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Special Report

Financial Literacy Month 2021

We break down the basics of building a portfolio, preparing for emergencies, caring for others, and planning for retirement.

April is Financial Literacy Month. Get started with tips, resources, and more from Morningstar specialists.

Starting Out and Building a Portfolio

Ready to Invest? Here's How to Get Started
There's more to investing than trading stocks.

7 Great Investing Books for Beginners
Want to get smarter about investing? Check out some of these books.

How Do Your Financial Priorities Stack Up With Our Pyramid?
Make sure you're not obsessing over small-bore investment problems while giving short shrift to the game-changers.

Should I Start Investing With Stocks or Mutual Funds?
You should probably start with a fund. Here's some advice on getting started.

What Is an Exchange-Traded Fund?
We explain what ETFs are, how to use them, and how to find the best ones.

What Are Mutual Funds?
We break down the basics of one of the most common investment vehicles for new investors.

First Job? How to Create (and Stick With) a Budget
We put together a sample budget for those new to the workforce and explore some tips for staying on track.

Short Answer: How to Create a Budget
If you’re just starting out, don’t wing it with your expenses.

Tracking Your Expenses
This is the important first step to helping you understand your financial situation.

Pinning Down Portfolio Rules of Thumb
Investing can be complicated, but common portfolio guidelines can be a good starting point.

Morningstar's Guide to Life-Stage Investing
Maps to follow no matter where you are in your investing life.

Invest for Short- and Intermediate-Term Goals
For goals that are close at hand, how do you balance loss aversion with return potential?

How to Build a Portfolio You Don't Have to Babysit
These four steps can help you craft a (mostly) hands-off portfolio.

Model Portfolios for Savers
Morningstar director of personal finance Christine Benz has developed a series of hypothetical portfolios for savers.

Model Portfolios for Retirees
Morningstar director of personal finance Christine Benz has developed a series of hypothetical portfolios for retirees.

Roth or Traditional IRA: Which Should You Choose?
Here's a simple system to help you break down the choice.

Five (Easy) Steps to Setting Up a 401(k)
Cross this big to-do off your list by following these easy guidelines.

What Are Target-Date Funds?
Investors in target-date funds can set up a diversified portfolio and maintain a sensible asset allocation for decades without breaking a sweat.

Quantify and Set Financial Goals
How investment multitaskers can prioritize competing financial objectives.

Your 2021 Financial To-Do List
As the new year dawns, here's your plan to get financially fit, one job at a time.

How to Get Out of Debt
Morningstar’s Carole Hodorowicz shows you how using "debt snowball" or "debt avalanche" can help you become debt-free.

7 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
These tips can help you establish good credit or improve poor credit.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Your Market Downturn Tool Kit
Knocking off these investment jobs will keep you focused on the big picture.

Checklist: Steps to Navigating the Changing Face of Spending and Saving
Has the pandemic nudged you to consider readjusting your financial plan? Consider these tips.

Morningstar's Guide to Market Uncertainty
Here's how to take control of your portfolio in turbulent times.

How to Set and Invest Your Emergency Fund
Here's how to figure out how big your emergency fund should be and how you should invest it.

Short Answer: How to Create an Emergency Fund

The New Math on Emergency Funds
Don't eat that first potato chip.

Where to Turn for Emergency Cash
We consider some options and explore the pros and cons of each.

6 Reasons to Tap Your Emergency Fund
Life is full of surprises; not all of them are good.

Smart Coping Strategies for Volatile Markets
Here's some advice for those tempted to tinker with their portfolios during times of market turbulence.

A Down-Market Survival Guide for Your 20s, 30s, and 40s
When you have many years until retirement, market volatility should be easy to shrug off, but it isn't always. A step-by-step guide to taking control.

A Down-Market Survival Guide for Pre-Retirees
If you're within 10 years of retirement, this eight-step review can help you improve your situation--and your peace of mind.

A Down-Market Survival Guide for Retirees
These six steps can help you take back control in uncertain times.

What Should I Do With My 401(k)?
Morningstar's experts provide answers to seven of the most frequently asked 401(k) questions today.

