An Evaluation of Information on the Web for Personal Financial Planning

Jing J. Xiao, Ph.D., Associate Professor

University of Rhode Island

Consumer Affairs Program, College of Human Science and Service, Kingston, RI 02881; 401-874-4036; 401-874-2581 (fax)

(Presented at the Conference of Association of Financial Counseling and Planning Education,

November 13-16, 1996)


To evaluate information obtained by searching three WWW directories with a key word “retirement


First, I used the key word “retirement planning” to search three directories, and the following indicate the
numbers of documents from each of the directories:




Second, I viewed first 40 or 50 documents from each site, which is indicated as follows:




Third, when I viewed these documents, some of them could not be located, some are repeated with the
previous ones, and some are virtually trash, which are ignored in the evaluation. The following display the numbers
of files from the three directories I actually viewed and evaluated:





All documents from Infoseek and Yahoo, and 37 out of 40 in Excite are from commercial sites. The rest
three documents in Excite are from a university, non-profit organization, and foundation, respectively.

Other findings are presented in several bar charts, Click here for graphs

Tips of Information Search on WWW

1. Using a http address to search is much faster than using key word search.

2. Viewing a text version is much more time-saving than a graphic version.

3. Looking at clues of information sources from the end of the http address. com-company, edu-university, gov-government, org-non-profit organization. Usually, information from government agencies and universities are more
reliable and unbiased than other sources.

4. Snowball search. Use a key word to search a relevant document. Then from the document, find other links to
more documents related to the interested topic. Many Web sites have internal and external links.

5. Sources from different information service companies are different. For example, the sites found in “Yahoo” are
more likely to be the home page of an institution, but the sites found in “Infoseek” are more likely to be a single
document. To search for comprehensive information, use all available services.

6. Many of the Web sites are commercial ones that are to promote their businesses. Very often, the advertising,
information, and educational materials are mixed up. The users should be aware of this situation and able to
distinguish between the promotional messages and useful information.

7. Many documents on the Web have interaction functions, such as placing an order, calculating financial needs,
taking a survey (or a quiz), adding to a link, searching for information (a name, phone number, tax code, …), and
registering a service.

Selected Web Sites Related to Retirement Planning

Canadian retirement information. (comprehensive retirement planning information in

Principle of retirement planning. (teaching materials with
comprehensive retirement planning information, can be used as references when developing retirement planning

Retirement articles. (articles about retirement planning and other related
topics, a free electronic newsletter).

Retirement calculators. http://safetynet.doleta.go/finance.htm (created by several Federal agency employees,
includes several calculators, such as life expectancy, retirement needs, and retirement savings, also has information
on other financial planning topics).

Retirement information. (compiled retirement planning
information from various sources).

Retirement questions and answers. (practical information
regarding retirement planning and other financial planning topics).

Retirement survey. (summary of a recent survey of retirement

Social Security benefits. (a booklet about
Social Security benefits prepared by Social Security Administration)