Back when I was a financial young’un, I went to one of those free seminars hosted by a mutual fund company. Speaking there was a financial “guru” that I had admired for some time. I had read his books, watched his weekly tv show, and scanned his newspapers columns. I really thought he knew anything and everything about finances.

He was selling a can’t lose investment that supposedly not only provided a good return but saved the investor on taxes too.

What a great deal, right?

Well, he wanted us to sign up immediately. Being the cautious sort, I preferred to take the info home, do my own research, and run it by some mentors (including my financial advisor).

All I bought at that seminar was a monthly subscription to his insiders newsletter priced at $120 for the year (a lot of money for an investor who was at that time only investing $25 a month).

The first month went by. Didn’t receive my newsletter. The second month went by. Still nothing. The third month came and I called the 1-800 number. No longer in service. I e-mailed the address given. Bounce back. Hit the website. No longer there.

In the meanwhile, I had looked into the investment. Hhhmmm…looked feasible but not something the tax people would be too happy with (are they ever happy?). Brought it to my mentors. One by one, they told me what was wrong with it. No use having mentors if they’re shy about giving their opinions. My mentors sure weren’t shy.

By the end of the year, I read in the newspaper that the “guru” was fighting charges, security fraud or something like that. Needless to say, the investors were being audited by the tax people (I get audited every year ‘cause I’m aggressive not ‘cause I try to scam the system). Note that the investors were audited. It didn’t matter that they took someone else’s advice. They were held responsible.

That $120 taught me a valuable lesson. I always, always, always do my own homework when looking into investments, no matter where the information is coming from.

I’ve worked with my financial advisor for well over a decade (we won’t say how well over…). I trust the guy. I know he’s about as anal and buttoned down as a man can get (yep, lots of fun at parties). I STILL do my own research on his suggestions. He is my advisor and that’s what I use him for…advice. I have the final say. I make the decisions.

Why am I sharing all this? Well, I’m no financial guru by any stretch of the imagination (goodness no), but I’m going to be talking about what has worked and has not worked (yep, I’m messed up, I’ve lost money, I challenge you to find an investor that hasn’t) for me. Key part of that sentence is “for me.” Personal finance is called that ‘cause its personal. That means what works for me might not work for you. No getting around it (and I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried), ya gotta do your own research.