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Don't know what to give your honey, the kids, in-laws or your friends this holiday season? How about a little education.

Trying to find the perfect gift or suitable stocking stuffer for those on your holiday shopping list is never easy. So here's an idea that's sure to make you look like a cheapskate at first, but if the recipient's got any common sense at all, could wind up either making them a fortune, or, already help them manage the one they've got: It's the gift of free educational mutual fund brochures.

Okay, okay. While that might sound like a goofy idea, bottom line it and most folks wouldn't mind building a fortune for themselves. Consider this your chance to help them:

  • For the kid, mom, sister, father, son, roommate, pal or friend who has everything ---expect a mutual fund investment---- how about the Investment Company Institute's (ICI), A Guide to Understanding Mutual Funds.

    The ICI is the trade association for the mutual fund industry and has just come out with an up-dated version of this brochure. Why? Because they know better than most how important being an informed and educated investor is.

    In this piece is basic information about stock and bond fund investing, as well as information on disclosure, mutual fund fees and taxes. There's also a glossary, listing of helpful websites and telephone numbers for resources to help wannabe investors gain more investment knowledge.

    To obtain this free piece, download it from the ICI's website at www.ici.org, or, write to the ICI and request it by title. There address is: ICI Investor Awareness Campaign, P.O. Box 27850, Washington, DC 20038-7850.

  • For those fund investors who think they are really smart, and I know you know one, there's the 2000 MONEY/Vanguard Investor Literacy Test.

    This 20-question test has been around for a while in various formats and results from it show investors aren't getting smarter, they're getting dumber. The average score on it this year was 37 percent---that's down from previous average scores of 48.5 and 51 percent.

    Order this gift test by calling Vanguard at 800-647-8789, pressing 3, and requesting it by title.

  • For the person who wants investment advice, and, needs to learn something about the costs or fees involved with getting that advice, order them, Sorting It Out, Payment Options For Financial Advice, from the Forum for Investor Advice.

    In this little booklet they'll be able to read all about investment charges, like mutual fund sales charges, as well as how the various fee-based advice programs structure the costs for their services.

    Single copies of this booklet are free and can be obtained by calling the Forum for Investor Advice at 800-200-1819. Or, you can download Sorting It Out from their website at www.investoradvice.org.

  • For the retiree who didn't figure he or she was going to live to be 100, forgot to save accordingly, and, needs their nesteggs to keep on growing, give them Vanguard's new 42-page booklet from their Plain Talk Library titled, Investing During Retirement.

    All of Vanguard's Plain Talk Library booklets are excellent and this one is no exception. In it readers can learn all sorts of things such as how to create a realistic budget, assess and manage their investments and improving their financial situation.

    Order Investing During Retirement, by calling Vanguard at 800-992-0855, and requesting it by title. It's free and full of useful information.

  • For the new, soon-to-be, or seasoned retiree who hasn't a clue about how to begin taking minimum distributions from their IRAs, T. Rowe Price's, Minimum Required Distributions, booklet is a must have.

    Everyone that has a qualified retirement account, such as IRAs, SEP-IRAs or SIMPLE IRAs, is one day going to have to become familiar with the term MRD. Not following the IRSs rules about taking the minimum required distributions from those accounts could result in Uncle Sam imposing some pretty stiff penalties on you. For example, in the booklet it reads, "For any year in which you do not take an MRD and are required to do so, there is a 50 percent penalty tax on the amount that should have been distributed but was not."

    This Baltimore-based fund family is also known for its exceptional educational mutual fund booklets. Order this free, 32-page booklet about MRDs by calling 888-421-0563.

Make sure to order your booklets today. That way they'll be here in time for the holidays. Sometimes the best gifts are the free ones.

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