investments (e.g., stocks and bonds) in detail. You’ll begin to understand their characteristics, how they are purchased, and what it costs to purchase each investment. There are also units that focus specifically on tax-advantaged investments and investments that can be purchased with $1,000 or less.

Finally, Investing For Your Future concludes with additional topics of use to investors: available resources, how to select professional financial advisors, and information to help you avoid becoming a victim of investment fraud. You can choose to read the entire course, in any order that makes sense to you, or select only those topics that are of most interest. The choice is yours.

Simply reading Investing For Your Future will not turn you into a successful investor, however. A printed page simply can never replace the personal motivation that is required to take action to achieve financial goals. That is why there are “action steps” listed at the end of each unit. These are specific steps that readers can take to apply the course material to their lives. We urge you to consider each action step carefully and take action that is appropriate for your individual financial situation. The course also contains a number of worksheets, which, again, are tools to help readers apply the information contained within each unit. We encouage you to use them to make your experience with Investing For Your Future a personal one.

Another resource to help you achieve your financial goals is your local Cooperative Extension office. Look in the “county government” section of your phone book to find the nearest office. Free or low-cost publications are available, as well as classes, Web sites, computerized financial analyses, newsletters, and other program delivery methods.

Thank you for participating in Investing For Your Future. We hope that you find it helpful and that all of your future financial goals are achieved.

Description of the Home Study Course

Investing For Your Future is an 11-part home study course that was initially written in 2000 by a consortium of six land-grant universities (Rutgers University, Cornell University, Clemson University, Virginia Tech, Michigan State University, and the University of Idaho), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is currently sponsored by the Financial Security for All community of eXtension and is updated annually for changes in tax law and other key information.

Course Objectives

  1. Participants will learn specific ways to “find” money to invest (e.g., expense reduction).
  2. Participants will learn about important investment principles (e.g., asset allocation, tax deferral, compound interest).
  3. Participants will learn about specific investment products (e.g., mutual funds).
  4. Participants will learn about ways to invest with small dollar amounts.
  5. Participants will learn how to access investment resources (e.g., Web sites, government agencies), including how to select professional advisors.
  6. Participants will learn about investment fraud and how to avoid it.
  7. Participants will complete personalized worksheets and learning activities to apply course content to their lives


Mention of a trademark, proprietary product, or commercial firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by the Cooperative Extension System and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.


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An eight-lesson course designed to help farm families plan for a financially stable future that meets their long-term needs. Developed by a team of Extension educators from several states, farm families can work at their own pace while taking the course.