If you are free March 14, learn the basics of how to invest - without a broker or product-pusher telling you what to buy and sell.

Philly's local chapter of BetterInvesting.org, a nonprofit investment club, meets at the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library at 1001 Powell St. in Norristown, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The chapter meets the second Saturday of every month. It's free.

This is a great way to learn about stocks and mutual funds without any conflicts of interest from big banks or fund companies.

BetterInvesting.org allows investors to ask questions about stocks: Is this a well-managed, high-quality company? Is the stock selling at a reasonable price?

BetterInvesting.org is national and has chapters in New Jersey, as well.

With 45,000 members, BetterInvesting clubs provide practical experience and organized seminars, workshops, computer events and investor fairs throughout the year.

The club's four core investing principles:

Invest a set amount regularly.

Reinvest earnings dividends and profits.

Invest in high-quality growth stocks and equity mutual funds.

Diversify your investments.

Rita Miller invites the public to BetterInvesting.org's Philly chapter meetings the second Saturday of every month. To attend, register with Gloria Mankonen, 215-796-1214, or e-mail the group (contact@philly.betterinvesting.net).

Joining is free, although new members are encouraged to buy a software program that teaches them financial-statement analysis.

For more information, visit the nationwide organization website (http://betterinvesting.org).

How it works: BetterInvesting chapter members contribute an amount each month toward the club's assets, which are used to buy stocks for the club's portfolio. The monthly amount can range from $10 to $100, at each member's discretion.

BetterInvesting members aim to select stocks for their portfolios that seek 15 percent return on gross revenues, versus the S&P 500's average of 10 percent return on gross revenues annually, according to Miller.

If you're a beginner, check out BetterInvesting's "Getting Started" curriculum at the website's home page; look for the Online Tools area for ideas.

If you want to attend March 14, the Norristown library is in the triangle bounded by Powell, Swede and West Spruce Streets. It has free off-street parking, which you enter from Swede Street. Take the stairs to the library entrance.

There's a BetterInvesting.org Spring Investors Day on April 25 at the Community Center inside the Super Giant Food Store, 315 York Rd., Willow Grove. Enter the food store via the entrance between the "Deli" and "Florist" signs.

Free budget tools

Jacquelyn Basso has a great way of saving through free money management tools. And she highlights them on her Pinterest.com web board (https://www.pinterest.com/jmbasso/money-matters).

"My Money Matters board is where I pin things that are new and relevant," says Basso, a certified public accountant based in Downingtown.

"My whole philosophy is to find a budget methodology that works for you, whether it's an app such as Mint, Mvelopes, Gazelle, LearnVest or something from your own experience."

Her advice? Start with a budget - even just one sheet of paper.

"Know your income and expenses, save first for an emergency cash fund of three to six months of expenses, and then auto-save for goals such as retirement, through an IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k) or for future purchases such as auto, home or college education."

No conflicts

Why is it so important to avoid conflicts among financial planners?

Lately, Wall Street wants to make it even harder to determine who has a "fiduciary" duty to help protect you and your investments.

The U.S. Labor Department may propose a rule that would require advisors overseeing retirement plans to act under a "fiduciary" standard, putting client interests ahead of all other considerations when making investment recommendations.

Sounds great, yes?

Representatives from AARP, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Better Markets, the Pension Rights Center, Americans for Financial Reform, and the Consumer Federation of America are watching this closely.

These consumer advocacy groups also recently launched a website, SaveOurRetirement.com, to educate investors on the issue.