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Get Rich Slowly reader Beth wrote recently looking for help in finding the best financial magazines:

I’m a public library worker, and my library needs personal finance advice!

We feel strongly that we need to keep a personal finance magazine in circulation, but the ones we’ve subscribed to in the past have been met with the deafening silence of complete disinterest. We’ve had Money for a year with no checkouts; before that, we had Fortune for two years with no checkouts. We’re thinking about replacing Money, but really, with such an overwhelming lack of response, we need to make a compelling argument to management to keep this subject heading at all.

The library is in a poor, historically working-class county with a lot of minimum-wage workers, retirees and near retirees, so the general level of knowledge is pretty low. We need a magazine that will appeal to people looking for very basic information. Is there something on the market — maybe between a home economy mag and a traditional finance mag — that might appeal more to this group of users?

This is a great question, and comes at the perfect time. I’ve been grousing to Kris lately about how out-of-touch the Big Three personal finance magazines can be. They write too much about buying “hot stocks now” (which I call financial porn), and not enough about saving money at the grocery store. Both are important parts of personal finance, but guess which one we deal with more every day?

I reviewed a handful of personal finance magazines. Here are updated reviews, including evaluations of several additional titles.

Money

Based on conversations with Get Rich Slowly readers and other financial bloggers, it would seem Money is the reigning champion of personal-finance magazines. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. I feel like it’s too investing-centric, and that it has a tendency to go for sensationalist headlines.

Money has big-name financial writers and slick production values. Though this magazine seems to be targeted at those just beginning to take control of their financial lives, I learn something from each issue. Most Money articles are easy to find online a few weeks after publication.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Kiplinger’s doesn’t get a lot of respect, which puzzles me. Many finance bloggers consider it the weakest of the Big Three, but I like it. I find the content down-to-earth and accessible. The articles are varied and go beyond just investing.

Related >> Best Personal Finance Podcasts

Kiplinger’s certainly isn’t perfect. Like Money and Smart Money, it cannot resist articles like “the biggest and best funds to own now!” In fact, some issues contain many pages ranking mutual funds. As an index fund investor, this sort of thing is worthless to me. I actually think it’s worthless to most investors. Most of the time, however, Kiplinger’s does a good job of tackling a variety of topics.

The AAII Journal

If you’ve decided that you’d like to be an active investor, your top magazine choice is probably the AAII Journal from the American Association of Individual Investors. This 36-page publication is not for novices, however. Its content is often technical and it’s geared toward picking individual stocks. Still, the AAII Journal contains some of the best articles on investing that I’ve read.

The AAII web site allows you to freely sample the “best of” the AAII Journal.

The AAII Journal is excellent, and I recommend it without hesitation to those interested in an active approach to investing or for those craving thoughtful in-depth articles on the subject. The downsides? This magazine isn’t for novices and it’s expensive.

(The American Association of Individual Investors also publishes the bi-monthly 28-page Computerized Investing, which is all about various computer programs and web sites for investors. This magazine is mostly useless to me.)

Related >> Best Books for Beginning Investors

Consumer Reports

For my money, the best personal finance magazine available in the United States is Consumer Reports, the venerable publication from the nonprofit Consumers Union. Most people are aware that Consumer Reports publishes detailed ratings of various product classes (the best kitchen faucets, the best televisions, the best macaroni and cheese, etc.), but each issues also contains other tips for managing your money.

The online version of Consumer Reports includes all of the magazine’s content and more. Some of the web site’s content is available for free, but the selection seems random. There are a variety of Consumer Reports blogs that offer free content, however.

Consumers Union publishes several other magazines, including:

  • ShopSmart is like a “hip” Consumer Reports aimed at women in their 2os and 30s. Because most personal-finance magazines seem to be male-oriented, I’m happy to see something targeted at women. I find ShopSmart’s content to top-notch and accessible. That last point makes it a great choice for the average person.
  • Consumer Reports Money Adviser is a monthly 16-page newsletter focused on saving and investing. Money Adviser features solid information and (as with all CR publications) no advertising. Each issue contains two or three in-depth pieces about topics like protecting your identity, long-term care insurance, and coping with unexpected financial crises. Each issue contains a variety of shorter articles, too. The middle two pages always contain a “money lab,” which answers questions like, “Can socially-responsible investments offer decent returns?”

I like all of the magazines in the Consumer Reports family.

Which personal finance magazines do you read? Do you subscribe to any publications? Do you borrow them from the library? Do you share them in a magazine exchange? Which would you recommend to Beth and her library?

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