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Basics


  • Should cash be part of your emergency fund? (58 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. When I was in college, one of my co-workers at my part-time, on-campus job gave me a funny little gift that I use to this day. What was it? It’s called a “wallet fairy.” According to the note that came with my little talisman, you put it in your wallet and “you’ll never be out of money when you need it.” I can’t honestly say that the…

  • What’s the definition of success? (21 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Just because two people hear the same word or phrase, doesn’t mean that they are conceptualizing the same thing. For example, I live in the desert, so when I say that it’s “cold,” it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m talking about something different than the person who lives in Vermont. Similarly, if I say it’s “humid,” I am probably not thinking about the same thing as…

  • What to do during the “What’s Next?” stage of finance (43 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. When I first started writing for Get Rich Slowly, I’d just become interested in my finances. While I’ve always been frugal, I started to realize there was much more to personal finance than finding ways to save money. Here’s where I was, financially, at that time: I was rebuilding my recently depleted emergency fund. I had just started to earn more. I was working hard for my money,…

  • Ask the Readers: What Do You Do When You’re Broke? (144 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D. recently launched the Get Rich Slowly course, a year-long guide on how to master your money. His non-financial writing lives at More Than Money. Last week, Mr. Money Mustache visited the Pacific Northwest. While he was in Portland, he and I joined Tyler Tervooren (of the Riskology website) to host what we called “Three Blog Night”. About 100 readers of…

  • How to track your spending (and why you should) (80 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Recently, an old friend emailed me for help with his family’s financial woes. The confession that followed wasn’t pretty, and included tales of student loans, car loans, unrestrained spending, and empty bank accounts. It was all bad news, which I found rather surprising considering their relatively high income. So, of course, I asked about their fixed expenses. What were they? We emailed back and forth for quite a…

  • How to get started investing (33 comments)

    This article is by staff writer William Cowie. Confession time: Despite a financial and business education more comprehensive than most, I never invested. I grew up poor and just couldn’t wait for my first “serious” job and those big bucks. It was so bad, I decided to drop out of college in my senior year. “None of this ivory-tower crap is going to make me any more money,” I told everyone who would listen. Fortunately,…

  • Why paying with cash hurts (and why it should) (55 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. These days, my monthly budget is on the boring side. Aside from our regular spending, I’ve got a mortgage payment to fork over, groceries to buy, and utility bills to pay. Throw in some payments to my kids’ 529 plans and my SEP-IRA and I’m basically done for the month. After all of the bills are paid, the key for us is making sure that the rest…

  • The Sheep and the Wolves: Smart investing made simple (36 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money, where he recently wrote about winning the jackpot. Imagine that you’re a farmer. You live in a rural county where everybody raises sheep. The county’s farmers, on the whole, prosper. Their flocks tend to grow by 10 percent every year. Some years are better than others. In the best years, the…

  • The one-page guide to financial independence (71 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money. This year, I learned a lot about money. I think the biggest breakthrough I had in 2013 was to connect the ideas of personal and financial independence. I spent a week in Ecuador talking with folks about this subject, and then I spent a couple of months putting my thoughts onto…

  • Ask the Readers: What personal finance skills should college students learn? (70 comments)

    Last Friday, J.D. asked you what concepts have contributed to your financial success, and you responded with lots of good thoughts. Today, reader D. Post has a question for you about personal finance skills college students should learn. Here’s his situation: GRS, I’ve just about made it through college and am about to start my senior year! I’ve had a fun time at school and still have a good-sized chunk of change in the bank,…

  • What Are the Best Financial Accounts and Tools Available? (49 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. After a year off, J.D. is once again writing here at GRS. His non-financial writing can still be found at More Than Money. As a personal-finance blogger, it’s my responsibility to keep up-to-date on the latest in the financial industry. Whose advice is worth heeding? (And whose advice sucks?) What are the current tax rates? Where’s the best place to save…

  • Reader Stories: How I paid off $610,000 in debt, became a dad and quit my job — in 2 years (56 comments)

    This reader story comes from John Corcoran, an attorney, former Clinton White House writer and blogger at SmartBusinessRevolution.com, where he writes about how to use smart political strategies in business. You can download his free ebook, “10 Ways to Use Secret Political Strategies and Tactics to Grow Your Business.” Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels…

  • You Are the Boss of You: How to Find Success with Life and Money (71 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. It marks his return as a contributor to this site. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money. “What do you think is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?” an interviewer asked me earlier this week. “Well, I don’t like to make generalizations,” I said, “but I’ve thought about this question a lot. While there are certainly…

  • Do you read the fine print? (38 comments)

    This post is written by staff writer April Dykman. We’ve all heard the advice to “read the fine print” before we sign anything, but does anyone actually do it? I recently spoke with a man we’ll call Randy. Six months ago, Randy went to a state fair, the kind that vendors of all kinds descend upon to hawk their wares. One of those vendors was a hot tub company with a very recognizable name. They’ve…

  • Your budget isn’t working. Here’s why. (77 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Holly Johnson. Before my husband and I got our financial act together, we didn’t have a budget. Since we didn’t have and sort of plan, we spent all of our discretionary income on “wants” and financed anything that cost more money than we had. And the scariest part is that we never really thought much of it. Our income always lasted until the next payday, so we never worried about…

  • Friends and philosophies of personal finance (32 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. Recently one of my bridesmaids came to my city to attend a professional conference, and we were fortunate to be able to spend some time together as well. This is not a friend I had talked about money with before, despite having known her for over 15 years. It came up on this trip because she just quit her job in Boston to move to Atlanta with…

  • Financial literacy: What’s my motivation? (36 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Were you required to take a personal finance class in high school? I wasn’t. And I’m not in the minority. In fact, only 13 states require a personal finance class for graduation, and just five states require testing student knowledge in personal finance, according to the Council for Economic Education’s 2011 Survey of the States: Economics and Personal Finance Education in Our Nation’s Schools. And even if…

  • Review: ‘All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan’ (44 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. There are many personal finance books out there, useful to people in all stages of personal finance. I have a lot to learn before reaching financial independence, and the editorial elves thought it would be useful if I shared some of what I learn with you. So for the foreseeable future, I will be reviewing one PF-related book per month. I won’t necessarily be reviewing the latest bestsellers in…

  • Play hooky for money (31 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. We at Fool HQ did it again: We had a company-wide financial health day. As we did three years ago, we encouraged Fool employees to clear their professional decks in order to tackle personal financial tasks. We also held 10 classes — from estate planning…

  • Professional shoe repair: Save money, time, and your feet (74 comments)

    While on my way back from getting some hot tea in the break room at work, I noticed that one of my shoes was making a strange noise. Upon getting back to my office, I saw why: the heel cap had fallen off and was lying next to my chair. Hmm, I thought. Maybe that’s why I’ve been tripping so much lately. Because I had been tripping. Enough to be embarrassed. I had jokingly chalked…

  • Getting rich slowly on my own terms (47 comments)

    Over the last six months, I have had several articles published at Get Rich Slowly. However, I have never had the pleasure of formally introducing myself. My name is Holly Johnson, and I am a 32 year-old wife and mother of two young children. I work alongside my husband at a small family owned mortuary in the rural Midwest. I began my own journey out of debt a little over two years ago, and it…

  • Preparing for the inevitable (41 comments)

    This is a guest post from Holly Johnson. Holly is a 32-year-old wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She blogs about saving money, frugal habits, and whatever is on her mind at ClubThrifty.com. There are few occasions in life that anyone dreads more than the death of one of our parents. After all, our parents gave us life. They most often raised us. As most of us grew and had our own children,…

  • Insurance: Choosing the right plan (27 comments)

    This the second of four articles about health insurance by Joanna Lahey, an associate professor of economics at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). You can read the first one here. The subsequent articles will be published on the next two Saturdays. In part two of our exploration of health economics, we will explore the more common structures of…

  • Insurance: Share the risk (84 comments)

    This is a guest post from Joanna Lahey, an associate professor of economics at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Ellen’s note: Joanna has written four articles about health insurance. This is the first, and every Saturday for the next month, we’ll be publishing one. Given the readers’  concern over the cost of health insurance as well as the…

  • How to Pick the Best Darned Account for You (9 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. Happy World Wide Invest Better Day! What, you’re not familiar with this holiday? Well, it might because we at The Motley Fool invented it, and today is the first time we’re going to…

  • Reader Story: A Pre-College Spending Frenzy (73 comments)

    This guest post from Preserved Sanity is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. Want submit your own reader story? Here’s how. My son recently graduated from high school. Our family and friends generously contributed to his college fund and provided him…

  • Financial Literacy: Is There Ever Enough? (49 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. “So… what do you do?” the high school athletes with whom I work will ask me while we’re running together at practice. Or they’ll ask me what I write about, having only heard obliquely my reference to my occupation. “Lots of stuff,” I’ll say. “But I make most of my income writing about personal finance.” I remember what I thought about personal finance when I was in…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do You Handle Money Mistakes? (64 comments)

    Getting started with smart money management can be tough. It can be frustrating. For one, you have to discard so many old habits. Plus you have to develop new habits. And, toughest of all, you have to deal with the constant small (and large) mistakes you make as you’re getting the hang of saving and investing. In a lot of ways, learning to be smart with money can be like learning to ride a bike….

