The nation's inventory of mutual funds exceeds 8,100, and if you multiply that number a few times, you'll get some idea of the staggering number of people trying to make a living in the advice business.
About a year ago, Smith Barney, the brokerage giant, announced that it would start calling its stockbrokers "financial advisers." Most Smith Barney clients, if they heard this pronouncement, probably greeted it with some variation of "duh." These investors already assume that the brokers, who handle their accounts, are advisers.
I've received thousands of e-mails since I began writing this column 2 1/2 years ago and, by far, the most frequent SOS I get is from readers who want to know where they should turn for financial help.
Instead of preaching to people about what kind of financial resolutions they should be embracing for the New Year, I decided to ask people to share their own financial goals.
Even though the holidays have just passed, I'd like to share an inspirational tale that I've been sitting on for several months.
Many so-called financial experts, who want to sell investment products, see charities as irresistible suckers. Charities have cash and don't possess investment moxie.
Investors think they know when to dash in and out of the market, but they don't. Not even the experts know.
If you spend much time in bookstores, you'll appreciate that the nation is in no danger of running out of personal finance books. Most of these books are written by financial personalities with mediocre results. But crammed on the shelves along with these clunkers are some jewels.
When should you begin taking Social Security payments?
As it turned out, my mom was a master at motivating fourth-graders, but she knew less than a dilettante about what was inside her retirement account.
If you own a cash-value life insurance policy, you could have insurance agents pestering you to sell it.
During the past 16 months, this reader figures he's paid close to $7,000 in 401(k) fees. When he complained to his company about what he considered to be a bloated tab, here's the response he got: "Suck it up. There is nothing you can do about it."
My column last week probably prompted many readers to panic when I asked a simple question: Do you know how much your mutual funds cost? I should have mentioned that this is a two-part quiz. And here's the second question: How much are you paying for your 401(k)?
Many investors are blithely sitting on a portfolio of expensive funds because they don't know they're being gouged.
A year ago, a popular financial magazine featured a story about an enterprising fellow who purchased a fixer-upper and then sold the house for a quick profit after remodeling it. The story would have been unremarkable except for a couple of important details.
How would you react if some guys with impressive credentials approached you with this financial pitch:
What's particularly disquieting about this rite of financial passage is this reality: By the time the typical American teenager turns 18, he or she has seen more than 10 million ads. Combine young adults' easy credit with their craving to be "merchants of cool," a term used by a PBS documentary, and you've got the ingredient for a perfect credit storm.
As I mentioned last week, millions of people don't enroll in 401(k) plans because it seems like a hassle.
Last month, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which supporters called the most sweeping pension reform in 30 years.