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Build Your Own Support System for Financial Advice

Someone who owns a business or has accumulated some wealth is likely to have the support of a network of financial professionals, such as bookkeepers, accountants, attorneys, and financial planners. That same level of support would certainly be useful for anyone just beginning a career.

The catch, of course, is that when you’re just starting out, you probably can’t afford much professional financial help. What you can do, however, is create an informal financial support network. This is particularly important if you don’t have much experience managing money. It can be even more helpful if you are struggling with serious financial problems such as overspending.

One component of your own customized financial support system is education. You can find a wide assortment of inexpensive educational tools, including books, classes, and online resources. It’s best to look for basic how-to information, rather than material that advocates a particular system of investing. A few examples are Dave Ramsey’s books and budgeting workbooks and my co-authored book Conscious Finance for general advice on financial planning and money management.

Look for classes on budgeting, home buying, and managing credit offered through a local consumer credit counseling organization. These are usually free of charge or inexpensive and are open to the public as well as those using the organization’s counseling services. SCORE and the Small Business Administration may also have classes and resources intended to help someone who is starting a business.

Another option for classes can be community education programs. Many times, these will be taught by someone who sells financial products, has a book or budgeting system to sell, or offers a financial service. Their information is likely to be helpful, but do keep in mind that they will naturally be biased in favor of their own products or services.

Always beware of anything that promises to give you a formula for instant success or make you rich in a hurry. Most often, the only person getting rich from these books or seminars is the author.

Besides offering you information, a class can have a secondary benefit. You and your fellow students could develop a mutual support network. Maybe some of the participants might be interested in continuing to meet periodically in order to share progress and encourage one another.

True, meeting with people in the same situation as you are can be a case of the blind leading the blind—or more accurately, the broke leading the broke. On the other hand, those who are working their way out of similar financial chaos can understand and support each other in ways no one else can. As long as the members are all moving toward financial health, a peer support group can be very helpful.

Another option for your financial support network might be asking for help from trusted friends or family members. Your uncle who has built a successful business or your mother who is the queen of bargain shopping might have some useful suggestions. Most people are pleased to be asked for advice, and doing so might even strengthen the relationship.

Online forums might be another possible source of support, but should be used with great caution. Be careful not to share too much, and NEVER give out details such as banking locations, personal identity information, and account numbers.

No matter whether your financial support network is a handful of friends or a group of highly skilled professionals, its primary function is still support. Don’t rely on it to manage your finances for you. Instead, its role is to help you gain knowledge and skills so you can manage money wisely for yourself.

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