  • When One Partner Won’t Budget (330 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith. In my last article at Get Rich Slowly, I gave the background on my income and expenses. My husband’s income and expenses are a little more difficult to compile. For one, Jake left the life of a steady paycheck about a year ago in order to start his own business. This means that his income fluctuates, which of course we knew going in. It also means…

  • Where I’m Starting From: Honey’s Story (384 comments)

    This article is from new staff writer Honey Smith. Hello. I’m Honey Smith. I’m thrilled to be a part of the GRS community, though of course a little embarrassed that it’s essentially as an object lesson to others of what not to do. However, I do hope that everyone on the site learns something along with me. For those of you who are financially comfortable (or close to it), those lessons may be about empathy…

  • Financial Education for Fifth Graders (80 comments)

    I’ve finally overcome my fear of speaking in public (though speaking in front of 1000 people at next month’s World Domination Summit may bring that fear back) and have actually found that I enjoy talking to various groups about money. I think the key is not to over-prepare. In early May, for instance, I made a presentation for Adelante Mujeres, a group working to strengthen the local latina community. I spoke to about 25 immigrant…

  • Ask the Readers: What Do You Wish You’d Learned About Money? (178 comments)

    When we’re young, we think we know it all. We make decisions — financial and otherwise — based on what little we know of the world, and these decisions are colored by a relentless optimism that comes from not having to deal with the harsh realities of the world. Realities like the high cost of health insurance, steep interest rates on credit cards, and trouble finding a job. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could…

  • What is a Roth IRA? A Short and Simple Guide (83 comments)

    Note: This post is part of the Roth IRA Movement event organized by Jeff Rose at Good Financial Cents. Today, dozens of financial bloggers are posting articles about Roth IRAs. This is mine. Most of us know we should save for retirement, but sometimes it’s tough to get started. If your employer sponsors a retirement plan — especially if it offers a generous match to your contributions — that’s usually the best place to begin….

  • Ask the Readers: Basic Financial Frameworks? (81 comments)

    One common request from new GRS readers is some sort of central location where they can find a list of introductory articles to guide their progress. This is a great idea, and I’m working on it. Some of the GRS elves are working on a “Guide to Money” that will provide some of this info, but I envision a single page that collects all of the relevant articles for folks starting out. In the meantime,…

  • 12 Steps to Financial Freedom in 2012 (46 comments)
  • Do What Works for You (48 comments)

    I’m writing this post in Lima, Peru, on the last day of my six-week South American odyssey. I’ve had a great time. I’ve climbed mountains, explored ancient ruins, petted llamas (and cats), mangled Spanish, and eaten more maracuyá (passion fruit) than is probably good for me. In other words, this has been a perfect vacation. But this trip wasn’t cheap. While it didn’t cost nearly as much as my trip to Africa last February, I…

  • How Did My Phone Bill Get So High?!? Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Bills (45 comments)

    This is a guest-post from Tim Ellis, author of Seattle Bubble, a blog and forum dedicated to real-estate market conditions in the Seattle area. Tim is a long-time GRS reader. Previously on GRS, Tim has written about renting vs. buying, renting in a new city, setting homebuying priorities, and gaming without breaking the bank. Recently my wife and I sat down for the first time in a couple of years to review and update our…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do I Get Started with Investing? (79 comments)

    I’ve begun to sort through the batch of questions GRS readers submitted a few weeks ago. Surprisingly, many of them are about the basics of investing. But looking at the archives, GRS hasn’t covered investing much in the past couple of years; I assumed that the articles in the archives were enough. Maybe it’s time to revisit the subject. As an example of the sorts of questions people sent in, here’s one from Becky about…

  • Compound Interest vs. Increased Income — Which Matters More? (54 comments)

    Like nearly everyone else on the internet, I’m a fan of xkcd, the nerdy webcomic from Randall Munroe. My wife, who’s a chemist, loves xkcd’s science episodes (such as this and this), while I like everything else (especially this and this). And let’s not forget the map of online communities! Many of you e-mailed to tell me that yesterday’s xkcd tackled a subject near and dear to our hearts: personal finance. Specifically, Munroe poked a…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Cope with Financial Mistakes? (88 comments)

    Nobody’s perfect. This should be obvious, but we all tend to forget it — and often. We judge other people for their mistakes, and often we judge ourselves even more harshly. I do this too. When I do something that I know is wrong (or merely foolish), I get down on myself, which often leads me to make further mistakes. Lately, for instance, I’ve been struggling with my diet and exercise. I spent eighteen months…

  • Ask the Readers: But HOW Do You Track Every Penny You Spend? (186 comments)

    It’s tough to dig out of debt (or make other changes to your spending habits) if you don’t know where your money goes. I tried for years to turn things around, but was unsuccessful until I started tracking every penny I spent. Armed with info about my actual spending habits (instead of perceived patterns), I was able to make a realistic budget. But getting started with expense tracking can be overwhelming. There’s so much data!…

  • Putting First Things First (74 comments)

    The morning is my time. Five days a week, I’m up at 5:30. I come downstairs, sip a diet soda or a cup of tea (lapsang souchong), and spend a few minutes checking e-mail and approving comments. By 5:45, I’m in my gym clothes and out the door. I walk through the quiet streets of my neighborhood, greeting the birds and the cats and the dogs. I admire the flowers. I notice all the small…

  • Why I Hate “New, Unique” Money Tips (123 comments)

    Today I’m going to rant. I get a lot of requests from reporters who want quotes for their stories about personal finance. That’s fine. I’m happy to help when possible. What bugs me, though, is that nearly every single reporter pitches her story with the same caveat: “I need tips about saving, but I don’t want the same old stuff. I need new, unique ways to save money.” sigh “New, unique ways to save money”…

  • Building Your Financial “Safety Gear” (54 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. Recently, I’ve gotten into indoor rock climbing. It’s a challenging activity, and frightening when you first begin. You need to really push the edges of your strength and flexibility. Once in awhile, if you happen to glance down and see how far off the ground you are, it can be terrifying. Which is to say, it’s…

  • How to Build a Better Budget (77 comments)

    This article on building a better budget is the written version of a workshop I gave last week at a local public library. It refines material from several past posts on the subject. If I’d planned ahead, I could have used this for Financial Literacy Month in April. “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” ~ John C. Maxwell For most people, budgeting is about as fun…

  • The Financial Literacy Toolkit (15 comments)

    You know, we started April with the best of intentions. Because it’s Financial Literacy Month, all of the writers at Get Rich Slowly agreed to discuss basic money concepts. But we didn’t do it. Instead, we explored all sorts of other interesting topics. I think I know part of the problem. For a couple of years, I spent all of April focused on financial literacy. It’s a great topic. But when you tie yourself down…

  • Five Ways to Outwit the ATM (141 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money. She also writes about frugality, intentional living, and life in general at her own blog, Surviving And Thriving. Automated teller machines are from the devil, and debit cards are Satan’s imps. Sure, it’s great to be able to get cash whenever you want. The problem is, well, you can get cash whenever you want. Not only do…

  • Five Years of Get Rich Slowly (77 comments)

    Five years ago today, I started a new blog. Inspired by the success of a popular post at my personal site, I sat down to create what I thought would be the first personal-finance blog on the internet. I was wrong, of course; there were plenty of similar blogs before mine. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In the Beginning… In April 2006, I was still deep in debt. I’d begun…

  • Setting Smart Financial Goals (24 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com This article is part of Financial Literacy Month at Get Rich Slowly. Goals are critical to financial success. We’ve written about them a lot here at GRS; in fact, one of J.D.’s core tenets for getting rich slowly is “The road to wealth is paved with goals.” Not all goals are created equal, however. A bad…