Money and Investment Lessons of 2020
How to plan for things you can't plan.

Rethinking Your Financial Goals After 2020's Wallop
What to do now and down the road.

Caring for Others

100 Must-Know Statistics About Long-Term Care: Pandemic Edition
Who receives care, who provides it, the economic cost, and the devastating effects of COVID-19.

Retirement Healthcare Costs: Strategies for Meeting the Challenge
Healthcare spending poses risks to your retirement plan. Contributor Mark Miller shares strategies for controlling costs and building resources.

Ways to Make Child Care More Affordable
If paying for daycare is breaking the bank, these tips and tax strategies might help.

An Action Plan for Long-Term Care
Many people put off creating a long-term-care plan. This step-by-step guide can help you get over inertia, dread, or both.

The Best Place to Save for Long-Term-Care Expenses
Counterintuitively, vehicles offering tax-free withdrawals aren't always the best for long-term-care savings.

What Is an HSA?
All you need to know about this popular account used to cover healthcare expenses.

How to Allocate Assets for College Savings
Families must contend with competing challenges: time and high inflation.

How Much Should You Save for College?
Uncertainty surrounding cost inflation and investment performance make it difficult--but not impossible--to estimate how much you should save.

Getting Started With a 529 College Savings Plan
If setting up a college savings account is on your to-do list, here are some tips for getting going.

A Guide to College-Savings Options
We compare and contrast a few of the most common college-savings vehicles.

The Basics of 529 College Savings Plans
Here is our doorway to 529 plans, one of the most often used college savings plans.

529 College Savings Plans During the Pandemic
Here's how they've been performing and what college savers should be thinking about today.

The Top 529 College Savings Plans of 2020
A look at how 529 investments stack up under our enhanced methodology.

NYT's Ron Lieber on What and How to Pay for College
The author and The New York Times columnist discusses college during the pandemic, the "psychological head trick" of merit-based financial aid, and what's driving college costs upward.

5 Questions About Student Loan Forgiveness
We take a closer look at the numbers to determine the impact of canceling student loans at different levels on both individual households and the larger economy.

Planning for Retirement

A Retirement Readiness Checklist
Determining whether you're on track to retire can be more manageable if you break it into smaller steps.

The Road to Retirement
Here are the maps for each stage of the investment journey

Maximize Your Employer's Retirement Match
Here's how to take advantage of your company's contributions.

How to Tackle Estate-Planning Basics
Guess what? You've probably already started the process.

Accumulators: Is Your Retirement Plan on Track?
Rules of thumb won't cut it for this important question. How to customize based on your own situation.

The Bucket Investor's Guide to Setting Asset Allocation for Retirement
Use anticipated spending needs and probabilities of a positive return over your time horizon to back into the right mix of cash, bonds, and stocks.

Build Up Your Buckets

Do You Have Enough to Retire?
For soon-to-be retirees, it's crucial to conduct a highly customized assessment of retirement-savings adequacy.

Retiring During a Pandemic
How to handle this decision--even when it is made for you.

Retirement Planning for the 'Gig' Economy
Contractors and other self-employed workers need a bigger safety net and less idiosyncratic risk than other workers.

Retirees: Are You Spending Too Much?
The 4% guideline can put you in the right ballpark, but the best spending policies factor in time horizon, asset allocation, and market fluctuations.

Get a Tax-Smart Plan for In-Retirement Withdrawals
Consider these strategies to stretch out your tax savings during your retirement years.

A Checklist for Retirement Cash Flows
Maximizing nonportfolio sources of income can reduce demands on your portfolio.

How to Bridge a Retirement Shortfall
A combination of incremental, not revolutionary, changes can help bridge the gap.

7 Steps to Estimating Your In-Retirement Cash Flow Needs
Rules of thumb may be too high for affluent retirees with high savings rates, but healthcare costs are a major swing factor.

Find the Right Investments for Your Retirement Portfolio
Your knowledge level, desire to be hands-on, tax status, and tolerance for short-term volatility can help you identify the right investments.

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