Free financial planning advice is available from a variety of sources. Colleges and universities often partner with government agencies to offer free or nearly free planning and investment advice. Some banks and brokerages offer free basic planning advice, often in the form of information on websites, to their clients. Many books have been written on the subject of financial planning, and most public libraries will offer access to them as a form of free financial planning support. The media and the Internet also provide a great deal of free advice on the subject but should be approached with some caution, as this advice is not always neutral.
The most reliable and personalized free financial planning assistance that is available to most people tends to come from partnerships between education and government. Many schools offer free basic financial planning workshops as a form of community service, and governments in most Western nations offer similar assistance, on the premise that a little education goes a long way in making citizens more effective participants in a market economy. The specific information available from these sources varies from agency to agency and nation to nation but often includes advice on basic investment and banking as well as budgeting, real estate issues, and tax-related matters.
Many banks and brokerages offer free financial planning to their customers. In some cases this will involve consultation with a financial planner. More often, however, the bulk of the information made available to consumers is in the form of printed information, most often accessed via the Internet. This information is not always unbiased, but banks, especially smaller local banks, that depend on accounts from smaller depositors do have a vested interest in the financial success of their clients.
Libraries are another good source of free financial planning assistance. Public libraries typically seek to maintain collections that are of use to their patrons and will generally have some selection of texts offering financial advice. Libraries try to be responsible when selecting materials to add to their collections and will usually seek to weed out books that offer false or misleading information. Not all published financial advice, however, even sincere and well-meaning financial advice, is correct or helpful.
The media and the Internet provide a great deal of free financial planning advice, and while these sources provide much useful information, there are pitfalls associated with this type of advice as well. Media sources often provide financial advice that is based on the opinion of selected analysts. An informed investor can make use of this material but should do so carefully, after having obtained a thorough understanding of the market fundamentals on which it is based.
Advice from the Internet can be very helpful, especially in areas with little access to other varieties of information, but should be vetted very carefully for accuracy and objectivity. That being said, information about microfinance and similar programs focused on development has proven to be very useful for citizens of less-developed nations, and much clear and sensible basic advice can be found on the Internet.