One of the best ways to learn a beat is to read materials by journalists who are the best at covering the topic. Below are books that every reporter new to the personal finance beat should read.
Read them not only for knowledge of the content, but for the way the authors boil down complex, complicated material into everyday language. If you can do that, it’s proof that you really know the subject.
The organizations listed will put you in touch with various areas of the personal finance industry and with regulators. Get to know the key players so that they will think of you when they have story tips.
BOOKS AND GUIDES
The Wall Street Journal Complete Personal Finance Guidebook, by Jeff Opdyke.
Saving for Retirement without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery, by Gail MarksJarvis.
Personal Finance for Dummies, by Eric Tyson.
The Financial Writer’s Stylebook: 1,100 Business Terms Defined and Rated, by Chris Roush and Bill Cloud.
Barron’s Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms, by John Downes and Jordan Elliot Goodman.
Understanding Wall Street, by Jeffrey B. Little and Lucien Rhodes.
Your Credit Score, Your Money & What’s at Stake: How to Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future, By Liz Pulliam Weston.
- The Society of American Business Editors and Writers: Founded in 1964, SABEW is the preeminent organization for business journalists in the United States. It counts among its more than 3,000 members the leading business writers, columnists and editors from large international papers, national newspaper chains, wire services, television and magazines.
SABEW holds conferences in the spring and fall that feature major newsmakers and skills programs conducted by the best business journalists in the industry.
- Financial Planning Association: FPA is the organization for personal financial planning experts. This is a good source to find financial planners in your area. The organization has a media training program for its members who want to serve as resources for reporters on personal finance stories.
The press contact is Randy Hildreth, 303-867-7190, or email@example.com.
- Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards: The board grants the respected CFP certification and also disciplines certified financial planners. You can check whether a planner in your area has a disciplinary history with the board.
The board’s website also has lots of useful information on financial planning, how to find a planner and what questions to ask a planner you’re considering hiring.
The media contact is Dan Drummond, 202-550-4372, or ddrummond@CFPBoard.org.
- The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority: FINRA is Wall Street’s self-regulatory organization and operates a free service called BrokerCheck that enables investors to check on the disciplinary history of brokers and brokerage firms.
The information you find on BrokerCheck must be understood in the proper context. See this well-written article by The Wall Street Journal: Digging Up Dirt and Deciphering It.
The FINRA media contact is George Smaragdis, (202) 728-8988, or George.Smaragdis@finra.org
- Securities and Exchange Commission: Created by Congress, the SEC regulates the securities markets and protect investors. Its Investor.gov website gives consumers an introduction to the financial markets and investment basics.
It also has information on checking out brokers and investment advisers.
People or firms that get paid to give advice about investing in securities generally must register with either the SEC or the state securities agency where they have their principal place of business.
Investment advisers who manage $25 million or more in assets generally must register with the SEC. If they manage less than $25 million, they generally must register with the state securities agency in the state where they have their principal place of business.
Pull the investment adviser’s Form ADV, which they must file with the SEC and state securities regulators.
The form consists of two parts: Part 1 has information about the adviser’s business, ownership, clients, employees, business practices, affiliations, and any disciplinary events of the adviser or its employees.
Investment adviser filings of Part 1 are available to the public on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website.
Part 2 of the ADV requires investment advisers to prepare narrative brochures written in plain English with information such as the types of advisory services offered, the adviser’s fee schedule, disciplinary information, conflicts of interest, and the educational and business background of management and key advisory personnel of the adviser.
The brochure is the primary disclosure document that investment advisers provide to their clients. When filed, the brochures are also available to the public on the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website.
Again, check out any financial and investment professional before you quote them. It will save you from having to field complaints from readers that you gave credibility to someone who has a checkered past.
The media contact for the SEC is John Nester, (202) 551-4125, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The North American Securities Administrators Association: (NASAA) represents state securities regulators, who often work with the SEC on investor protection and enforcement cases. The media contact is Bob Webster, (202) 737-0900, ext. 105, or email@example.com. It’s directory includes state securities regulators.
- The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association: SIFMA represents securities firms, banks and asset managers.