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`SAVE! YOUR RETIREMENT CLOCK IS TICKING'

Through eight investment books, thousands of public speaking engagements, and this column to my credit, I've been educating people for more than 20 years on how to invest their money. I'm a firm believer that educated investors are profitable investors. The more you know about how to invest, the less chance you have of being ripped off by outlandish claims and greedy brokers.

It is for that reason that I am delighted to hear that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants joined with the Department of Labor to launch a retirement savings education campaign.Their motto is "Save! Your Retirement Clock is Ticking," and for some it may seem to be ticking faster than for others. This is designed to direct Americans toward learning what they need to adequately prepare for retirement through a variety of public education activities.

The campaign kickoff was in Washington, D.C., on July 19, and included distribution of education materials and the release of new data and studies on retirement savings.

At the press conference, the AICPA issued a statement in support of investor education, "Making informed and intelligent decisions about retirement planning requires tools that demystify the planning process and provide the average rank and file worker clear, concise savings strategies and options. The Department of Labor, plan sponsors, employers and other organizations must work together to ensure that all workers have effective retirement education and planning tools. Only then will Americans be able to stop making choices in the dark and start saving and investing as aggressively as they must to help assure that they will have a safe retirement." I couldn't have said it better myself.

If you are ready to take the step toward investment success by educating yourself, there are many ways to learn how to do it. I won't leave you in the dark as to what to do next; I'm a firm believer that journalists have an obligation to provide solutions, not just define the problem.

1. CALL AICPA. They have available to investors information about how to save for retirement, 201-938-3990.

2. GO TO THE LIBRARY. I'm sure you'll be overwhelmed by the amount of information the library has on investing, but don't get discouraged. There are a couple very simple beginning investment books that I would recommend for the novice investor: Terry Savage's New Money Strategies ($13, plus shipping and handling, 312-935-7948) and Paul Merriman's Investing for a Lifetime ($24.95, 800-423-4893).

If you're not sure where to begin, I may be a bit partial, but I would recommend my latest book, "Mutual Fund SuperStars - Invest in the Best, Forget About the Rest."

3. DO IT YOURSELF. Once you are comfortable with the terminology and basics of investing, don't be afraid to "just do it." Start by opening up an account with a discount broker like Schwab, Fidelity or Jack White, and use their No Transaction Fee trading programs for no-load mutual funds.

4. PICK THE BEST FUNDS. There are a lot of people out there telling you what funds to buy. You see adds all over newspapers; there are hundreds of investment newsletters and thousands of mutual funds to choose from. A lot of people need help when it comes to this stage, and the most important thing is if you don't have the time to research funds yourself, get help from someone you trust and from whom there is not a conflict of interest.

5. STAY CURRENT. Don't make the final decision on what funds you are going to buy and think that it's over They may be the best funds for you to buy today, but what about next month or next year? Buy-and-hold investors often find themselves in a heap of regret when they find out they've been in the worst performing fund it its class for 10 years.

Check up on your funds, and switch in and out of them if they're not meeting your investment goals. Throw in some market timing by using a technical analysis software program, and you'll be surprised how easy it can be to get out when the market turns down and back in when a bull market starts up.

The most valuable piece of information I can give you when it comes to investing is to know what your goals are and understand what you're doing. Now it's up to you to make it all happen.