  • Establish Your Financial Priorities (Worksheet Inside!) (55 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Quick — can you list your top financial priorities? My top priorities (aside from basic living expenses) are building a house and travel. Those are the two things I daydream about the most, and the two things I try to keep in mind when I’m deciding whether I really need all 10 “hard-to-find” books from the used book store or whether I’m overspending on, say, a $100-compost…

  • Earning, Spending, and Saving: The Building Blocks of Personal Finance (62 comments)

    Note: This article is part of Financial Literacy Month at Get Rich Slowly. A couple of weeks ago, Robert Brokamp explained how living below your means is like saving for retirement twice. On the surface, his advice was pretty conventional: The more you save today, the more you’ll have tomorrow. This is similar to a point I’ve been repeating for the past five years. Smart personal finance can be reduced to one simple equation: [WEALTH]…

  • You Can Have It All (Just Not All At Once) (63 comments)

    This post is from new GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Living With Less personal finance column for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Like J.D., Donna has been traveling lately — but she’s in merrie olde England, not Africa. Earlier this month, I attended a candlelit baroque concert at the historic St.-Martin-in-the-Fields Church. The Festive Orchestra of London was delightful. My seat cost £8 (about…

  • Getting Started with Estate Planning (30 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Over the past few years, I’ve done a reasonable job getting on top of my personal finances. I’ve paid off credit cards. I’ve put systems in place to track and analyze my spending each month. My files are in order. I’ve learned how to communicate about money with my spouse. On any…

  • Back to the Stone Age: Low-Tech Expense Tracking (93 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. As many of you know, before I was a GRS staff writer, I was a GRS reader and active commenter. I’d say the bulk of my early personal-finance education came from this website, and it’s most definitely the resource I credit for spurring me to get serious about paying off debt and saving money. So last year when J.D. started talking about falling off the tracking-every-penny wagon,…

  • The Tao of the Dow: All About Stock Market Indexes (15 comments)

    This is a guest post from MP Dunleavey, who is a contributing editor at Money magazine and the editorial director at Daily Worth, which offers free, daily money tips for women. What exactly is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the mythic number that punctuates each day’s stock market report? I’ve always wondered. Now, with the Dow crossing 12,000, I decided to roll up my sleeves and delve into what that 12,000 really means. Why should…

  • How Budgeting Leads to Freedom (28 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of the popular Til Debt Do U$ Part on CNBC (Saturday nights at 10 and 10:30). Gail is a columnist for MoneySense, Chatelaine, and Zoomer Magazine and blogs daily at her website, where she also offers terrific tools people can use to dig themselves out of the hole. Gail’s latest book is Debt-Free Forever. Imagine the freedom to never worry about money. Some dopes think…

  • How to Cope with Budget Blow-Ups (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of the popular Til Debt Do U$ Part on CNBC (Saturday nights at 10 and 10:30). Gail is a columnist for MoneySense, Chatelaine, and Zoomer Magazine and blogs daily at her website, where she also offers terrific tools people can use to dig themselves out of the hole. Gail’s latest book is Debt-Free Forever. Despite the best laid plans of mice and men, there are…

  • How to Avoid Common Money Mistakes (34 comments)

    This is a guest post from Laura Adams, also known as Money Girl. Adams is the author of a new book, Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. She also hosts the weekly Money Girl podcast over on Quick and Dirty Tips. For money resources, tips, and advice, connect with her at SmartMovesToGrowRich.com. There are some basic rules in personal finance that are so vital for success that they pertain to everyone, no matter your…

  • The Most Important Factor in Retirement Savings (67 comments)

    “Wanna see something neat?” Kris asked the other night. She was holding the year-end statement from her work-based retirement plan. “Sure,” I said. “Show me the money.” She handed the statement to me. “Look at my account balance,” she said. “Look how it’s grown. It went down a little bit in 2008, but because I kept contributing, the balance has gone crazy during the last two years.” Kris’s retirement account took a hit in 2008,…

  • Think You Can’t Afford an Emergency Fund? Think Again! (78 comments)

    This post is from new GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Living With Less personal finance column for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Once upon a time it was enough to have a three-month emergency fund; now I hear we should aim for enough to cover a year’s worth of food, shelter, and other basics. A swell idea in theory, but this could actually discourage…

  • What’s a Credit Score? An Intro to Credit Reports and Credit Scores (43 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. A good friend of mine recently asked me what a credit report is and how he could get his hands on his. My friend has a PhD. He’s a smart guy, and generally savvy about life. If he was asking me this question, he can’t be the only one wondering. So I…

  • Old Habits for a New Year (114 comments)

    When I was younger, I didn’t track my spending. I kept a checkbook register, but that was out of necessity; I constantly flirted with a zero balance, and I had to know precisely how much was left in the bank so I wouldn’t overdraw my account. (I wasn’t so good at that game, actually; I had plenty of overdraft fees.) Ah, the good ol’ days… When I decided to get out of debt, I had…

  • Underachievement and the All-or-Nothing Mindset (67 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. There have been a slew of great articles lately on why resolutions fail, and I agree wholeheartedly with them. I’ve never had much success with resolutions myself — they always fall by the wayside after a few months, and by summer I don’t even remember that I’d set resolutions in the first place. Nevertheless, I set a lot of goals in 2010 that I reached. For example,…

  • How to Take Control of Your Finances in 2011 (58 comments)

    The new year is upon us! I’ve talked to a lot of folks lately who have resolved to make this the year they get out of debt. Or start an emergency fund. Or earn more money. These resolutions don’t mean a whit, though, if you don’t have a plan. For the past five years, I’ve shared the following road map, adding one new tip every January. Many GRS readers have used this info to plot…

  • Does Your Spending Match Your Values? (37 comments)

    Last night, I joined a large group at Powell’s Books in Portland to see my friend Chris Guillebeau speak on the last stop of his 50-state book tour. Afterward, I got to chat with several GRS readers, including Dakota and Katy. I also talked with Tsilli Pines, whom I’ve mentioned here several times before. “You look great,” Tsilli said. “You’ve lost a lot of weight.” She and I talked about fitness, about Crossfit, and about…

  • Finding My Spending Identity (31 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Do you have a Spending Identity? You do, whether you know it or not. It’s as real as the data on your driver’s license, but if you’re like most people, you’ve probably never given it much thought. Your Spending Identity dictates who you are as a consumer: Are you frugal or extravagant?…

  • Why Your Income Is So Important (50 comments)

    A few weeks ago, I shared a monster list of ways to make more money. These weren’t cheesy chores or slimy scams, but legitimate ways a person could earn extra income if they needed. Most of the suggestions were drawn from GRS reader stories, from my friends’ lives, or from my own experience. They’re ways real people make real money when times are tough. After I posted the list, though, I had a few people…

  • Back to Basics (84 comments)

    “You know, you’ve been spending a lot of money lately,” Kris told me the other day. I’d just returned from yet another shopping trip to REI. “I have?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Can’t you tell?” Actually, I guess I can. I’ve been buying relatively expensive clothes (I’ve lost 40 pounds and need to replenish my wardrobe, but I’m not doing it with thrift-store clothes as I have in the past), purchasing travel gadgets (new…

  • How to Save: Putting “Pay Yourself First” into Practice (79 comments)

    For many people, saving is tough. Between housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, credit-card debt, student loans, and other expenses, there never seems to be enough left to set aside for long-term savings. And that’s the problem. Most people try to save something out of what’s left over instead of saving first. One of the oldest rules of personal finance is to pay yourself first. All the money books tell you to do it. All the personal…

  • Where’s the Money, Honey? Why You MUST Track Your Spending (59 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of the popular Til Debt Do U$ Part on CNBC (Saturday nights at 10 and 10:30). Gail is a columnist for Yahoo Canada, Chatelaine, and Zoomer Magazine and blogs daily at her website, where she also offers terrific tools people can use to dig themselves out of the hole. Gail’s latest book is Debt-Free Forever. People are always scratching their heads about where their money…

  • DIY Personal Finance: How to Take Control of Your Financial Life (30 comments)

    This story originally appeared on Boing Boing in slightly different form. It’s my favorite article I’ve ever written. I’m not a trained financial professional; I don’t have a degree in finance, and I’m not a certified financial planner. I have no formal training. I’m just an average guy who was deep in debt, and finally got fed up with his situation. After deciding to turn things around, I read dozens of financial books, and used…

