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Free financial planning with no strings attached

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Help for first-time homeowners
Radio call-in shows are another way some Americans are taking advantage of free advice. For years, people in southeastern Michigan have listened to "The Rick Bloom Show" and pummeled Bloom with questions on a wide variety of financial issues. He also holds free seminars at the local public library.

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"People are intimidated by money. They don't understand," says Bloom. "I think they feel comfortable talking to me, asking me if they're in the right direction. I like people to ask questions and not be intimidated. They should be able to ask anyone in the financial world and they should expect answers in plain English."

While everyone needs financial planning, for some the need may be more critical. The Illinois FPA chapter recently teamed up with Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity to teach financial planning to families selected to receive a home.

"We want them to have an understanding of what they're getting into," says Jeff Barrett, Fox Valley's executive director. "Among other things they need to know how to budget for contingencies. When you rent, you call the landlord when something breaks. But when you own, it's different. The FPA has been great. They developed this program and they did it pro bono."

The course, which was given to five families last fall as a pilot project, is now required for homeownership.

How to find free advice
Finding free advice may take a bit of your time on the phone or the computer. One of the best places to start is your public library. If they don't have anything scheduled, ask them to contact the local chapter of a financial planning organization. (We've compiled a list in the article "Where to find free financial planning.") Once you find a planner who does volunteer work, you may find they're willing to hold seminars on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Talk to your boss or the human resources director at work. Some financial planning organizations are happy to send volunteers to talk to employees. The same goes if you have a child in high school. A financial planning seminar or two could go a long way toward helping your child and his or her classmates handle upcoming financial responsibilities. Another place to check for free financial planning seminars is your local community college.

When you find a free session, check the credentials of the planner. The CFP Board of Standards has a helpful list of the various designations you might come across.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Feb. 28, 2007
 
 
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