No. of Recommendations: 2
Does anyone in Fooldom have a direct opinion about the worth of the Fool's The Money Advisor?

TMF Money Advisor costs $199 per year ($329 for two years), and in return you gain access to appropriately educated, trained, experienced, and professionally certified money advisors; access to short courses and seminars; access to a subscribers-only discussion board; and discounts on many TMF products (including newsletters and FoolMart products). You may cancel your subscription whenever you like and receive a pro rated refund.

I like to draw an analogy between auto maintenance and investing. If you have the intellectual and physical capability to drive a car, then you probably also have the intellectual and physical capability to do basic maintenance on your car; for example, keeping the vehicle clean, keeping the gas tank full, checking the oil level from time to time, and adjusting tire pressure for load and road conditions. With a few minutes of training and a flashlight, you can check most of the fluids. With an hour or so of training and some simple tools, you can change fluids. With a little more training and still more tools, you can change spark plugs and engine gaskets, and rebuild a transmission or final drive. However sooner or later even the best trained and equipped shadetree mechanics will run into problems that require special tools or rarely used techniques, and at that point the shadetree mechanic will have to turn to a commercial mechanic; not because the commercial mechanic is smarter or more capable, but because the commercial mechanic has experience and facilities to do a good job the first time.

In the same way, if you can read, and write, and do simple sums, you probably have the skills needed to make basic investing decisions. You can outline an investing strategy for yourself, and you can decide whether to implement that strategy with mutual funds or individual stocks and bonds. With a little education and experience, you can choose from among the universe of mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. With a little more education you can decide which of the many available IRAs are most appropriate for you. However sooner or later you'll run into a problem that requires more skill than you have or special tools that are either unavailable to you or that you use too infrequently to use well. For example soritng through the many college savings plans, handling a financial windfall, or dealing with the financial consequences of personal tragedies are all issues where typcial investors could use some professional guidance. Many small investors appreciate independent perspectives on the specific investments available to them in their particular 401(k) plans. The decision to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA or dealing with an inherited IRA will challenge all but the most educated and experienced investors. Tax returns that require more than Scheds A, B, and D; tax problems like AMT; sale of rental real estate; or Sched C all are very strong indicators that you have crossed the threshold where personal finance (and tax) professionals will earn their fees. And there are always issues folks would prefer to address privately with appropriately educated, trained, and experienced professionals than in public on a discussion board.

The money advisors are the commercial mechanic analog to investing services. They can help you to focus your research, avoid blind alleys, to consider options you may not have uncovered on your own, to do some of the tasks you may not have the experience or tools to do well for yourself, and they can do these things privately so you can deal with real numbers in confidence. In my opinion, the compelling virtue is they can help you to ensure you have the best available resources to make informed financial decisions.

Most investors should try to keep their annual investing expenses to less than 1% and certainly less than 2% of their portfolio value. Using those benchmarks, since TMF Money Advisor costs $200 per year, I would suggest that if your portfolio is more than about $10,000 to $20,000, then TMF Money Advisor MIGHT be a service you should consider. In addition, if you have ever had a personal financial question that you wish you had a little more education, training, or experience to address well, then you have another argument to subscribe to a money advisor service. And if you have ever posted a question on one of TMF's discussion boards and wondered if you could trust the replies you now have a compelling argument to subscribe to TMF Money Advisor.

You might also find this TMF article interesting:
http://www.fool.com/features/2002/a020123.htm

David Jacobs
TMFDj111
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