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Free financial planning with no strings attached

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Gjertsen, who is president of the Illinois FPA chapter, says people are often cynical when they hear something is free and figure they're in for a sales pitch. Nevertheless, people are taking him up on his offer of free one-on-one sessions at the library: He's booked four months in advance.

Library patron Gus Christ was perusing financial journals when he noticed a bulletin for the free sessions. He signed up and asked Gjertsen for advice on charitable donations.

"We discussed it and he didn't have a couple answers, but he said he'd get back to me and he did. He sent me a nice letter explaining things," Christ says. "I thought it was wonderful. The nice thing was the gentleman wasn't there to solicit business. You get that at other places where they try to hustle you to buy financial products. But he told me upfront he wasn't there to do that. I mean, how can you beat that?"

Every subject covered
Erika Safran, a CFP with Financial Asset Management Corp., in New York, participates in seminars held by the New York Public Library.

"I think I've done every seminar they've had. There's one every month and we usually get 20 to 40 people. I talk on every subject imaginable -- they range from managing your retirement plan to how to make money in the coming year to fundamentals of mutual fund investing.

"After Sept. 11, we reached out to the community. Anyone who had a loved one who died at the Trade Center or who was financially affected -- lost their job -- we offered seminars. We had a huge response; it was great for everyone involved."

When management at the CFP Board of Standards decided to hold a free financial planning clinic in 2006, they had no idea how successful it would be. More than 1,500 people showed up at the Los Angeles Civic Center to take advantage of the free one-on-one counseling and the breakout sessions on topics from mortgage loans to the psychology of spending.

Spokeswoman Jina Martingano says they've had so many calls about their 2007 free clinic, which will be held Aug. 4 at Boston's Sheraton Hotel, that they're wondering if there will be enough volunteers. So far, more than 100 CFPs have volunteered their services. This year's clinic will consist of an orientation session and one-on-one counseling. People who walk in off the street can see a planner, but people who register in advance will have priority.

Next: "They should expect answers in plain English. ..."
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