Are you looking to get smart quickly on money basics? The sheer amount of financial information out there can be daunting to sift through, and it takes a lot of time to research one topic at a time to find informative, credible explanations.

In this ultimate guide, our team does that heavy lifting for you. The structure is based on the federal government’s MyMoney.gov “MyMoney Five” – five areas identified as “building blocks for managing and growing your money” – and we agree that these are the key topics to understand as an informed consumer. But, as useful as the MyMoney.gov framework is, there are many other sources that explain some of these financial concepts in a more accessible and rich way than the government sites do.

This guide combines the best of both worlds: coverage of the MyMoney Five topics, so you can be sure the basics are all there, and great explanations that are well-written and in many cases visual and easy to digest.

Earn

investopedia
How is Social Security Tax Calculated?: Investopedia

This article defines social security tax and describes how it’s calculated, how it determines take-home pay and how self-employment impacts amount paid by the employee.

creadit
How to Read Your Paycheck: Understanding Your Pay Stub: Credit.com

Readers will find a detailed description of what’s included on a paycheck stub, and why it’s important to understand payroll deductions, including tax withholding.

irs
Tax Withholding: Internal Revenue Service

The IRS provides a thorough description of tax withholding and how to properly fill out the Form W-4 to determine how much tax is withheld with each paycheck.

cnn-money
Ultimate Guide to Retirement: CNN

CNN addresses dozens of retirement plan concerns and questions including how funds are invested, how vesting works, what happens if you leave your job, the differences and similarities between 401 (k)s and Roth 401 (k)s, and how to decide how much to contribute to your own 401 (k).

Borrow

fha
Loan Term: FHA.com

This site offers a comprehensive glossary of mortgage terminology, videos and graphics all aimed at helping consumers understand loan terms when borrowing for a home.

bank-of-america
What is a APR?: Bank of America

You’ve most likely seen the term “APR,” but this primer from Bank of America describes what an APR is and how it applies to you in this easy-to-understand explanation.

fsa
Guide to Repaying Federal Student Loans: Federal Student Aid

Compiled by Federal Student Aid, this guide aims to help federal student loan borrowers understand how to repay federal student loans, including managing and understanding repayment, finding the right payments plan and finding out who their loan servicer is.

moneygeek
Credit Score Central: MoneyGeek

This guide offers credit history and credit score basics and discusses in detail why they matter. Readers will also learn how to avoid dings to their credit scores.

Save & Invest

nerd
How to Build an Emergency Fund: NerdWallet

For families living paycheck to paycheck, building an emergency fund could be a solid way to move away from using credit cards for unexpected expenses that normally derail a budget. This How-to guide from Nerdwallet takes readers step-by step in starting and building an emergency fund.

In.gov
Pay Yourself First: IN.gov

The official state of Indiana website offers a downloadable guide and workbook geared towards teaching users the savings principle of “pay yourself first.” Users learn this basic principle of saving and why is it important.

Moneygeek
Save it Like You Mean It-The (Non-Scary) Guide to Retirement Planning: MoneyGeek.com

It’s never too early to save for retirement. This sweeping guide on saving for retirement guides readers through the incredible principle of compound interest and how putting away even a modest amount of money can yield impressive results. Readers will also learn the seven steps to earning retirement income, and a retirement expenses calculator helps drive the point home.

hands-on-banking
What is a Savings Account?: Hands on Banking

This guide on savings account starts at square one for savings newbies, and explains savings accounts and what they are, how they are used, what are the most common types, and how to open one.

How to get started on investing and how to find good professional help

Spend

clark
How to Create a Budget, Track Your Spending and Reach Your Goals: Clark.com

This exhaustive guide from the website of personal finance guru Clark Howard offers detailed, concrete advice and examples on tracking spending and creating a budget based on your tracking. Tracking software and apps are also recommended.

huffington
Living Within Your Means: The Huffington Post

One of the basic tenets of financial security is living within your means. In a nutshell, this means living on what you earn, including saving and investing. The Huffington Post offers an entire section chock full of advice and news for readers interested in living within and even below their means.

Moneygeek
The Easy Guide to Budgeting: MoneyGeek.com

This easy-to-use guide walks user through the steps involved in creating a budget and offers an example family budget along with expert advice.

kiplinger
15 Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons: Kiplinger

You can save money at the grocery store without having to bring a fistful of coupons with you by learning to compare prices at stores in the area, stock up during sales and shop the perimeter.

Protect

Moneygeek
Car Insurance 101—Finding the Coverage You Need to Protect Yourself and Your Family: MoneyGeek.com

Learn the basics of car insurance, including what kind of insurance to get, what’s required by law, how to save on car insurance and shopping around for the best deal on insurance.

USA
Common Scams & Frauds: USA.gov

Discover how to prevent scams such as telephone, IRS, housing and charity scams, along with pyramid schemes and identity theft.

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Organizing Financial Paperwork: Utah State University Cooperative Extension

An important element of organizing household financial records is knowing what to keep and what to throw away. Learn what to save, where to store and suggested items for your financial information binder.

health-care
4 Ways to Apply for 2017 Health Insurance: Healthcare.gov

There are ways to get health insurance even if your employer doesn’t offer it. This site walks user through the steps on applying for insurance, paying premiums and how to use your insurance.