Personal financial guides are often insultingly banal or inaccessibly abstruse. Here are two exceptions:

Grow Rich Slowly: The Merrill Lynch Guide to Retirement Planning, by Don Underwood and Paul Brown (Viking Press, 800-526-0275, 1993, $27.50). The authors tell readers how investment experts handle real-life problems such as, How do I save for my retirement while surviving the expense of sending my kids to college? How do I handle my investment in company stock? What are the advantages of different kinds of retirement investments? (It's smart to learn about that last issue from someone who is not directly involved in trying to sell you investments for a fee.)

Personal Budget Planner: A Guide for Financial Success, by Eric P. Gelb (Career Advancement Center, P.O. Box 436, Woodmere, NY 11598-0436, $19.95). Although it's less fun to read, this book is exhaustive in its efforts to help readers gain control of their finances through checklists, work sheets, and tips such as those found in the chapter called "82 Strategies to Save Money." -- Jill Andresky Fraser

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