We were surprised by what people were looking for and you might be, too.
2017 was an active year of headlines and news, and we were curious about what some of the most popular finance-related queries were last year. While some of the most popular searches were obvious, there were at least a couple searches that we found especially interesting and worth answering for our own audience.
After all, even if you didn’t ask Google these questions, chances are you may have wondered for yourself if so many other people in the United States did.
Here are five of the most-searched finance related questions on Google (in no particular order).
How to Buy Bitcoin / What is Bitcoin?
How to invest in cryptocurrency / Best cryptocurrency to invest 2018?
Cryptocurrency takes the cake for some of the most searched finance-related questions on Google last year and at the start of 2018. Since these queries are so closely related, we’ll tackle them together.
Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency, which is touted as a “new kind of money” according to its website. It is, for all intents and purposes, a digital currency created by code that derives its value based on what investors deem it’s worth. In other words, it has value because people say it has value, and they invest real currency (U.S. dollars and other government-backed currencies) in exchange for bitcoins.
This infographic by CNN offers a quick explanation of Bitcoin if you’re interested in more detail. To break down what we think any investor should know about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general, consider the following:
- Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, unregulated, and uninsured by the FDIC.
- Cryptocurrencies are anonymous, meaning you can make online purchases (with merchants who accept cryptocurrency as payment) without using any of your personal information.
- Cryptocurrencies are “mined” (or unlocked) by tech-savvy individuals who have the equipment and ability to solve complex mathematical problems.
- All cryptocurrencies control the supply of its tokens by a schedule written in the code. This means the monetary supply of a cryptocurrency in every given moment in the future can roughly be calculated today.
- Cryptocurrencies are traded on a cryptocurrency exchange.
Should you invest in a cryptocurrency? As far as we’re concerned, you should never invest in anything that you don’t fully understand. We believe financial freedom happens at the intersection of simple and smart. Successful money management doesn’t need to be complicated or overly risky. We say let cryptocurrency play out for a little while longer first.
How to find unclaimed money?
We thought this search question was fascinating and smart. Who wouldn’t want to find more money if they could? But there is more than one answer to this important question.
First, the United States government offers a wealth of resources to help you find unclaimed money. Visit www.usa.gov/unclaimed-money and you’ll find links that help you search for:
- Unclaimed property or funds by state
- Back wages by a current or former employer
- Life insurance funds that may be owed to the policy owner or their beneficiaries
- Unclaimed pension funds from companies that went out of business or ended their defined benefits program
- Tax refunds you may be owed from the IRS
- Unclaimed funds from bank failures, credit union failures, SEC claims funds
- Damaged funds that need to be replaced
- FHA-Insurance refunds if you had an FHA-insured mortgage
- Savings bonds that have stopped earning interest
Aside from searching for truly “unclaimed” money, there are a couple other places you can search (and likely find) money that you either didn’t realize you forgot or had access to.
Orphaned 401(k) Plans
Today’s average employee switches jobs very 4.2 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statics Employee Tenure Study released in 2016. Assuming you start your first job with benefits at age 22 and retire at age 65, that’s roughly 10 different jobs you could hold over the course of your career. It’s quite possible someone could forget to take an employer-sponsored retirement account with them when switching jobs.
If it’s been several years or decades, your retirement plan may have been orphaned, meaning someone abandoned the plan: you (the owner), plan sponsor (your former employer), plan administrator (company managing the assets within the retirement account), or a combination of these parties. When this happens, you can search for an orphaned plan by visiting the United States Department of Labor.
A good rule of thumb is to roll your employer-sponsored 401(k) plans into an IRA when you switch jobs. You can roll it into your new employer’s 401(k) plan, but since you are likely to switch jobs again in a few years, it’s easy to roll all your employer-sponsored retirement plans into your independent IRA when you make a move.
And let’s not underestimate the everyday opportunities you have to find more money! From passive income-generating opportunities like rental space and selling digital resources to creating a new income stream from launching a side hustle, there are plenty of ways to create more income possibilities.
[Related content: The Least Likely Places You Ever Thought You’d Find More Money]
You can also find more money by cutting out unnecessary expenses from your life. Cable and internet providers and insurance companies are notorious for offering better rates to new customers than existing loyal customers. So make a point on a yearly basis to compare pricing for cable, internet, and insurance. Find the best rates, see if your existing provider can match or beat the new pricing you’re able to receive, and if not – make a switch.
How much money do you need to retire?
This absolutely is a question worth asking. The problem is that Google can’t give you a definitive answer. How much you need to retire is a giant “it depends.” It depends on where you stand financially today and what a “comfortable” retirement looks like for you, personally.
One way you can find out relatively quickly if you’re saving enough toward your retirement is to multiply your income by 25. This is an effective number if you have at least fifteen more years before you plan to retire. You can then figure how much you need to be saving annually to reach this goal. While this calculation is simple and easy, it is in no way a complete guide for figuring out how much you need to retire, but it is a starting place for figuring out your number.
We offer a full podcast episode that walks you through the steps you can take to find out how much money you need to retire. Tune in here to find out: Setting the Amount You Need for Retirement the Right Way.
How to find a financial advisor near me?
Last on our list of most searched finance-related questions is, “how to find a financial advisor near me.” This one is interesting, and we were pleasantly surprised because it means more people are seeing the value of working with a financial advisor.
While you don’t necessarily have to work with a local financial advisor (we work with clients all across the country), it seems reasonable that people would be interested in considering financial advisors in their area.
Whether you elect to limit your search radius to commuting distance only or you’re open to working with a financial advisor anywhere in your state or country, there are a few options you’ll want to consider.
[Related content: How to Navigate Hiring a Financial Planner]
Not all financial advisors provide the same services or level of service. As a quick guide, pay attention to:
- The credentials a financial professional hangs at the end of his or her name.
There are literally over one hundred financial designations, and each one indicates certain expertise and qualifications for a specific financial discipline. The one we highly recommend you look for is the CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation. These financial professionals are trained to provide comprehensive financial planning and are fiduciaries, meaning they will put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. You’ll likely find that professionals with a CFP® designation also hold additional designations.
- The compensation model a financial professional uses.
You can (and should) always ask a financial advisor how he or she is compensated. You can also review this information on what’s called Form ADV, which will be provided to you upon request. How a financial advisor is paid offers insight into what may motivate the financial advice you are given.
- Conflicts of interest.
How a financial advisor is compensated is just one potential conflict of interest. There may be other conflicts, and you want to find out what these are before you select a financial advisor. By law, financial advisors must disclose potential conflicts of interest on their Form ADV, so be sure to review that before making your selection of financial professional.
Most of us have become accustomed to Googling everything we have questions about, and finance-related questions are no exception. And while Google can be a good source for finding general information about financial topics and techniques, it is also littered with advice that may or may not be applicable to you and your personal situation.
Therefore, continue to learn and search financial topics you want to know more about. But when and if you ever get to the place where you question what your next right money move is, or your finances become more complicated than a lot of the general advice that is available on the web, that’s when you know it’s time to consider working with a financial advisor.