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Investor Education These websites offer reliable answers to common financial questions

You have questions about investing, and the Internet has answers.

Finding them is the challenge. So much of what you find through online searches is dated, uninformed or presented by banks and investment firms trying to sell you stuff. For reliable answers to 20 common financial planning and investing questions, check out the websites collected below.

Should I invest in a TFSA or RRSP?

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This calculator uses six factors to determine whether you're better off putting money in a tax-free savings account or a registered retirement savings plan. Results are tailored to the province you live in and the income tax rates that apply there.

Should I pay down debt or invest?

You won't hear many investment advisers tell you to pay down debt because they only get paid when you invest. So try this simple calculator offered on GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca, which is an investor education initiative of the Ontario Securities Commission.

How much tax will I pay on my investments?

Ernst & Young's 2016 personal tax calculator shows you the marginal rate of tax you'll pay on capital gains, dividends and regular income generated in non-registered accounts. Numbers are provided for all provinces and territories.

What's my net worth?

It's a sign that you're financially healthy if you have a strong and growing net worth, which is the amount by which your assets exceed your liabilities. This net worth calculator helps you itemize assets like investments and real estate as well as liabilities such as car loans and a mortgage balance.

How ready am I for retirement?

The Globe and Mail retirement readiness calculator helps you find your own personal replacement ratio, which is the percentage of your working income that you'll need when you're retired. Using the calculator's budgeting template, you'll compare your current living costs with your estimated costs in retirement. Try the federal government's Canadian Retirement Income Calculator to see if your savings and government benefits will deliver the annual retirement income you'll need.

Is there a handy, all-purpose investment calculator?

Try the one on Calculator.net. Among other things, it lets you specify your savings goal and then tells you what you'll need to do to reach it.

How can I track both the stocks and funds I own, and the ones I'm following?

Globeinvestor's portfolio tracker lets you keep tabs on the specific stocks and funds that you own. Provide the stock symbol, investment date, share prices, the number of shares and indicate whether you want your dividends reinvested. The portfolio tracker takes it from there.

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For casually following stocks or funds, try the Watchlist feature. There are eight different views for the securities in a watchlist, including dividends, key ratios and performance. I have 27 different watchlists going right now.

How have stocks, bonds and commodities performed over the l-o-o-o-ng term?

The historical chart gallery on the StockCharts website goes back as far as 1900 for the Dow Jones industrial average, 1925 for the S&P 500, 1970 for gold prices and 1983 for crude oil.

For Canadian indexes and stocks, the chart views on Globeinvestor.com include a "max" view that goes back as far as 1977 for the TSX. To view a visually powerful comparison of various types of investments going back to the mid-1930s, try the Big Picture graphic available on GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca. The two best long-term performers are U.S. stocks and Canadian stocks, respectively.

What's happening with global stocks today?

MarketWatch.com groups key stock markets in the United States, Europe and Asia at the top of its homepage and shows you at a glance how they're doing. It's worth an early morning visit if you're wondering what tone overseas markets will set for the North American trading day.

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What online broker should I choose?

Your bank undoubtedly has an online brokerage arm, but is it the ideal choice for you? Find out which broker best suits your needs by using three different resources. The first is my own 17th annual broker ranking.

The second is the broker reviews published on the Sparx Trading website and the third is a ranking done by a consulting firm called Surviscor.

Are ETFs really that cheap to own?

Exchange-traded funds are rapidly gaining traction with investor and advisers because of their low fees. Find out how low by using the data on the ETF Insight website, where you'll find both management expense ratios and trading expense ratios (reflects the cost of trading securities held by an ETF). Add the MER and TER and you have the full cost of owning an ETF.

How can I keep track of when companies pay their dividends?

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The TMX Money website, from the people who run the Toronto Stock Exchange, are testing a new dividend calendar that tracks payments on both common and preferred shares.

Where can I find a list of preferred shares?

Persistently low interest rates have generated a lot of interest in preferred shares, which offer a way to generate reliable dividend income (the share price can be volatile). The PrefInfo.com website offers an overview of the preferreds issued by Canadian companies and there are links to commentaries about particular shares.

Where can I find a list of DRIP stocks?

Dividend reinvestment plans are a zero-effort wealth builder. You simply arrange to have the dividends you receive from a company used to buy more shares at no cost. For a list of companies offering DRIPs and a primer on how DRIPs work, try the Canadian DRIP & SPP List. SPP stands for share purchase plan, which can be a zero-cost way to acquire more shares of a company with a DRIP you participate in. Note: Brokerage firms may also be able to set up a DRIP for you.

How can I compare rates for guaranteed investment certificates?

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Please, please, please do not accept the posted rate for GICs at your bank. Better rates are available if you shop around (or ask for a rate bump from your banker). Some rate comparison websites to check out are Canadian BankRates.ca, Ratehub.ca and Supermarket.ca.

It's worth noting here that some high-interest savings accounts pay rates comparable to locked-in one-year GICs. Compare rates on these accounts on the website highinterestsavings.ca/chart/.

What effect does inflation have on my investments?

The Bank of Canada's investment calculator shows you how cost-of-living increases undermine your returns. Prepare to be shocked if you invest heavily in GICs.

How do the fees I pay my adviser compare?

Globe Unlimited subscribers have access to our investment fee disclosure tool. Tell us what fee you're paying for investment advice and we'll show you how you compare to other investors with similar-size portfolios.

Is my adviser on the up and up?

The Canadian Securities Administrators, an umbrella group for provincial regulators, offers a database that lets you check an adviser's disciplinary history and registration.

Where can I touch base with other people about personal finance?

Reddit's personal finance Canada page is a great place for people to ask and answer questions about all aspects of personal finance and investing.

How can I improve my financial literacy?

The Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights has put together a list of financial literacy websites.

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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