INTRODUCTION

College. Retirement. Vacations. A new room on the house. Even a new house. Our financial goals can be elusive. The task of achieving these goals is harder for families in moderate income brackets. Most financial planners say there is little, if anything, they can do for families earning $70,000, $50,000, or less, except to encourage more savings and IRAs.

But often families find they have ''hidden'' assets that let them embark on financial planning and investment programs. There may be a house, an insurance policy, a poorly performing retirement fund, a recent or potential inheritance. For this month's Personal Finance section, we found two families in this situation. To protect their privacy, the names have been changed.

In the case of the Burns family, their house had appreciated substantially, thanks to home improvements and inflation. For the Jones family, the asset was a college education fund that grew out of aggressive savings.

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