  • Unemployed? Underemployed? Here’s How to Get Help (50 comments)

    For a long time, GRS readers have been requesting a list of resources for low-income families struggling to get by. I haven’t put anything together because I don’t know much about the subject. Fortunately, I know somebody who does. In this guest post, Donna Freedman lays out the nuts and bolts of finding help when you’re in financial distress. Plenty of people who once made a good living are joining the ranks of the poor…

  • A Crash Course in Financial Freedom (91 comments)

    This is a guest post from Mary Hunt, author of Debt-Proof Living. She also runs the Debt-Proof Living website, and is an inspiration to many frugal folks. Recently, I got a message from Natalie who explained that as part of a financial preparedness night, she’ll have ten minutes to speak about financial freedom. Her question to me was, “What would you talk about if you only had ten minutes?” Only ten minutes? I find it…

  • 5 Habits of Highly-Effective Credit Card Users (71 comments)

    This is a guest post from Beverly Harzog, who writes about credit cards and personal finance at Card Ratings. Harzog is the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Person-to-Person Lending. When I was in my early twenties, I was a credit card mess. I’d go shopping with my credit card in hand and not worry about how much I spent until the bill came. At that point, though, I’d start worrying a great deal…

  • Insurance Basics: How Car Insurance Works (59 comments)

    This is the third part in a short series about insurance basics. In the first part, I explained how insurance works. In the second, I shared some general tips about how to save on insurance of all types. Today’s article offers info about auto insurance. You’ve had car insurance since you were old enough to drive, but how much do you really know about it? At its heart, your policy probably contains a few basic…

  • Insurance Basics: How to Save on Insurance (34 comments)

    This is the second part in a short series about insurance basics. Last week, I explained how insurance works. Next week (or possibly the week after), I’ll offer some tips on car insurance. Today’s article offers some general insurance tips useful for most situations. All insurance works pretty much the same way: You pay a premium (a set amount of money) to the insurance company, usually on some sort of schedule (monthly or yearly, for…

  • Reader Story: Patience and Persistence Pay Off (59 comments)

    This guest post from Alissa is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. I like all of the reader stories I publish, but for some reason I particularly like this one. Update: Now with photos! Alissa e-mailed…

  • Ask the Readers: Financial Advice for an 18-Year-Old? (114 comments)

    Last week, Isaac asked Get Rich Slowly readers for advice on how to handle life after grad school. He’s about to enter the workforce and needed tips on what to do until he gets his first paycheck. Isaac was very pleased with your helpful responses. This week, we’ve got a chance to help somebody even younger than Isaac. Nico is 18, a sophomore in college, and financially clueless. He needs help! Here’s his story: I’m…

  • Insurance Basics: How Insurance Works (32 comments)

    I don’t write a lot about insurance around here. For one thing, insurance is kind of boring. For another, I don’t know a lot about it. Still, insurance is an important part of personal finance, and my silence on the subject hasn’t gone unnoticed. Josh wrote last week to make a request: I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now, and I consider it a constant source of valuable information. However, one area…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do I Survive Until I Get My First Paycheck? (95 comments)

    Isaac wrote recently with a question about how to make the transition from college to the Real World. He has a good degree, but it’ll take him time to find a job, especially since the economy is still sluggish. He’s worried about how he should handle is finances in the meantime. Here’s his question: I recently graduated from college with a degree in electrical engineering. I’m currently living at home with my family while I…

  • How to Use a Credit Card (Without Going Into Debt) (62 comments)

    Last Friday, we had a great discussion about the socio-economic implications of credit-card rewards programs (or lack of implications, depending on your viewpoint). The conversation wasn’t nearly as tedious as my description makes it sound. In response to that article, Califia e-mailed: [Could you provide] a quick elaboration of this statement from your recent post: “I’ve gone from anti-credit-card to pro-credit-card — but only for those who can use them responsibly.” How do you define…

  • How to Build Confidence and Overcome Fear (36 comments)

    “How to Build Confidence and Overcome Fear” is a rare GRS re-run; it originally appeared on 17 February 2009. I’m dealing with a family crisis, and haven’t had time to write. Things should be back to normal tomorrow. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. — Yoda Last week I did something that scared the hell out of me. I stood in…

  • Anatomy of a Credit Card Statement (32 comments)

    With the changes included in the Credit Card Act, credit card companies are now required to give users more info on their monthly statements. My colleague over at Five Cent Nickel has whipped up an informative graphic that provides an anatomy of a credit card statement: Credit card statement changes from Five Cent Nickel These changes are designed to help credit card users become more aware of the costs associated with using credit. While I…

  • Slow and Steady: More Thoughts on Physical and Financial Fitness (73 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Last week, Robert Brokamp lamented about his not-ready-for-prime-time bikini body, asking GRS readers “whether it might make sense occasionally to engage in some extreme fiscal or physical fitness in order to see bigger results sooner, which could serve as encouragement to keep going.” Brokamp’s post was highly entertaining to be sure, but I immediately fired off an e-mail to J.D. asking if I could answer his…

  • The Rewards of Frugality and Thrift (or, Why We Scrimp and Save) (139 comments)

    Over the past couple of weeks, more than a few GRS readers have complained about the site’s tone. These folks are afraid that Get Rich Slowly is turning into a column that’s only about frugality and self-denial, one that is neglecting the “rich” part of the blog’s title. These concerns came to the fore in last week’s article about remembering to appreciate what I already have. In that discussion, ObjectiveGeek wrote: I want the best…

  • High Interest: How to Choose Between Checking, Savings, and CDs (52 comments)

    In a rocky economy, high interest rates are the holy grail of conservative investors, especially those who don’t want to to invest in bonds. But in this rocky economy, “high interest” hasn’t really meant much: High-interest savings accounts are returning below two percent! Get Rich Slowly readers are just like everybody else. A couple of times a week, I get e-mail from somebody looking for higher interest rates, but puzzled about where to find them….

  • The Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of the Budget (93 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. Summer’s here, so I’ve been working on my bikini body. But I’m not getting very far. I’ve lost about three pounds over the past three weeks. If you saw me, you may not think…

  • Ask the Readers: Methods for Effective Money Management? (132 comments)

    On Monday I confessed that since I stopped tracking my spending, I’ve actually had some trouble paying my bills. It’s not that I don’t have the money — I have plenty! — but that I no longer have a system in place to remind myself to take care of routine financial tasks. Quicken was my system, and when I stopped using it, order vanished. In the comments on Monday’s post, Rob Bennett made an astute…

  • The Personal-Finance Continuum (52 comments)

    This is a guest post from Paul Williams, a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Provident Planning, Inc. He regularly writes about personal finance from a Christian perspective at Provident Planning. About a year ago, there was nearly an epic battle between Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar. Ramit is firmly in the “earn more” camp of personal finance, while Trent tends to…

  • In Praise of Paying Yourself First (64 comments)

    Can you bear with me for one more labored metaphor? As I’ve mentioned a few times already, I’m in the midst of a successful fitness program. I’ve lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, and, more importantly, I’m exercising every day. This morning, for example, I pedaled 8-1/2 miles to my Crossfit gym; spent an hour practicing skills, doing body rows (pull-ups for people who can’t do pull-ups), and lifting weights (front squats);…

  • The Rewards of Routine Maintenance (69 comments)

    I had a great weekend. In fact, it was probably one of the best weekends I’ve had in years. I spent all day Saturday and Sunday doing chores. (Well, I watched the World Cup a little, too.) I spent nearly 16 hours doing yardwork, and I loved every minute of it. This passion for pruning may seem strange to you, but it seems even stranger to me. I generally don’t like yardwork. But here’s the…

  • Instructions for the Afterlife: Preparing for the Inevitable (31 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. I hate to get all morbid on you, but if something happened to you today that temporarily or permanently (or immortally, depending on your religious persuasion) put you out of commission, would your family…

  • Reader Story: Learning to Read the Fine Print (63 comments)

    This guest post from Joel is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. (Note that Joel is the author of the Blog Of Impossible Things, a blog documenting his attempts to live an extraordinary life by doing impossible things.) I recently moved from Chicago to Indianapolis…

  • Three Things the Amish Taught Me About Money (61 comments)

    Yesterday, a couple of readers pointed me to a CNN Money article about why Amish businesses don’t fail. Good timing, because today’s guest post is from the author profiled in that piece. This is a guest post from Erik Wesner, who researched the Amish for his new book Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive. He blogs about Amish culture at Amish America. Most people associate the Amish with certain things:…

