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Personal Finance

Steven Porrello
By: The Ascent Staff and Steven Porrello

Our Personal Finance Experts

Ashley Maready
Check IconFact Checked Ashley Maready
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Personal finances is a collection of topics, decisions, and strategies -- from using credit cards to doing taxes to planning your retirement -- all centered around your money and how to best manage it. At its core, it's about creating a micro-economy for your household that, decision by decision, helps you build significant wealth over time. It can seem daunting at first, but with our experts' help, you can leverage our knowledge and take advantage of our free guides to help you make a plan, improve your money situation, and prepare yourself for whatever life throws your way.

To get started, check out The Ascent's "best of" lists to find the right app or product to help you reach your money goals.

Pay Off Debt

How do I get out of debt?

When you're in debt, it can feel like you're fighting an uphill battle. Getting out of this situation requires understanding how debt works, what low-interest products are available, and how to make a debt repayment plan that helps you pay it off in the most efficient way possible.

>>>Read more: How to pay off debt

An old-fashioned savings passbook.

What is bankruptcy, and how does it work?

Bankruptcy is a legal process that lets people or entities who can't pay their debts obtain some type of relief by having those debts reorganized or eliminated. There are both benefits and drawbacks to taking this step, so it's important to know the implications of the process.

>>> Read more: How bankruptcies work

credit report showing score of 765

How do credit scores work?

Credit scores are three-digit numbers that can have a major impact on your life. Fortunately, they're easier to understand than you'd think.

>>> Read more: The complete guide to understanding your credit score

A chalkboard resting on a desk with a piggy bank and the words Credit Score drawn on it.

How do I increase my credit score?

Increasing your credit score can feel daunting. But fortunately, there's no credit score so low that it can't be improved. By understanding how credit scores work and what good financial habits will produce better scores, you can little by little, point by point, make progress.

>>> Read more: How to increase your credit score

Chalkboard that says Credit Score with decreasing levels of stars and a hand checking the box next to 5 stars

How do I rebuild my credit?

If your credit score and profile has dropped after a financial problem, you'll need to take steps to rebuild your credit. It's not always an easy process, but with enough time and effort, you can ensure your credit bounces back.

>>> Read more: How to rebuild your credit

Stack of credit cards

What is a debit card, and how does it work?

A debit card is a bank card linked to your checking account used to make purchases. Understanding how debit cards work and their pros and cons versus credit cards is crucial to navigating today's financial landscape.

>>> Read more: What is a debit card?

Credit cards fanned out on a table

What is a credit card?

Credit cards can help you build credit, earn immense rewards, and save you on interest with 0% APR introductory promos. Understanding the ins and outs of credit cards, from their benefits and drawbacks to important terminology, will help you use credit to your advantage while avoiding expensive debt.

>>> Read more: What is a credit card?

Girl holding credit card

How do credit cards work?

Credit cards are revolving lines of credit, meaning you can replenish your credit to the degree that you pay it off. Beyond this, credit cards have billing cycles, grace periods, APRs, statement balances, minimum payments, late fees, and other terms you should know.

>>> Read more: How credit cards work

hand typing on calculator with papers in background

What is a line of credit, and how does it work?

A line of credit is a loan that allows you to borrow up to a predetermined amount of money. Depending on your personal situation, this could be a great financing option for you.

>>> Read more: What is a line of credit?

woman smiling and looking at paperwork

What is credit utilization?

Your credit utilization ratio is the ratio between how much revolving credit you're currently using and how much you have available to you. This ratio is an important measure of your financial responsibility.

>>> Read more: What is your credit utilization ratio?

Bank teller assisting a customer with cash transaction.

What is a checking account?

A checking account helps you make common everyday banking transactions. From small purchases to recurring bills, checking accounts offer ways to easily send, receive, and spend money.

>>> Read more: What is a checking account?

Pink piggy bank on top of piles of hundred dollar bills.

What is a savings account?

A savings account helps you save money and earn interest without risking it on the stock market. This type of account can be a great place to store money you don't plan to use immediately, but want to keep accessible in case of emergencies.

>>> Read more: What is a savings account?

Two young professionals meeting at a table with papers and a laptop.

What is a money market account?

A money market account is a type of savings account offered by most banks and credit unions. Because MMAs offer interest rates that are as high as many high-yield savings account APYs, they can help you grow your money more quickly than traditional savings accounts.

>>> Read more: What is a money market account?

Man holding cash

What is a cash management account?

A cash management account is a flexible alternative to traditional banking. These accounts can simplify your money management, allowing you to do all your banking through one account.

>>> Read more: What is a cash management account?

Certificate of deposit sign on a clipboard.

What is a certificate of deposit (CD)?

A CD is a special type of bank account that enables you to earn a high APY on your savings -- as long as you can leave the money untouched. If you don't expect to need your money in the next few months or years, a CD can be a smart investment choice.

>>> Read more: What is a certificate of deposit?

Young Woman With Laptop

What is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is a reporting agency that collects information about checking and savings accounts you've held in your name. A ChexSystems report serves the same function as a credit report, letting banks know whether you've been responsible with your checking and savings accounts in the past.

>>> Read more: What is ChexSystems?

Three people sitting around a table with a calculator going over paperwork.

What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation involves taking out a new loan to pay off high-interest debt, such as credit cards and consumer loans. Although there's more than one way to consolidate debt, ultimately, each one involves transferring the debt.

>>> Read more: What is debt consolidation?

Personal Loan Application

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is money you borrow from a traditional bank or financial institution that offers a way to pay for pretty much anything, from home improvement projects to unforeseen emergencies.

>>> Read more: Types of personal loans

Financial paperwork showing rise in stock value

What is a brokerage account?

A brokerage account is a type of investment account that facilitates buy and sell orders in the stock market. For many people, a brokerage account is their primary hub where they can build wealth for long-term goals and save for retirement.

>>> Read more: What is a brokerage account?

A street sign that says Wall St. with the American flag on a building in the background.

How do brokerage accounts work?

Brokerage accounts are the middlemen between investors who want to participate in the financial markets and the investment professionals who have direct access to those markets.

>>> Read more: Beginner's guide to brokerages

A man using a computer with three different monitors full of charts and graphs.

How do I open a brokerage account?

Opening a brokerage account can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. In just a few simple steps, you'll be on your way to funding your account and starting your investing journey.

>>> Read more: How to open a brokerage account

Our Personal Finance Experts