Step Up to the Plate and Manage Your Own Money

No one is a more reliable steward of your money than you are.

April is a month of beginnings, among them the start of the baseball season and the opportunity to achieve financial literacy -- or, as it's now known in some circles, financial capability. I like to think of it as stepping up to the plate and taking charge of your own finances. With public trust in institutions from Wall Street to Capitol Hill undermined by the financial crisis, one thing we've learned is that no one is a more reliable steward of your money than you are.

Surveys show that Americans are willing to take on this personal responsibility. For example, in a poll by Chase Card Services, 72% of respondents said that they trusted themselves most when it came to managing their finances -- but about the same number said that they needed better tools to do it. And a survey by AARP Financial found that more than half of adult Americans say it's hard to locate financial information and guidance that they can trust.

We happen to think that Kiplinger's is the sharpest, most reliable tool in your shed. We have a 63-year tradition of giving readers trustworthy advice they can act on. So it's gratifying to hear from readers like Arnold Rosenberg of Somerset, Mass., who writes that "your magazine is the best in the business. Not only does it give me financial news, but also news about health care, mortgages, how to manage your money -- just about anything that's worthwhile knowing."

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Whew! That's a high bar to hit with every issue. To mark Financial Literacy Month, I asked our editors what kinds of concerns are top of mind with our readers and how we can best address them. First out of the box was senior editor and resident "bond guy" Jeff Kosnett: "The question I get asked most often is, 'I have money coming back at me from a CD [or a bond]. Where do I invest it for a good, safe yield?'" Jeff's short answer: Look into electric-utility stocks and investment-grade bonds (for more details, see Cash in Hand: Reinvestment Riddle).

April also happens to be primo tax season, so people are asking what they need to know as they file their 2009 tax returns. "There are lots of opportunities that no one can afford to miss," says senior editor and tax writer Mary Beth Franklin, "such as the new home buyer's credits." For Mary Beth's rundown and tips, read her story Tax-Saving Secrets.

Senior associate editor Jane Bennett Clark, who covers colleges, reports that the most pressing reader concern on her beat is how to get out from under student loans. In How to Shed Student Debt, Jane writes about ways you (or your kids) can have those loans forgiven.

Aboard the Money Bus. In a thought-provoking response to my request, associate editor Tom Anderson observed, "As a whole, I think our readers are a very financially literate bunch. It's the rest of America that worries me."

We've got an app for that, too. Together with the NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation, TD Ameritrade and, Kiplinger's is piloting the second annual Your Money Bus Tour. In 2010 the Money Bus will visit more than 25 cities nationwide to offer free advice from professional financial advisers (for a schedule, go to At each stop, members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors take the time -- anywhere from ten minutes to a half-hour -- to counsel individuals on everything from how to pay off debt to how to save for retirement. In April, the Money Bus rolls into Columbus, Ohio (April 8), Chicago (April 20) and Lubbock, Tex. (April 27). Stop by, if you can. And if you can't, expand your financial education by spending some time with the tool you're currently seeing in front of you --

Janet Bodnar

Janet Bodnar is editor-at-large of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, a position she assumed after retiring as editor of the magazine after eight years at the helm. She is a nationally recognized expert on the subjects of women and money, children's and family finances, and financial literacy. She is the author of two books, Money Smart Women and Raising Money Smart Kids. As editor-at-large, she writes two popular columns for Kiplinger, "Money Smart Women" and "Living in Retirement." Bodnar is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and is a member of its Board of Trustees. She received her master's degree from Columbia University, where she was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism.