You're probably not a personal finance expert, for good reason. Personal Finance 101 isn't typically offered in our schools — not in high school and not even in the best colleges and graduate programs. It should be.

However, even if you've gotten some financial education and acquired some financial knowledge over the years, you're likely a busy person who doesn't have enough hours in the day to get things done. Thus, you want to know how to diagnose your financial situation efficiently (and painlessly) to determine what you should do next. Unfortunately, after figuring out which financial strategies make sense for you, choosing specific financial products in the marketplace can be a nightmare. You have literally thousands of investment, insurance, and loan options to choose from. Talk about information overload!

To complicate matters even more, you probably hear about most products through advertising that can be misleading, if not downright false. Of course, some ethical and outstanding firms advertise, but so do those that are more interested in converting your hard-earned income and savings into their profits. And they may not be here tomorrow when you need them.

Perhaps you've ventured online and been attracted to the promise of "free" advice. Unfortunately, discerning the expertise and background (and even identity) of those behind various Web sites is nearly impossible. And, as I discuss in this book, conflicts of interest (many of which aren't disclosed) abound ...

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