Sunday, August 2, 2009

Free advice and real value

Sometimes free help seems worth what you pay for it. One exception - and a real value if you are in the market- begins later this week. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors on Aug. 7 is launching a series of free webinars designed to help us mere mortals get a grip on our personal finances.

NAPFA, as the organization is known, is an association of fee-only planners and one of many groups advocating stronger consumer safeguards in the profession. Members in the webinars starting Friday will be offering 40-minute courses in a variety of subjects you might be talking about around the kitchen table, plus 20 minutes of interactive questions and answers, the group promises. Sessions also will be archived if you can't tune in live.

Other financial planners groups have long offered free online help for consumers too. More recently, some new groups have launched as well. checks out three of them here.

And yes, some budgeting will be required if you aren't doing that already. A relatively new website,, that helps with budgeting has been getting good reviews from users.

There also are scams to guard against, of course. offers a half dozen basic tips for reducing potential exposure to those, but at least one of the tips - don't use credit cards - has limited value, I think. Planning your spending and being very wary of stuff you don't understand seems a more useful approach to me.

Good luck out there.

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