What's the most important aspect of investing? O.K. Having the money to invest. What's the second most important? Knowing the value of your stash.

As most of you no doubt know, the value of money is constantly changing. Usually, but not always, it's becoming worth less. That's the parasitic effect of inflation, the phenomenon of rising prices. Prices in the United States are currently rising at a rate of about 3% per year, according to the government's

Consumer Price Index


To be sure, the way we measure inflation has been challenged, with some charging the CPI overstates the pace of price rises. But no one challenges that inflation is happening. With that in mind, we present the following links to help you learn more about and avoid the pitfalls of inflation.

The first thing you'll want to do, presumably, is find out how fast inflation is running. While there is question over the actual pace--read the

Boskin Report

for more details about the inflation rate debate--checking out the government's gauge is probably a good start. You'll want to check


. The site has every major U.S. government economic release. There's only one catch--your taxes don't cover it. There's a subscription fee.

Once you've figured out how much less your money is going to buy, you need to figure out what to do with your investment funds. For help choosing a strategy, check out

The Threat of Inflation

. This page on the

LJO Financial Services Group

site explains how to combat the erosion inflation extracts on your investments. It's concise, it's clear, and it's also a pitch. LJO Financial wants to sell your its products.

A similar site, which also offers an excellent overview of the pernicious effects of inflation, is

Investor Education

sponsored by

Putnam Securities

. The site offers step-by-step course in the basic tenant of investment: Outpacing inflation. It also flogs the products of its sponsor.

If your looking for a more academic approach, check out



Dr. Ed Yardeni's Online Chart Rooms

. The site is attractively laid out (although we question the choice of lavender and lime green on some pages) and sports some animation. It links to Dr. Ed's online economics class, so you can bone up on other subjects as well. Most of the site is free, although you have to install

Adobe's Acrobat Reader

to access some of it. Dr. Ed, who is chief economist at

Deutsche Morgan Grenfell

, has made this site an excellent resource. Check it out .

By Andrew Morse