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Our Best Financial Infographics of 2009

Graphics

You know what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words? When it comes to explaining concepts like inflation or describing how the Federal Reserve works, a visualization or infographic can educate while it entertains. From bankers to bailouts to taxes and unemployment, the economic downturn provided plenty of fodder for infographics this year and it quickly became part of our mission to produce ‘em to help make sense of it all.

Our visual guides, Mint maps, and animations have proved popular and we’ll be putting even more emphasis on them in the year ahead. For those that may have missed ‘em, here’s a look back at our best financial infographics of 2009, according to you, our readers.

Charity: Who Cares?

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Americans lead the world in charitable contributions, giving $300 billion a year to charities. Sounds like a lot right? But this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the over One Trillion Dollars needed to keep US charities in operation, more than the US government collects in taxes. The rest comes from their own assets, government support, and foreign investment. Our visual guide to giving shows who’s paying and offers some tips on how to pick a charity of your own.

Who is paying taxes?

Recent news articles have brought to light the fact that almost 47% of households in the US currently have zero or negative federal tax liability. We take a closer look at this lack of liability across each income level, highlighting the percentage in each range that will not pay any taxes. Also shown is a full breakdown of who is paying the bulk of all taxes collected by the Federal Government each year.

A visual guide to inflation

Inflation

Inflation. It’s bad right? When prices rise your money is worth less and nobody wants to see their hard earned cash decline in value. But what is inflation anyway and what are its root causes? Turns out the situation is not as straightforward as it first appears. In this first of a two-part series we take a look at inflation and examine the pros and cons of this important barometer of the health of the US economy. Stay tuned for part two next week where we look at inflation’s alter ego, deflation. We look forward to your feedback and comments below.

The Fall of GM: A Visual Guide

GM

In recent weeks, GM has been making a last-ditch effort to deal with its mounting problems and somehow escape bankruptcy. The final outcome remains to be seen, but any bailout efforts or even the most drastic of moves at this stage seem to be, as visualized below, the equivalent of lifting massive, crushing weights with simple balloons. The announcement of the resignation of GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner at the behest of the Obama administration was just the latest in a series of moves designed to reassure public confidence in the flailing automotive manufacturer.

Mint Map: America’s Most Frugal Cities

We all know that Americans have cut back on their spending during the recession but where are they cutting back the most? Comparing 20 cities across 25 “discretionary” categories we found that five cities spend less than the national average and cut more of their spending (yr over yr) than the national average. Our latest map is based on the aggregate data from over one million Mint.com users, a representative sampling of US consumers.

Student Loans by the Numbers

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While it’s been said you should never underestimate the value of a college education, neither should you underestimate its price. Without proper financial planning, you could be paying off those student loans for the rest of your life. College tuition costs are rising at twice the rate of inflation, in part because colleges are attempting to make up for reduced public funding under the previous administration and passing the costs on to you and your parents. The Obama administration has proposed a massive overhaul of up to $6 billion dollars in federal loans but many fear this will lead to the same kind of death spiral that got us into a financial mess with the housing crisis. The numbers tell the real story.

Mint Map: The World’s Resources by Country

Resources

A country’s economic worth can be measured in more ways than just its GDP and national debt. It is also important to consider the economic potential that lies in the harvesting of the natural resources within its borders. This map shows the top producing countries of each resource, or the proved reserves in the case of oil and natural gas. Each circle represents the percentage of the world’s total that the country produced in the last two years. Though some of the resources are renewable and some are not, it is interesting to see which parts of the world are rich in resources that are essential to our way of life, and to consider what this map might look like 10 or 100 years from now.

Golden Parachutes: How the Bankers Went Down

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When high-ranking executives are fired from a company, for whatever reason, they don’t go to the back of the unemployment line. Instead, they typically receive compensation in the form of the “golden parachute.” Golden parachutes can include severance pay, cash bonuses, stock options or other benefits. In the case of the financial crisis and the ensuing bank failures, if it seems like these executives are being rewarded for poor performance, you may be right. Here’s a look at what some bankers made on their way down.

The Descent into Credit Card Debt

Hell

When used wisely, credit cards can be the cornerstone of a sound financial strategy. A solid credit history makes you a good credit risk and that in turn allows you to purchase the necessities of life. But credit cards can also be a slippery slope. One misstep and you’ll tumble into the abyss of credit card debt hell, a mounting spiral of missed payments, fees, high APRs, and rate increases that will take years to recover from. Only by remaining vigilant can you hope to avoid this fate. Here’s our guide to what you may experience on the way down.

China vs United States: A Visual Comparison

CHina

Everyone knows that China’s got more people and that its importance as an economic superpower has escalated in recent years. What you might not understand is how the differences between our countries, in economic philosophy, in population, in geography and in how the military is built and paid for ultimately play into the entire economic relationship.