Webfinder : Charitable Giving

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Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (Give.org) – Evaluates the management practices of hundreds of national charities. Also offers Advice for Donors, including basic advice, and advice on specific topics such as Disaster Relief, Police & Firefighter Appeals, Car & Used Goods Donations, Charity Sweepstakes, Child Sponsorship and more. (Council of Better Business Bureau, Inc.)

Charity Navigator – Rates the financial health of thousands of charities. If you register (free) you can also receive an occasional e-newsletter, suggest groups you would like to see evaluated, and keep track of charities that interest you. The site also offers special reports on topics of current interest to donors, as well as Tips for Donors, and an annual report on charities’ CEO Compensation. (Non-profit organization; site includes advertisements)

Charity Scams – “If you’re thinking about giving to a charity, do your research to avoid fraudsters who try to take advantage of your generosity. Here are tips to help make sure that your charitable contributions actually go to the cause you support.” (Federal Trade Commission).

Charity Watch – Another site that evaluates charities, as well as offering tips and articles for donors. (American Institute of Philanthropy)

GiveWell – An independent, non-profit charity evaluator that assesses how well programs actually work, rather than focusing on financial factors. GiveWell is focused on finding “a small number of outstanding giving opportunities” rather than rating large numbers of charities. Click here to learn more about GiveWell’s evaluation process.

GreatNonprofits – Reviews and ratings “by people who have been touched by a nonprofit and want to share their story about it… you’ll discover stories of people who have volunteered or donated to nonprofits, as well as stories of people who have benefited from their services.” [NOTE: All reviews posted on GreatNonprofits are individual, subjective opinions, and any user’s experience with a given organization may or may not be typical. Content posted by Users is not reviewed by GreatNonprofits.]

GuideStar – ‘The donor’s guide to the charitable universe.’ A searchable database of 1.9 million U.S. non-profit organizations and foundations. Provides financial and management information derived from IRS Form 990 or IRS Form 990EZ. Includes links to each charity’s website, where available. Also offers Five Simple Steps to Better Giving, plus a blog for non-profit managers. NOTE: Free registration is required for full access. Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar, ‘rates verified, financially responsible charities according to how much great work they’re doing’.

New Jersey Charities [NEW!] – Use this site to check on the status of charities operating within the state (New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Charities Registration Section). For resources in other states, see NASCO [NEW!] (National Association of State Charity Officials).

Pro Publica Nonprofit Explorer – ‘Use this database to search over 1.8 million tax returns from tax-exempt organizations and see financial details such as their executive compensation and revenue and expenses.’

Too Many Solicitations? – Is your mailbox bursting with frequent requests for charitable donations? This page from Charity Watch offers help to reduce the flow. For more advice on dealing with aggressive fundraisers, read Charity Navigator’s articles on How to Stop Solicitations by Mail and What To Do When A Charity Calls, Give.org’s advice on Telephone Appeals [NEW!] and Charity Mailing List Removal [NEW!]. You can also try sending charities a Fundraising Reduction Notice [NEW!] (Charity Watch).

Links updated November 8, 2017.

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Webfinder : Home Energy Conservation – Heating

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Burn Wise – Information to help you choose EPA-certified wood-burning appliances (wood stove, pellet stove, hydronic heaters, fireplaces, and related products), and use them efficiently and safely (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

Consumer Guide to Home Heating – Advice on deciding whether to replace your existing system, finding a good contractor, selecting a new system, improving your system’s performance, and more. (ACEEE, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy)

Consumer Information: Saving Energy at Home – Practical tips from the FTC on saving energy and money in your home. (Federal Trade Commission)

Energy.gov: Home Heating – Tips on saving money & energy on home heating. See also Home Heating Systems and Heat & Cool Efficiently. (U.S. Department of Energy)

Energy Terminology [UPDATED LINK!] – Wondering what the difference is between ‘U-Value’ and ‘R-Value’, or find out about different types of insulation? This site defines dozens of terms and abbreviations related to heating & cooling, insulation, window efficiency, water heating, and lighting technology (U.S. Department of Energy).

Heat Pumps – Heat pumps can be a cost-effective alternative for heating and cooling your home. This site explains how to choose a heat pump to meet your needs. [NOTE: Some details on financing and installation are specific to Tennesee.] (Tennessee Valley Authority). The U.S. Department of Energy offers additional information on Air Source Heat Pumps and Geothermal Heat Pumps.

NJ Rebates & Incentives, Energy Assistance and Related Programs  (NJCEP) and NJ Homeowner Incentives for Clean Energy (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) – Information about available financing, rebates, and other incentives for energy-efficient home improvements.