  • Don’t Wait for a Discount — Ask for One (67 comments)

    This post is short and sweet and to the point. Folks, I cannot stress how important it is to check all of your accounts for possible savings at least once a year. This includes your bank accounts, your credit accounts, your utility accounts, and more. Basically, you should review every account that involves a financial relationship at least yearly. It’s easy to do this. Just call the customer service number and ask if there are…

  • Have a Financial Health Day…at Work (27 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. Once a month, a small group of folks at The Motley Fool gather to discuss money-saving ideas and exchange tips and tricks. Last fall, we members of the Personal Finance Club (as we boringly…

  • Save Money by Reducing Subscriptions and Avoiding Long-Term Contracts (48 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. On his own blog, Baker recently shared his 26 life lessons learned in 26 years of living. In continuing celebration of Financial Literacy Month, my GRS contributions throughout April are covering basic techniques to raise your financial awareness. We’ve previously touched on the topics of debt and income. Today we’ll tackle two of my favorite tips for ensuring conscious spending. Purge your subscriptions Subscriptions, even small ones,…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Talk About Money with Teenagers? (66 comments)

    Most readers here at Get Rich Slowly have their own tale of a financial turnaround. Many of us were just plain dumb with money when we were younger, and it took us years (or decades!) to realize the error of our ways. But what if somebody had cared enough to intervene before we got into serious trouble? Corinne wrote yesterday looking for help. She’d like to help steer her younger sister in the right direction…

  • The Get Rich Slowly Philosophy (44 comments)

    There’s been an influx of new readers at Get Rich Slowly lately. To serve as an intro the new folks (and to celebrate the site’s fourth anniversary, and in honor of Financial Literacy Month), today I’m going to review my financial philosophy. Although we covered each of these points in turn last autumn, it’s been a while since I collected these core values in one location. Based on my research — and my experience with…

  • Reader Story: Discovering the Power of Compound Interest (37 comments)

    The reader stories I’ve been featuring on Sunday for the past three months seem to be a resounding success. Instead of being the only one to read your triumphs and failures, the rest of the GRS community can share them, too. I have no plans to expand this feature beyond Sunday, but I’m making an exception today. This short post from Jess Rundell fits with April’s “financial literacy” theme, and I think it’s worth sharing….

  • Calculate How Much Your Debt Costs You Per Month (46 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Read what Baker had to say about J.D.’s new book, Your Money: The Missing Manual, in his recent review on Man Vs. Debt. As you all know, April is Financial Literacy Month. To celebrate, my weekly contributions throughout the month will cover basic techniques to raise your financial awareness. In my opinion, raising awareness is the first step to tackling financial literacy! When initially dealing with the problem…

  • National Financial Literacy Month 2010 (10 comments)

    April is National Financial Literacy Month in the U.S. As I do every April, I’ll spend much of the next few weeks reviewing basic financial concepts. But unlike past years, I’m not going to devote every post in April to this subject. It’s important, yes, but spending an entire month on the basics gets tedious. If you have a topic you’d like me to write about during National Financial Literacy Month, please let me know….

  • How to Self-Diagnose Your Financial Health (38 comments)

    The New York Times Your Money section features consistently great advice from Ron Lieber and his team. (This team includes Carl Richards, who you may remember from his excellent blog Behavior Gap; Richards has shared a couple of guest posts here at GRS in the past.) Last week, Your Money featured an article from Tara Siegel Bernard in which the author explained how to self-diagnose your financial health. “We asked planners what they ask their…

  • What Marriage Has Taught Me About Money (112 comments)

    This is a guest post from WC, a guy in Chicago that writes about money at The Writer’s Coin. In May, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary with M, my favorite person in the world. I thought I knew a lot about everything before we got married, but now I’m wiser. So for all the newlyweds out there, or the ones thinking of walking the plank getting married, here are some things you should know….

  • Reader Tip: Pay Your Bills as They Arrive (99 comments)

    Andy sent me a tip by e-mail the other day. This isn’t long enough to be a reader story, but I think it’ll be useful advice for some GRS readers. Andy says he’s learned that if he pays his bills as they arrive, he feels a lot less stressed than if he puts them off to the end of the month. When he got his first credit card, Andy made a habit of paying his…

  • How to Talk with Your Spouse About Money (73 comments)

    This is a guest post from Sierra Black, a long-time GRS reader and the author of ChildWild, a blog where she writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale. Talking about money is one of the great taboos of our culture. I know more about my friends’ sex lives than I do about their bank statements. Many of us find it hard to discuss finances under the best circumstances. When we’re…

  • 10 Steps to Financial Success in 2010 (51 comments)

    Ah, the new year. The perfect time to get your life back on track. If one of your goals for 2010 is to take control of your finances, this crash course in financial basics can help guide the way. Here are ten simple but effective steps you can take to build a better financial future. Step #1: Track every penny you spend The authors of Your Money or Your Life urge readers to “keep track…

  • Getting Started with Asset Allocation (37 comments)

    This is a guest post from Dylan Ross, a certified financial planner and a long-time GRS reader. If you’re new to investing, recognize the merits of using low-cost index funds, but you’re not sure how to allocate your long-term savings among various types of index funds, this information is for you. Asset allocation basics While there are many ways to divide investment assets into different categories, there are two main classifications: stocks and bonds. Here’s…

  • It’s More Important to Be Happy Than to Be Rich (71 comments)

    This article is the final installment of a 14-part series that explored the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. Here’s the opening paragraph from my forthcoming book, Your Money: The Missing Manual. It’s the sum of everything I’ve learned during my five year journey to get rich slowly: You don’t want to be rich — you want to be happy. Many people mistakenly believe that the former leads to the latter. While it’s certainly true…

  • Action Beats Inaction (50 comments)

    This article is the 13th of a 14-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. Five years ago, I was a different man. I had no savings, retirement or otherwise. I was literally living paycheck-to-paycheck on $42,000 a year. (Meaning: I had between $0 and $20 every time I got paid.) I was over $35,000 in debt. I had a job I hated because it had no meaning in my life. I…

  • Nobody Cares More About Your Money Than You Do (44 comments)

    This article is the 12th of a 14-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. I’ve read a lot of stuff lately about how scammers take advantage of other people. (Here, for example, is a brief summary of seven psychological tricks con artist use.) It’s easy to think that those who lose their money are just unfortunate suckers. That’s not always true. Often they’re folks just like me and you who get…

  • Financial Balance Lets You Enjoy Tomorrow AND Today (75 comments)

    This article is the 11th of a 14-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. It originally appeared at Soul Shelter in a slightly different form. For more than a decade, I was buried in debt. My relationship with money was poor. I earned a decent salary, but I couldn’t seem to get ahead. I lived paycheck-to-paycheck on $40,000 a year. I’d frequently find myself standing in a store, holding a stack…

  • Failure is Okay (55 comments)

    This article is the 10th of a 14-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. Yesterday, for the first time in my 40-1/2 years on this earth, I went ice skating. Initially, I was scared to try, but I eventually gave in to the taunts from my eight- and ten-year-old friends. I love roller skating and I’m not too bad at it, but the ice skating…well, it sucked. It took me eight…

  • Household Budgeting Made Easy (29 comments)

    This is a guest post by Austin Frakt, a health economist and university professor. You can find more by Austin at The Incidental Economist, a blog about personal finance, economics, and health care, among other things. Budgeting is the cornerstone of personal finance. You can’t make a rational financial decision without knowing the state of your cash flow. But if you’ve never developed a budget, working up a detailed one can seem like a daunting…

  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race (56 comments)

    This article is the eighth of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. One reason I got into financial trouble during my early twenties was that I wanted everything right now. I looked at what my parents had, and it didn’t occur to me that they’d been working their entire lives to get to that point. I wanted the same level of comfort, and I wanted it today. I wanted…

  • Do What Works for You (56 comments)

    This article is the seventh of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. I struggled with debt for over a decade. I made several attempts to tackle the trouble, but nothing seemed to work. Compulsive spending was part of the problem — I bought anything I wanted, even if I couldn’t afford it — but there was another factor, too. Everything I’d read gave the same advice for debt reduction:…

  • Large Amounts Matter Too (45 comments)

