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Hop on the Bus for Free Financial Advice

Last week I discussed the importance of being prepared for the unexpected, specifically for incapacity. Another threat looming large is the dismal economy we currently face where layoffs continue to plague workers across the country. If you have money in the bank and a secure job, consider yourself lucky. Most Americans have little or no savings and are therefore unprepared for just about any hiccup in their financial lives. Well, help is on the way, again. Last year, three organizations joined forces to provide consumers with basic advice on personal finances. The Consumer Education Foundation of The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), TD Ameritrade Institutional and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine have developed a bus tour across America and are offering you free access to professional financial advisors to answer your most urgent financial questions.

The program is called Your Money Bus Tour and will be coming to the Metro Birmingham area this coming Wednesday. The bus will park at the Hoover Library where Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos will kick off the event at 11:30 a.m. and Director of the Alabama Securities Commission, Joe Borg will offer tips for consumers. The kickoff will be held in the café area of the library.

You’ll are going to have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a financial advisor from NAPFA. These advisors are volunteering their time and typically charge a minimum of $150 per hour for their consulting services. This is a true community services outreach program, not a sales promotion. Each attendee will receive a free Financial Tool Kit. The services are free and it is an excellent opportunity for you to get a head start on your finances for 2010. While you are welcome to ‘show up’ for the event, it would be best to make an appointment which you can do on line at www.yourmoneybus.com. Appointments begin at 9 a.m. with the last appointment at 6:45 p.m.

Anytime you meet with a professional advisor, whether it is a financial advisor, attorney, accountant or banker, it pays to be prepared. By doing so, you make the most of your time and their time as well. This is especially important at this event since the advisors are expected to handle a large number of appointments throughout the day. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for meeting with one of the volunteer advisors:

Make a list of what you own and what you owe. Known as a financial statement, this provides a quick reference to your advisor (and you), where you stand financially.
Develop a simple budget. Your budget will outline your monthly income and expenses. Your advisor can use this to quickly identify where problems are occurring and offer some easy-to-follow steps you can take to get you back on track.
Documents you’ll need to bring with you. Credit card statements and any loan agreements such as an auto loan will help your advisor understand not only how much you owe but what interest rate you are paying and terms of loan agreements.

If you would like a free form you can use to list your assets and liabilities or complete a budget, go to the Resource Center at www.welchgroup.com, click on ‘Links’, then either Asset/Liability Review or Detailed Budget.