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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012

What are you doing to handle your own investments?

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By Clark Howard


So few of us have a pension these days. That means we're on our own when it comes to preparing for retirement.

Unfortunately, too many of us are either intimidated or bored by retirement planning, and we end up putting ourselves in harm's way with commissioned salespeople that rip us off.

Many times those salespeople are from the insurance industry, even though there are very many honest agents. Other times they might be from a full-commission stock brokerage that eats up your money in fees.

Neither has a fiduciary duty to you under the laws of the United States. In plain English, that means they're free to put you in inappropriate or unsuitable investments to score themselves more money on commission.

So what do you do? Where can you turn? The good news is now there's a lot more advice available to you. Most people don't need a great deal of advice to build a portfolio.

All the discount brokers now offer some level of counseling or expertise that ranges in price from free to really cheap. They'll sit down with you and help you draw up a simple strategy.

Second, more and more employers as part of their 401(k) plans offer advice to you for free. Many times that will be very useful. But note this well, if your employer's 401(k) is handled by a full-commission stock brokerage or an insurance company, you do not want the free advice.

Third, you can pay for advice hourly through Garrett Planning Network. They'll help you draw up a road map for your retirement. If you have more substantial assets, then you'll probably need ongoing advice from a fee-only financial planner through NAPFA.org.

The key thing to understand is there are times you need advice from someone. But you need to get it the right way.

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