    This article is the sixth of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. Last winter, Kris and I re-financed our mortgage. In one fell swoop, we trimmed our monthly payments for principal and interest from $1386.60 to $1137.69, boosting our cash flow by $248.91 per month. If we had consumer debt, that’s $248.91 per month we have could used for our debt snowball. It’s $248.91 per month we could stick…

  • Small Amounts Matter (60 comments)

    This article is the fifth of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. Getting started with smart personal finance isn’t always easy. It’s one thing to read about the steps you should take, but it’s another thing to actually do them. Your debt is so overwhelming or your saving goals so lofty that you begin to believe that the only way you’ll ever get where you want to be is…

  • Pay Yourself First (57 comments)

    This article is the fourth of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. It’s also a part of National Save for Retirement Week. One of the oldest rules of personal finance is the simple admonition to pay yourself first. All the money books tell you to do it. All the personal finance blogs say it, too. Even your parents have given you the same advice. But it’s hard. That money…

  • Spend Less Than You Earn (50 comments)

    This is the third of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield When people ask me for my top tip on personal finance, they’re often disappointed. My top tip isn’t sexy. “To get out of debt and to build wealth,”…

  • Minimalist Money: 6 Steps to Simplify Your Financial Life (98 comments)

    This is a guest post from Leo Babauta of the simplicity blog, Zen Habits. Leo also recently started a new blog about minimalism, mnmlist.com. Finances are one of the most complicated things in many people’s lives … and yet, they don’t have to be. With a little effort, you can simplify your financial life and end the money headaches most people face. I consider myself a minimalist. As such, I shy from all kinds of…

  • How Much Should You Have in Savings? (117 comments)

    A couple of weeks ago, we had a fine discussion about how much we should save for retirement. But how much should we have saved for today? How much should we have in cash reserves? As I write my own book, I’m reading (and re-reading) dozens of other money manuals. While perusing Bert Whitehead’s Why Smart People Do Stupid Things With Money, I came across his table of “minimum base liquidity”. (Whitehead is a highly-educated…

  • Goals Are the Gateway to Financial Success (61 comments)

    This is the second of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. Yesterday I completed my first marathon. It didn’t happen exactly as I’d planned, but it happened. Instead of running 26.2 miles, I walked the entire course. Some might view this as a failure. Not me. I’m ecstatic to have finally, at the age of forty, met one of my life-long goals. Though I had hoped to run the…

  • Money is More About Mind Than It Is About Math (87 comments)

    This is the first of a fourteen-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. I had a group of old high-school friends over to the house last weekend. As the daylight faded and the cool of the evening settled, we sat around a blazing fire talking about life. We shared the good things we’ve done over the past twenty years — and we shared the bad. Inevitably, the conversation turned to money….

  • 11 Ways to Spice Up Your Emergency Fund (77 comments)

    This article is by Adam Baker, a GRS Staff Writer. In addition to writing for Get Rich Slowly, Baker blogs over at Man Vs. Debt, where he discusses ways to simplify your financial life. A thriving emergency fund is an essential piece of a healthy financial picture. You’ve heard this a million times before. The basics of emergency funds have been covered in depth. We’re used to hearing discussions on why they’re important and how large…

  • What Made You Care About Money? (49 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the advisor for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. I’ve discovered the secret to becoming financially responsible: Go into serious debt. Or get married, divorced, or pregnant. And reading a good book helps. At least, that’s what you told me. A few weeks…

  • The 1-2-3 Money Plan (36 comments)

    For years, people who know me well have been encouraging me to read Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. “You’ll love it,” they’d tell me. “A lot of it is about comic books.” My friends were right: I’m the target audience for this book. Here it is late Wednesday night, and I’ve spent the past few hours unable to put it down. I had to finish. But Kavalier & Clay isn’t the…

  • Compound Interest: One Percent Can Make All the Difference (43 comments)

    How many of you consider the effects of compound interest (or “compound returns”, if you prefer) when you make financial decisions? I mention the concept from time-to-time — and I’ve even devoted whole articles to the extraordinary power of compound interest — but I don’t know if others keep the notion in mind when they work with their finances. When I was younger, when I was struggling with money, I only had a fuzzy notion…

  • How to Choose the Right Bank Account (53 comments)

    On my first day of college, I chose a checking account because the bank was handing out free Frisbees. This was my only bank account for nearly 20 years. Eventually I opened a savings account at the local credit union. Then I discovered the benefits of a high-yield savings account. Last autumn I opened my first certificate of deposit. And just a few months ago, I started a money market account. Why so many accounts?…

  • The Seven Enemies of Financial Success (55 comments)

    Earlier today, I wrote about Brett Wilder’s The Quiet Millionaire. It’s different than most personal finance books I’ve read. It’s targeted at those who are further along their financial journeys rather than at those just starting out. Still, there are bits and pieces in The Quiet Millionaire that are applicable to everyone. I particularly liked Wilder’s list of the seven enemies to financial success (which is my phrase, not his). Over the past few weeks,…

  • A Call from Capital One (79 comments)

    I don’t often post follow-ups to previous articles, especially after just a few days. But following Tuesday’s post on two-cycle billing, a couple of things happened that deserve mention. Understanding Grace Periods Several readers suggested that what I experienced was not two-cycle billing but the lack of a grace period. Special thanks especially to Kitty, who linked to the American Express document on understanding grace periods. Kitty writes: If you didn’t pay your previous month’s…

  • A Small Mistake (129 comments)

    Important note: Despite what the credit card company told me, and despite my own mis-information, this story below apparently does NOT relate to two-cycle billing. Instead, my frustration stems from the way some credit card companies handle their grace periods. Thanks for all of the commenters who pointed out the error. Here’s a follow-up to this situation. For almost a decade, I refused to use a personal credit card. I knew that I couldn’t control…

  • Discovering (and Challenging) Your Financial Values (48 comments)

    This is a guest post from Karawynn, who writes about personal finance at Pocketmint. Karawynn is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. In her first article, she visited the Island of Misfit Foods. Karawynn has been blogging since before “blogging” was a word. My parents taught me nothing about money management. My dad opened a checking account for me in high school and showed me how to use the checkbook register. Beyond that,…

  • What We Wish We Knew When We Were Younger (124 comments)

    Kris called me at seven o’clock last night, just as I was sitting down to write the Friday “Ask the Readers” post. I was sorting through this week’s questions when the phone rang. “Are you busy?” she asked. “Can you do me favor?” “Maybe,” I said. “It depends on what it is.” “Ryan’s car broke down,” Kris said. “He’s stranded here at the lab and can’t get home. Can you give him a ride across…

  • The Ascent of Money (31 comments)

    Beginning tonight, public television stations in the United States will broadcast a four-part series from economist and historian Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money. This is an expanded version of a documentary that first aired in January. Here’s a description of The Ascent of Money from the official site: For millions of people, the recession has generated a thirst for knowledge about how our global economic system really works, especially when so many financial experts…

  • Learning to Budget with the JARS System (75 comments)

    This is a guest post from Steve Martile, a life coach and the author of the personal-growth blog Freedom Education. Here he describes a budgeting system that actually reminds me of Elizabeth Warren’s balanced money formula, but with a little more detail. Managing money doesn’t restrict freedom — it creates freedom. That’s probably not the first time you’ve heard this. If you want to create financial abundance, you’ve got to start managing your money. I…

  • An Introduction to Money Market Accounts & How to Find The Best Rates (51 comments)

    I’ve been moving large sums of money between my bank accounts recently. I’m shuffling funds from my business account to my personal account to my high-yield savings account in an attempt to get each dollar in its proper place. It’s really not as complicated as I make it seem, though it does take a little work. At one point during this process, I ended up with over $25,000 in my credit-union checking account. Most of…

  • The First Three Steps to Financial Freedom (54 comments)

    The hardest part of money management is just getting started. Once you have some momentum, it’s easier to make the right choices. Kay has been reading personal finance blogs for almost a year now, and she knows that she needs to make some changes, but she doesn’t know how to begin. She writes: I want to get serious about being good with my money, but I don’t know where to start. I never developed good…

  • What Makes Us Tick: A Short Film About How the Stock Market Works (from 1952) (15 comments)

    It’s been several months since I’ve discovered a new money movie to share with you. I love these things, but I’ve exhausted most of my sources for Public Domain material. However, while browsing the Prelinger Archives again the other day, I discovered a little gem that had slipped my notice before: “What Makes Us Tick”, a short cartoon from 1952 that describes how the stock market works. Note: The Prelinger Archives offer hours of amusement…

  • Where We’re Starting From (30 comments)

    Each of us has a unique relationship with money. Some have always used it wisely, have saved, have avoided debt. Others, like me, have struggled. I carried consumer debt for 20 years. I didn’t open my first savings account until I was 36 years old. But now, after just over four years of intense effort, I feel financially secure. I still make mistakes (boy, do I!), but my momentum is leading me in the direction…

  • The Great Piggy Bank Adventure (29 comments)

    “If we’re going to have a free-market capitalist society, we’ve got to give people the tools to not be victims” — John Cammack, T. Rowe Price I get a lot of e-mail from PR firms. I ignore most of it, but occasionally something stands out. One recent message invited me to make a trip to Orlando for the debut of The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, a new financial literacy exhibit at Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center….