Seal and Insulate with ENERGY STAR – Instructions on installing weatherstripping on doors & caulking around windows, sealing air leaks, adding insulation, and other home energy conservation projects (U.S. DOE/EPA). See also Residential Insulation (Industry association : North American Insulation Manufacturers Association).

Additional resources from USA.gov on Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Tax Incentives, and more.

Links updated October 2017.

DISCLAIMER

Webfinder: Green Shopping

Buy Recycled Products provides links to online stores and companies that sell clothing, paper, building materials, home furnishings, and other products made with recycled content (N.J. Department of Environmental Protection). See also Recycling NJ: Buy Recycled.

Climate Counts can tell you whether your favorite company is taking steps to prevent global warming (non-profit organization).

EPA’s Sustainable Marketplace [NEW!] aims at helping you choose safer, more environmentally-friendly, and often less costly products & services. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

EWG’s Skin Deep is an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products, launched in 2004 to help people find safer products, with fewer ingredients that are hazardous or that haven’t been thoroughly tested. EWG also has similar guides for Household Cleaners, Food, and other products (Environmental Working Group)

Good Stuff is a ‘Behind-the-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy’ with tips and facts you can use to start making more informed purchases that benefit your health and the environment. NOTE: Published in 2004, so some material may be outdated. (Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization)

Green America’s Responsible Shopper helps you ‘go green’ when buying a wide range of products & services. (Non-profit membership organization)

Sins of Greenwashing teaches you how to spot false or misleading environmental claims on product labels and in advertisements (TerraChoice Group Inc., part of the Underwriters Laboratories). The Federal Trade Commission explains standards for Green Advertising Claims which are enforced by the FTC, and has additional useful information on Green Products.

ELECTRONICS: EPEAT® [NEW!] is a searchable database of greener electronics. “EPEAT®-registered products meet strict environmental criteria that address the full product lifecycle, from energy conservation and toxic materials to product longevity and end-of-life management. EPEAT-registered products offer a reduced environmental impact across their lifecycles.” (Green Electronics Council).

FOOD: To find Places where you can buy or eat locally-grown food, use the Eat Well Guide [enter town & state, NOT zip code] or Local Harvest [results are NOT arranged by distance!] websites. To find farmers’ markets, see the National Farmers Market Directory [NEW!] Click on the Eat Local map to find out what’s in season in your state at different times of the year (Natural Resources Defense Council). How to Read Meat and Dairy Labels defines common label terms such as Certified Organic; Free-Range, Pasture-Raised or Grass-Fed; Certified Humane; Hormone-Free, rBGH-Free, rBST-Free, or No Hormones Added; Dolphin-Safe; Natural; Grain-Fed; and similar terms (Humane Society of the United States). See also What is Organic? [UPDATED LINK! Link opens a PDF] and Organic Labeling [NEW!] (USDA). To find information about sustainable fish & seafood, see Seafood Watch (Monterey Bay Aquarium) or EDF Seafood Selector (Environmental Defense Fund).

GIFTS: So Kind Alternative Gift Registry makes it easier to give and receive non-material, homemade, second-hand, and environmentally-friendly gifts (Center for a New American Dream).

Shopping for Light Bulbs explains the different types of light bulbs now available, and how you can choose the most efficient bulbs that meet your lighting needs.

Links updated April 2017.

DISCLAIMER

Webfinder: Investment

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Business Opportunity Scams – ‘Looking for a job or to earn extra income? Buying into a business opportunity that makes big claims about what you can earn might sound like the answer…. Learn about your rights and the seller’s responsibilities under the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule, and questions to ask that can help you avoid a rip-off. ‘ (Federal Trade Commission)

Financial Markets : FAQs – Explains the different types of financial products available through U.S. financial markets, such as equities, derivatives, money markets, foreign exchange, and savings bonds, along with information on interest rates and regulation. Includes links to related sites. (U.S. Treasury Department)

Insured or Not Insured? – Explains what types of investments are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and which are NOT insured – even when they are offered by a bank. (2013, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)

Investor Education – A variety of online investor education resources for investors of all ages (North American Securities Administrators Association). Learn About Investing offers printable Investor Education booklets, videos, and related resources (Investor Protection Trust; non-profit organization).

Investor.gov – Online resources to help you invest wisely and avoid fraud. Topics covered include Introduction to Investing,  Researching Investments, and Protecting Your Investments. Also offers calculators, glossary, and other useful tools, plus specialized resources for Youth, Seniors, Military and other groups. See also Investor FAQ and Investor Alerts & Bulletins. (U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission)

Investor Knowledge Quiz (PDF)  – How much do you really know about investing? Take this short quiz and test your knowledge. Avoiding Investment Scams (PDF) warns investors about classic types of investment fraud and helps investors spot and avoid the types of persuasion tactics fraudsters use. (2013, FINRA & National Crime Prevention Council)

Investors: Protect Yourself – Advice and alerts on a wide range of investment products (529 plans, annuities, bonds, mutual funds, private offerings, retirement accounts, securities and more) along with other information to help you avoid problems in today’s complex world of investing. See also SaveandInvest.org. (FINRA, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; non-profit organization)

Social Funds: Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment – ‘Comprehensive information, contacts & resources on socially responsible investing.’

