Individuals can find personal finance help from a number of sources, but often, the problem is not finding help, but evaluating its worth. As with most advice, it can pay to go the extra mile to cross-check the financial advice you get with as many reliable sources as possible. Ultimately, you'll have to decide what is the best advice to take, because there are no guarantees in the financial world.
Define Your Goals
Financial advice seems to be everywhere these days, from television channels to print media to the local shopkeeper. To help sort through the massive amount of available information, it helps to define your financial goals first. For example, if you're searching for a home loan, it may not help much to read a newspaper with stock quotes. By narrowing your focus, you can weed out information that doesn't directly apply to your financial situation. Articulating your financial goals can also trigger the realization that you have additional financial needs that should be addressed.
Search a wide variety of sources to get as much personal finance information as you can regarding your particular needs. For current financial news and analysis of market trends, consult established news organizations, such as the Wall Street Journal. For more home finance-oriented information, look for newsletters, television shows or Internet sites from well-known sources that focus on the type of information you need, such as CNN Money and similar websites. If you feel more comfortable speaking with someone in person, ask for recommendations for a personal financial adviser from friends or a reputable professional organization, such as the National Association of Certified Financial Planners.
Anticipate Conflicting Information
Depending on the type of personal financial help you're seeking, you might get different information from different sources. Generally, the more specific the help you need, the more likely there will be different interpretations of what you should do. For example, most financial publications and advisers will agree that when it comes to savings, you should try to put away as much as possible. However, when it comes to how you should invest those savings, you're likely to encounter varying opinions. If, like most people, your financial wealth is limited, you might discover that you'll have to choose between different financial priorities as well.
Make Informed Decisions
When it comes to personal finance, there is not always a definitive answer that applies to all people. Vet your sources as much as you can, and ask for a thorough explanation of the pros and cons of all the financial choices you might make to help you make the best possible decision for you. Double-check any online or print resources with reliable outside institutions, such as professional organizations or universities. When it comes to financial consultants, ask how the adviser is compensated when it comes to your financial choices. Balance this information with the understanding that a good adviser can better understand your personal financial situation than one-sided sources, such as newspapers and television programs. Keep asking questions and seeking information until you feel comfortable making an informed decision about your personal finances.
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images