For individuals or families looking to take the plunge into the world of investing, a low-cost, low obligation “first step” might sound appealing.

It’s no surprise that the Web is considered the best way for individuals without much money to get the information they need to start investing. Even those with significant income and wealth are attracted by the availability and low cost of financial websites as a primary source of guidance.

But while bursting with a gazillion bytes of information, the Internet cannot make individual eye contact or exercise judgment. For good advice, low-income, low-net-worth investors need an expert just as much as Bill Gates or Oprah.

Even an hour or two with a financial planning professional can help someone who is just starting out, or has not accumulated significant wealth. With less money in the bank, the list of investment choices or strategies to consider shouldn’t be too long. He needs advice that is simple, “plain vanilla,” sturdy, and reflective of his long-term goals. In fact, he may not need investment counsel at all to begin with, but rather advice on protecting the resources he has before he attempts to grow them.

The financial planning profession is, I believe, changing to accommodate this need. There are professionals who are moving downstream to focus on those with limited financial means, including younger clients, certain minority groups, and individuals in financial crisis, such as divorcées.