  • Un-Broke: What You Need to Know About Money (40 comments)

    I don’t watch much television; I’m more of a books and magazines and newspapers kind of guy. But I’ll make an exception this Friday. ABC will be broadcasting a special entitled Un-Broke: What You Need to Know About Money. According to the website: Schools teach us almost everything, but not “Money 101.” For the basics on finance, turn to UN-BROKE: What You Need to Know About Money. It’s an unconventional look at the fundamentals of…

  • How to Build Wealth, Ignore Wall Street, and Get on With Your Life (235 comments)

    This is a guest post rom Bill Schultheis, author of The New Coffeehouse Investor: How to Build Wealth, Ignore Wall Street, and Get On With Your Life. Schultheis is an investment advisor in Kirkland, Washington. To learn more, visit his website. What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago everyone was chasing the next hot stock. Equity markets were generating double digit annual returns and dot-com companies were doubling overnight. Greed was widespread in…

  • Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford (25 comments)

    One of the best things about running this site is reviewing all of the reader submissions. You folks send me tons of links and story ideas. But in the past three years, there’s one item that you have submitted more than any other. Every month several people forward a Saturday Night Live skit called “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford”. I’ve never been able to share this video on Get Rich Slowly, though, because it’s…

  • How Much Money Should You Save? (51 comments)

    At CNNMoney, Walter Updegrave hosts an “Ask the Expert” column in which he fields reader questions. (Updegrave is an editor at Money Magazine.) Lionel from San Diego recently wrote in with a question that all of us have: What percentage of income should someone save in order to be considered financially responsible? I’m wary of spending now because of the bad economy, but I don’t know how much I should be saving on a monthly…

  • The Secure Student Program (48 comments)

    In March, I hosted a guest post from Mike Young about the ongoing battle with lifestyle inflation. Young runs The Secure Student, a program that teaches high school students how to manage their money. At the time, I thought The Secure Student might be worth sharing during Financial Literacy Month, but I forgot about it until yesterday. This morning I spent some time reviewing the program. According to the website, The Secure Student is designed…

  • How to Find the Right CD or Money Market Account (21 comments)

    This is a guest post from Richard Barrington, a Chartered Financial Analyst and 20-year veteran of the financial industry. Barrington blogs regularly at MoneyRates. Conservative savings vehicles such as certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts look especially appealing these days, despite low interest rates. But how do you pick the right savings vehicle for your needs? There are many options, and a little information will help you make the best choice for your…

  • An Introduction to Life Insurance (68 comments)

    Many of you have asked for life insurance information, so Ray from Financial Highway offered to provide this guest post on the subject. This is new info for me, too. Protecting your family from financial disasters is one of the fundamental components of financial planning. Life insurance should be a core part of that planning process. This article is a basic primer on life insurance, which should introduce you to the concept and give you…

  • How to Create Your Own Target-Date Mutual Fund (35 comments)

    This is a guest post from Frank Curmudgeon, who writes about bad money advice at his aptly-named blog, Bad Money Advice. You may have heard of target-date funds. In 2006 they were okayed as default investment options for 401k accounts, so if you said nothing about where you wanted your 401k money to go, you might even have found yourself the proud owner of one. A target-date fund is a mutual fund that is made…

  • The Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning (20 comments)

    Last week I shared Investing for Your Future, a fantastic 11-week home-study course for beginning investors with small dollar amounts to invest. This week I found a similar resource from UC Irvine, which offers a free online class in the fundamentals of personal financial planning. According to the course introduction: This course is not intended to replace the professional financial planner, but to help to make the general public better consumers of financial planning advice….

  • How to Read a Mutual Fund Prospectus (28 comments)

    This is a guest post from Neal Frankle, a Certified Financial Planner, and the author of Wealth Pilgrim, a blog about his financial journey. If we’ve learned anything from the current financial crisis, we’ve learned that it’s important to understand what it is we’re actually investing in. No more black-box investing, right? That’s true of the folks on Wall Street, but it’s also true of the average mutual-fund investor, too. If you invest in mutual…

  • Investing 101: How Bonds Work (34 comments)

    This is a guest post from Joe Light, a staff writer for Money Magazine. Light also shares daily insight at his blog, Invest Wisdom. You probably know how to find and buy stocks. It’s so easy, E*Trade says, a baby can do it, right? Unfortunately, while online stock brokers have made stock investing child’s play over the last 10 years, bond investing has been slow to catch up. In fact, on many online broker sites,…

  • The Basics of Bonds (23 comments)

    Tomorrow morning, Get Rich Slowly will feature a guest post about how bonds work. Bonds don’t get a lot of press. They’re not as sexy as stocks, and many beginning investors simply ignore them. (I know that has certainly been true in my case.) Before tomorrow’s story, though, I wanted to take some time to review the basics of bonds. When you buy stock, you are buying a piece a company, but when you buy…

  • In Pursuit of Financial Education for All (50 comments)

    This is a guest post from Sharon Lechter, co-author of Rich Dad Poor Dad and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. She is the CEO of Pay Your Family First and founder of YOUTHpreneur. Our current economic condition has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that we, as a nation and as individuals, need financial education. It’s an unfortunate truth that many students leave high school or college knowing the molecular weight…

  • Investing for Your Future (8 comments)

    Sometimes you can find financial advice in the most unlikely of places. Recently, I was browsing the website of the Oregon State University extension service for gardening information. Kris and I have found that university extension offices often have fantastic resources for do-it-yourselfers. Our extension office has gardening calendars and how-to articles, for example. Apparently the extension office also offers a variety of financial resources. The front page of the OSU extension website promotes a…

  • Investing 101: An Introduction to Asset Allocation (31 comments)

    This is a guest post from ABCs of Investing, a new site for novice investors. ABCs of Investing offers one short and simple investing post each week. Understanding asset allocation is a key piece of financial literacy. In my last post at Get Rich Slowly, I explained the basics of passive investing and why it’s a good strategy. I explored the differences between index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and showed how they’re great tools for…

  • The Ways and Means of Coping with Emergencies (63 comments)

    This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, a Canadian financial writer and host of the television series ‘Til Debt Do Us Part. Experts have been touting the importance of having an emergency fund since Moses was a lad. So why is it that so many people still don’t have enough (or any?) money set aside just in case? Reasons and rationales abound. “I’m paying off my debt. That’s the most important thing.” With the…

  • Ask the Readers: Where’s the Fun in Personal Finance? (101 comments)

    I’ve received a ton of great questions and comments recently that probe beyond the basic mechanics of money management and get to the heart of why we do these things. For example, Brent dropped a line last week wondering if making smart financial decisions ought to make him happy. Here’s his message: You and many of your readers clearly get joy from financial planning. My wife and I have gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace…

  • How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously (50 comments)

    Once or twice a year, my wife and I spend a Saturday combing the local thrift stores looking for bargains. Kris is mainly after clothes. I target books — especially personal-finance books. On one recent trip, I picked up a two-dollar copy of How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously, a 1988 book from Jerrrold Mundis. How to Get Out of Debt is built on the principles of Debtors…

  • Direct Stock Purchase Plans: A Better Way to Invest (64 comments)

    This is a guest post from Michael Robertson, a writer and avid personal investor who lives in Washington, D.C. He is keenly interested in raising money for, and awareness of, multiple myeloma. So you want to buy stocks? Great! But you only have a small amount of money each month to invest? You’re worried about any potential returns being wiped out in the beginning by brokerage fees? You’re wise to worry. Invest $100 bucks per…

  • The Fundamental Rules of Investment Success (28 comments)

