DEAR ABBY: Making wise decisions about what to do with your money can be tough. Insurance policies, mortgages and investment plans come with so much terminology and fine print. The phone calls, email messages and mail offers for products and services are endless, and some are downright dishonest. It seems as if there's a scammer -- or an opportunity to make the wrong financial decision -- around every corner.
To help your readers sort out the offers for products and financial services that come their way, USA.gov, the federal government's official website, has created a free Financial Self-Defense Kit. It contains a dozen publications that explain how to make solid investment, shopping and credit decisions. And it's also filled with advice on protecting your consumer rights and recognizing and avoiding scams -- especially those aimed at seniors.
Abby, thank you for sharing this empowering kit with your readers. Armed with the information, they'll be better prepared and feel more confident facing financial choices. -- SARAH CRANE, ACTING DIRECTOR, FEDERAL CITIZEN INFORMATION CENTER
DEAR SARAH: Frankly, I should be thanking you for giving me the opportunity to share this valuable information with my readers. I thought the kit you produced last year was wonderful, but this one is even better.
Readers, I was shocked to read not long ago in USA Today that almost one-third of American workers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments for retirement. The reasons for this vary, but among them are that people haven't estimated how much money they will need once they stop working until they are near retirement, when it's too late.
This year's kit will be valuable for any of you with an eye to the future. It contains information to help you choose a financial adviser you can trust, and determine the difference between a solid investment and a fraudulent offer that could cost you your life savings.
Among the other "goodies" inside are: Money Smarts for Older Adults, Fighting (Investment) Fraud 101, Five Steps for Making Financial Decisions, Know Your Financial Adviser, The Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance, A Guide for Seniors: Protect Yourself Against Investment Fraud, Considering a Reverse Mortgage?, Understand Your Credit Score, and Your Rights When a Debt Collector Calls. (Can you guess the No. 1 consumer complaint received by the government last year? Debt collection!)
You will also find the newest edition of the Consumer Action Handbook, which no household should be without. (Inside is a sample complaint letter, which can be very effective in any number of instances when dealing with corporations, and company contact information.)
All this information is free of charge, but supplies are limited. To order, go to USA.gov/dearabby, call 888-878-3256 weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, or write: Financial Self Defense, Pueblo, CO 81009. Don't procrastinate, because these kits are going to go quickly. --Love, ABBY