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Front Page - Friday, February 25, 2022

Personal Finance: Painless – maybe even fun – ways to learn about money

The online landscape is littered with horrible personal finance advice: teenagers promoting day trading strategies, “influencers” flogging questionable investment schemes and people with dubious credentials insisting you shouldn’t invest in a 401(k).

Outrageous statements and flashy graphics grab attention, but there’s also plenty of sound, factually correct money content out there – and some of it is even entertaining. So if you want to learn more about managing your finances while having at least a little fun, here are some ways to go about it.

Audio worth listening to

With podcasts, you have a wealth of options (sorry, I couldn’t resist). One to try is “Stacking Benjamins,” which a Fast Company article accurately describes as striking “a great balance of fun and functional.” Former financial adviser Joe Saul-Sehy and certified financial planner Josh Bannerman mix news, banter and education with the help of regular contributors Paula Pant and Len Penzo, plus a wide variety of guests. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a guest on “Stacking Benjamins,” among other podcasts, and I co-host “NerdWallet’s Smart Money Podcast.”)

Also, check out two public radio podcasts: “Planet Money,” which explains how the economy works, and “This Is Uncomfortable,” which describes itself as a podcast about life and how money messes with it. Public radio isn’t known for being a laugh a minute, but high production values and good storytelling will keep you engaged.

If you like learning by listening, the social media app Clubhouse also might be worth exploring. This voice-only app allows you to listen and often participate in live conversations about a seemingly infinite number of topics. Consider starting with the Personal Finance Club. (Clubhouse started as invitation-only, but now is open to all.)

Of course, as with all social media, proceed with caution. Having a lot of followers doesn’t mean someone is credible, honest or knowledgeable. Plenty of people pose as experts without the credentials or experience to actually be one. No one is required to disclose conflicts of interest, and your default assumption should be that what you’re hearing or seeing may not be in your best interest.

Information or advice shared on social media is not customized to your unique circumstances, says CFP Lazetta Rainey Braxton of Brooklyn, New York. Research the ideas to ensure they make sense for your situation, and consider consulting an appropriate expert such as a tax pro, CFP or attorney, Braxton says.

What to watch

Suppose you’re more of a visual learner. In that case, you’ll find many credentialed experts to follow on Instagram, including CFP Brittney Castro and certified financial education instructor Bola Sokunbiof “Clever Girl Finance.” But for sheer fun, it’s hard to beat Berna Anat, also known as “Hey Berna,” a financial educator whose professed goal is to make “financial literacy more funny, more accessible and more Brown for young people everywhere.”

Anat and several other worthy Instagram creators such as “The Financial Diet” and “His and Her Money” are also on YouTube – along with a bunch of finance and investing channels spouting sketchy advice (often interrupted by even sketchier commercials).

Be wary of creators who pretend that making vast sums is easy or who promote risky strategies, such as options trading or borrowing money to buy volatile assets such as cryptocurrency, especially if you’re new to investing.

Also, be skeptical of creators who aren’t transparent about their financial situations or strategies, says Nashville-based CFP Jeff Rose, a blogger at “Good Financial Cents,” who has hosted the Wealth Hacker channel on YouTube since 2011.

Many people claim to have spectacular financial success but are really trying to lure you into buying courses or other products that make money for them and are not in your best interest.

That’s especially true on TikTok, where videos often last mere seconds, and bold claims about instant wealth seem to be the norm. Even here, though, some people are creating substantive, entertaining money content. Two to check out include Humphrey Yang (@humphreytalks) and Delyanne Barros (@delyannethemoneycoach).

Kick it old school

If books are your bag, you won’t have to caffeinate yourself to get through the following personal finance tomes that lace their education with plenty of humor:

• “Stacked: Your Super-Serious Guide to Modern Money Management,” by “Stacking Benjamins” host Saul-Sehy and co-author Emily Guy Birken.

• “Bad With Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together,” by comedian and LGBTQ activist Gaby Dunn.

• Any of the three books by Erin Lowry, including “Broke Millennial,” “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing” and “Broke Millennial Talks Money.”

One final recommendation: “The Richest Man in Babylon,” by George S. Clason. This slender book of parables isn’t funny, but it is entertaining, an easy read and amazingly relevant nearly 100 years after its first publication.

The ways we learn about money may change dramatically, but much of the best personal finance advice doesn’t.

Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.