U.S. Treasury Products – Explains the difference between different types of bonds, how Treasury auctions work and how to participate, and how Treasury products fit into your savings strategy, plus detailed information on how to buy, redeem, reinvest or convert selected U.S. Treasury securities such as savings bonds, treasury bills, and treasury notes. (U.S. Department of the Treasury)

The following websites are some popular sources for market quotes, plus financial news & information: [NOTE: Online quotes may be delayed, except where indicated]: Bloomberg Markets, Google Finance, MarketWatch, Morningstar, Motley Fool Investment, MSN Investing, Value Line, Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance.

DISCLAIMER

Links updated 12/16

Webfinder: Personal Finance 101

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Ask the Money Doctor – A volunteer panel of qualified CPAs answer questions from consumers regarding their financial planning issues. You can read past Q & As or submit your own question. Part of the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website, which has a variety of free tools & info designed “to help Americans understand their personal finances through every stage of life” (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). Smart About Money offers ‘practical articles, worksheets, tips and valuable resources from across the Web to help you understand and manage your money’ (National Endowment for Financial Education; non-profit foundation). See also Money Management Library (2009 – 2014, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco).

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Advice and FAQ about credit cards, mortgages, loans (including student loans), debt collection, and more, plus information about credit discrimination, foreclosure help, and an online complaint form.

Consumer Reports: Money News [UPDATED LINK!] – Blog posts offering helpful information and tips on personal finance, investment, banking & credit, retirement, and more. See the New England Federal Credit Union‘s Financial Resource Center [NEW!] for more helpful tips & info.

Debt Collection Rights & Responsibilities – The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you. This page has some questions and answers about your rights under the Act. See also Dealing with Debt for related information. (2015 – 2016, Federal Trade Commission)

Electronic, Mobile, and Online Banking [UPDATED LINK!] – Explains how to do your banking electronically. Includes information about mobile wallets, direct depost, and related topics. A related page, Financial Information for Consumers, offers additional advice on bank accounts & services, consumer credit, mortgages, and more. (Federal Reserve Board)

Financial Records: How Long to Keep Tax Records and Other Documents [UPDATED LINK] – Explains what financial, tax, and other documents you should keep, and how long you should them (2016, Consumer Reports). See also Dealing with Clutter: Financial and Tax Records (2012, University of Illinois Extension) .

Financial Calculators – Should I refinance my mortgage? Rent or buy? How much do I need to save for my child’s college education? How much for retirement? These interactive financial calculators and other tools will help you with some of the day-to-day financial questions and concerns that may arise in your life or business (Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco). See also Practical Money Skills Calculators (Visa, Inc.).

Government Benefits – A free, confidential, and easy-to-use online screening tool to help you find out whether you qualify for U.S. or state government benefits. (U.S. Government website)

Pinch Pennies in the Right Places [NEW!] – Explains how to save more money by looking at discounts in total dollars saved, not at the percentage of the discount (2016, New York Times). For more practical tips on thrifty living, see Affluenza (PBS).

Retirement Plans – Information to help you choose and set up a retirement plan. Describes different types of retirement plans, including IRAs and  IRA-Based Plans, 401(k) & 403(b) Plans, and many others. Includes links to relevant tax forms, publications, and related resources (Internal Revenue Service). The Social Security Retirement Planner provides detailed information about your Social Security retirement benefits under current law, and points out things you may want to consider as you prepare for the future. Includes calculators to test out different retirement ages or different future earnings amounts (Social Security Administration).

Student Debt Repayment – Advice on what options you have if you are falling behind on your student loan payments, plus other financial help for students. (CFPB, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

DISCLAIMER

Links updated December 2016.

Consumer Reports online

Do you ever want to check something in CONSUMER REPORTS, but don’t have time to come to the library? You can access Consumer Reports online using our EBSCOHost Masterfile Elite database!

Login to Masterfile from our Online Databases page – you’ll need your South Plainfield library card number and PIN to login. When Masterfile opens, enter your search term in the box (e.g., “cars” or “mattresses”), then enter “CONSUMER REPORTS” under “Publication” — as indicated by red arrows below — and press the Enter key (or click on the Search button): A list of relevant articles will be displayed: consumerreports1 And that’s all there is to it!