Call it a mixture of financial planning and public confession. "Money Makeovers," a column appearing every other Sunday in the Miami Herald
's business section, is an addictive snapshot of a community's fiscal health. Readers volunteer to have their finances scoped by a certified financial analyst. While the volunteers receive free financial advice, they also must put their often-disastrous financial history on naked display. Notable participants include the high school science teacher who collects snakes. "My comfort level is not as okay as I'd like it to be," he said, referring to his stock portfolio, not to the albino boa constrictor he keeps on his property. There's the former professional baseball player who is dangerously -- perhaps embarrassingly -- leveraged in tech stocks. And there's the pathetic attorney and single mother who overspends her $70,000 income by $3000 per month, piling up enormous credit-card debt and squandering her IRA. Doh! Fortunately the column provides inspiration, too. Take the uniquely Miami story of John Quinteros. The former drug dealer, busted on national TV by Geraldo Rivera, is rebuilding his financial life after spending more than six years in prison. Now a restaurant manager, Quinteros wants to bump up his 401(k) contributions and increase his investment in stocks. "When I got out, I did not have a penny to my name," he said triumphantly. "Now I have a beautiful wife and a family, a nice house, and a growing portfolio." Beautiful indeed.