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6 tips for choosing a money club

By Dana Dratch

Looking at joining an existing savings club? Here are six factors to consider to make the best match:

1. Who are the members? Strategizing how to ask for a raise or admitting that you're underwater with debt can be difficult if group members are also co-workers. In most groups, there are rules about confidentiality, but people are people. For some members, the situation can be a bit inhibiting. Money topics touch on a host of other issues -- spending habits, relationships, upbringing, etc. So be sure that the group is made up of people who you feel comfortable sharing with, or be very general in what you share.

2. Who is the leader? If the leader is a financial professional, that could be good (you're getting the benefit of the person's knowledge or expertise) or bad (the leader is using the group to win clients or push products). Get to know the background of your leader, keep your mind and eyes open, and if you think you're being urged or steered in a particular direction, consider switching clubs.

3. What topics are the group covering? If your problems stem from credit card debt, but the group focus is investing or retirement issues, you might be in the wrong club. But if there's a wide cross-section of members (different ages and backgrounds), chances are someone has experienced what you're going through and may be able to offer some advice.

4. Where does the group get its information? If you listen to four people who are bad with money grouse about what they've done wrong, you'll probably learn what not to do with your cash. It also helps if you learn what works.

Look for a club that has a learning game plan. Often this can consist of (or be a mix of) books by respected authors, talks by experts (who aren't selling anything), and/or some sort of well-planned, personal finance curriculum for adults.

5. What are you getting for your time? If you're investing a few hours every month to read the materials and attend the meetings, what are you getting in return? A big reason people like a group approach to tackling money issues is that working in a group often forces them to set goals and holds them accountable for reaching them. Look for a group that helps you progress in your personal money goals.

6. Is it fun? This isn't a trip to the dentist. Even though money is often a touchy subject, another big reason for the group approach is to make it fun. That's why groups often involve food and friends. The idea is to find something that combines learning and enjoyment.

See related: Savings clubs making a comeback

Published: January 26, 2009

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