Don't be a Dum-Dum: Finance online

Paying bills and banking online has become the chic thing to do recently, due to the vast amount of information on the Internet and the ease of accessibility.

This is not a ploy for everyone to immediately lock themselves in their houses in fear of bank tellers! It is still comforting to go to the bank, especially if your bank gives peach or root beer Dum-Dums. Another great thing is when they let you walk in the vault and swim in the money. Nevermind, that was a dream I had a few weeks ago.

A lot of banks provide you with the necessary tools to bank online. They are programs that specifically tie into the particular bank's automated services to assure customers of risk-free banking. All the information sent over the Web is encrypted so your money is secure. If you want to bank online, you should check with your institution to see what services they offer. Once I get my home computer (should be this week), I will most likely take advantage of my financial institutions on the Internet.

Even if you aren't completely comfortable with the idea of watching your money disappear or grow while sitting at your computer, there are plenty of Web sites where you can gain general knowledge for financial purposes. A friend sent me a link to Bankrate.com, one of the most comprehensive financial sites on the Web. The site actually is kind of intimidating due to the variety of choices on the home page. But by taking a quick glance, you should be able to find plenty of things that would be beneficial.

The first thing I noticed was the Lists area on the right-hand side, which gave links for Cheapest checking accounts, Highest CD rates and Best credit card deals. You can't beat that stuff. In the center, you can choose different products based on a specific state. I don't know about you, but I could care less about home equity in Montana; that is, unless it invloves Question Mark Dum-Dums, when you just haven't got a clue what you will get.

What's most impressive about the whole site, though, is the page of calculators. I counted 41 calculators, including should you lease or buy an auto, saving for college and how much money you can save in your 401k plan. I'm not sure what rate of return I should expect on my 401k plan, but at a rate of 10, my plan could be worth three million dollars. Boy, did I figure something wrong.

The best calculator, though, is How do I compare with top athletes. I compared myself to my third cousin, Tiger Woods, who makes roughly $55 million a year. Based on that, if he would have just purchased my computer (value $2,500), that would have been like my spending $1.35. I couldn't have even bought a bag of Dum-Dums for that!

How-to pages on the site are also pretty big. The way to get the most out of this site is to figure out exactly what you want to find, then find it. I think you will here. That doesn't mean you have to start banking online immediately, though. There are still plenty of lollipops at the bank to eat.