It used to be that in order to learn about financial products you'd have to go straight to the source. That meant you'd probably meet a banker or a certified financial planner depending on what you needed. The banker or CFP would then proceed to tell you about the amazing products they offer at their institution or partner-company.
This worked for some time until consumers started distrusting the people who were selling them the products. Blame it on the Great Recession or bad experiences, but the overall consensus became that banks and other large financial institutions were not to be trusted.
In a Gallup poll from 2014, consumer confidence in the banking system was still low. At the time only 26 percent of Americans had any confidence in banks. A 2014 Edelman Study also found that when compared to other industries, financial services are at the bottom of the list when it comes to consumer trust.
The question then becomes where can you find the information you need about financial products? After all, we can't just stop using them. There are also some great products out there.
Read Personal Finance Blogs
In the mid-2000s personal finance blogs started changing the industry. These blogs, written from a more personal perspective, became a place for consumers to go learn about money. Often times this included product reviews, money lessons and basic financial education.
The Wall Street Journal took note of this back in 2005 and had an entire write-up called "Bloggers Put the Personal in Personal Finance." The New York Times also took notice and wrote an article about how personal finance bloggers are transparent about their money.
Fast forward a few years and large financial institutions have started partnering with personal finance bloggers to reach more consumers. They got the memo that consumers trusted bloggers more than they trusted banks.
There's also a conference every year called The Financial Blogger Conference, where bloggers and other members of the financial media convene to talk about how they can best serve consumers.
The appeal of personal finance blogs is that they are independent publishers. The personal finance blogger community also has no problem sharing what works and what doesn't when it comes to money management. This is exactly what consumers feel is lacking in the personal finance industry, which is why blogs have become a go-to source for information.
Try Independent Review Sites
If you go to your bank looking for a loan, they are obviously going to try and sell you the loans they offer. That's their job and that's okay. The problem is you need to do more research so you know whether or not you're going to the best lender available.
But how do you do that with a busy schedule? And how do you do it without wasting money by learning things the hard way?
Enter review sites. One such site, MoneySavingPro.com, has their team review numerous financial services and write independent reviews about them. They then curate the information for you with side-by-side comparisons. This saves you a whole lot of time and money.
In the case of MoneySavingPro.com, many of their team members are well known bloggers in the financial sphere. In other words, they know what they're talking about.
Podcasts are huge in the personal finance arena. As of February there were over 40 million podcast listeners in the U.S. and many of the podcasts on iTunes deal specifically with business and finances.
It's a newer type of media and it's one that financial legends like Dave Ramsey and Freakonomics are experimenting with. You also have So Money with Farnoosh Torabi which caters specifically to a more millennial audience. In fact, it's through Farnoosh's podcast that many have come to learn about newer financial services like Betterment.
If you're more of an audio learner, podcasts may be the way for you to go when you're doing your financial research.
Personal finance resources may be lacking in the conventional sense, but there is certainly a wealth of information available online. The next time you're in the market for a financial product, whether it's a credit card or a brokerage account, check in with these independent sources first.