    John Templeton was born in the small town of Winchester, Tennessee in 1912. As a young man, he graduated first in his class from Yale University before earning a law degree as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Eventually he became a billionaire by popularizing globally-diversified mutual funds. Templeton started his own mutual-fund company in 1954. He sold his firm to Franklin Resources in 1992, which became known as Franklin Templeton Investments after…

  • The Financial Literacy Compendium (12 comments)

    It’s April once again, which means it’s also Financial Literacy Month in the United States. Because basic financial literacy is imperative, Get Rich Slowly will devote the next few weeks to covering the fundamentals of personal finance. If you have a topic you’d like me to write about, please let me know. To begin, however, here’s my annual collection of financial literacy resources I’ve provided in the past. Get Rich Slowly This site regularly features…

  • The $1500 Frisbee (52 comments)

    It’s April Fools’ Day! In 2007, I regaled you with lifestyles of the rich and stupid. Last year, I explained how to turn $500 into $7 the hard way. And this year I offer you yet another tale of my own financial foolishness. On the first day of college, I opened my first bank account. The gym was filled with registration tables, not just for classes and clubs, but also for local businesses wanting to…

  • What Fourth-Graders “Know” About Money (50 comments)

    Financial Literacy Month begins today. What better way to kick things off than with a story from the trenches? This is a guest post from Chett Daniel, who writes about improving your life through personal fitness and personal finance at 5k5k.org. Every day when I go to work, I have a chance to influence the lives of children. I left a well-paying corporate job nearly two years ago, taking a 50% cut in pay to…

  • Financial Independence: The Final Stage of Money Management (46 comments)

    This is the last of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. These stories have intentionally been less polished than most articles at Get Rich Slowly. This is a chance for me to think out loud, to explore an idea with you in an informal way. In February, I wrote that I was entering the third stage of personal finance. As I made my way out of debt and began to save, I…

  • How Much Do You Need to Save for Retirement? (104 comments)

    I’ve had several conversations in the past month with people who are wondering how much to save for retirement. They’re worried they won’t have enough. (And the recent market turmoil only makes matters worse.) The problem is that nobody seems to agree on what assumptions to make when planning for retirement. How much should you assume for inflation? For investment returns? For rising health-care costs? How long should you expect to live? Conventional wisdom Most…

  • How to Save $100 (or More) at the Grocery Store This Month (75 comments)

    This is a guest post from Erin, who writes about frugal food at $5 Dinners. When gas prices were soaring in the summer of 2008, my family was scrambling to find ways to save money. We could not reduce the prices at the gas pumps, we were locked into the lowest interest rate on our mortgage, and our budget was maxed out. I knew the only way we could continue without running into the red each month…

  • My Financial Infrastructure (80 comments)

    While preparing for the first episode of The Personal Finance Hour yesterday, I was browsing Jim’s archives over at Bargaineering. I stumbled upon an old post about creating a financial network map: A map of Jim’s financial network Mapping your financial infrastructure is a mundane task. It’s not exciting. It’s not likely to save you big bucks. Instead, it’s the sort of Big Picture exercise that each of us ought to perform from time-to-time just…

  • Book Review: I Will Teach You to Be Rich (40 comments)

    Today I am reviewing a new book written by a colleague. As you read this review, please remember that I am friends with author. For comparison, you can see my reviews of two other books by friends here and here. I’m often asked to recommend personal-finance books for young adults. I’ve read a few (and have more in my to-read stack), but there are only two that I promote in my presentations to students: Debt…

  • Lighting the Way (38 comments)

    This is the fourth of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. First, I described the zeroth stage of money management, in which I was fumbling in the dark, spending compulsively and accumulating debt. Next, I described the first stage, in which I finally saw the light and began to repay my debt. Last week, I shared the the light at the end of the tunnel: what happened after my debt was gone…

  • Financial Commandments from Kiplinger’s (27 comments)

    Earlier this year, Erin Burt from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance published a pair of related columns describing smart money moves for various stages of life. In “10 Financial Commandments for Your 20s”, Burt offers advice for those who are just getting started on their own. Among her mandates: plan ahead, live within your means, make saving a habit, and start investing. I think one of her best suggestions comes in commandment seven, “have a marketable skill”:…

  • Snake-Oil Salesmen? Debating the Role of the Financial Media (74 comments)

    Jim Cramer is the manic host of CNBC’s Mad Money, a television show that offers stock recommendations and investment advice. Jon Stewart is the host of Comedy Central’s satirical news program, The Daily Show. Cramer and Stewart engaged in a war of words recently, which came to a head last Thursday night when Cramer appeared on Stewart’s program. Stewart’s complaint is that CNBC doesn’t offer financial news and advice so much as it acts as…

  • The Light at the End of the Tunnel (25 comments)

    This is the third of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. In the first part I described the zeroth stage of money management, in which I was fumbling in the dark, spending compulsively and accumulating debt. Last week I described the first stage, in which I finally saw the light and began to repay my debt. Today I share what happened next. Last night at dinner, my friend Mike told me about…

  • How Marginal Tax Rates Work (95 comments)

    Yesterday I hosted a guest article about the mortagage-interest tax deduction. As part of his argument that this tax break should not be used to justify buying a house, CJ from Wise Money Matters looked at the savings by tax brackets. What CJ did not consider (and what escaped my notice, and even that of my accountant) was the concept of marginal tax rates. Although I was mortified to have let such a blatant error…

  • A Candle in the Dark (46 comments)

    This is the second of a five-part series about the “stages” of personal finance. Last Sunday, I shared part one: “Fumbling in the Dark”. In June of 2004, Kris and I bought a new house. On paper, we could afford the upgrade. In reality, things felt pinched. For one thing, my consumer debt had grown to over $35,000. The increased housing payments didn’t help. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the extensive…

  • The Ongoing Battle with Lifestyle Inflation (61 comments)

    This is a guest post from Mike Young, who runs The Secure Student, a program that teaches high school students how to manage their money. In high school, I had a small allowance from my parents every week. When I spent my allowance on gas, food, whatever — that was it. I had to wait until next week before I saw another dime. I remember having to really think about what I spent my money…

  • Fumbling in the Dark (77 comments)

    I’ve had good control of my saving and spending for nearly two years now. I still make poor choices now and then, but they don’t have the consequences they would have a decade ago. A decade ago, I was in debt. Today, I am not. That’s one of the advantages of being debt-free: when you do something dumb, the repercussions are not as severe. But I remember a time when each bad choice brought me…

  • What Tax Season Taught Me About Personal Finance (29 comments)

    This is a guest post from Tara Young. This winter marks my fourth season as a volunteer tax preparer under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, which provides free tax preparation services for lower income and elderly taxpayers. The experience has been quite rewarding, and I’ve learned more about U.S. personal income taxes than I ever imagined existed — or wanted to know. After completing several hundred returns, the following recurring themes resonate with me…

  • “Do What You Love” — And Other Career Advice (43 comments)

    On Tuesday, I spoke to students at Western Oregon University about the transition from college to the “real world”. I attended this same event last year, so knew going in that it would be interesting to hear what the other presenters had to say. I spoke about personal finance; they spoke about finding a job and finding meaning. I took notes. Here’s the career advice offered by the six speakers: Ron Theisen The first speaker…

  • Riches — Or Just a Competence? (20 comments)

    Melissa wrote recently to point me to a story at the fantastic Modern Mechanix blog (a blog I might write if I didn’t write GRS). From the June 1917 issue of Illustrated World comes a true tale of getting rich — slowly. Although this work is now Public Domain, I wrote to ask permission to make use of the scans. Charlie, who runs Modern Mechanix, graciously agreed. I want to be clear that he did…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Prioritize Savings Goals? (72 comments)

    Once you’ve paid off your debt, it’s time to save. But for many of us, it’s difficult to know where to start. Via Twitter (and edited slightly), @funkyknitwit asks: How do you set priorities with savings? I have so many things I want to save for, but I don’t know where to start! What I mean is, how can I decide which thing I should work towards first? My budgeting is already in order. This…

  • How to Build Confidence and Destroy Fear (102 comments)

    Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. — Yoda Last week I did something that scared the hell out of me. I stood in front of nearly 200 financial planners and I talked to them about why financial blogs are a good thing. I’m a confident writer. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know my strengths and my limitations. I’ve…

  • Ask the Readers: Two Questions About Saving (93 comments)

    I’ve been swamped lately. As a result, the reader questions have been piling up. There’s a huge backlog. Today I’m going to tackle two related questions at once. Do you have an opinion on the best place to save your money? Chime in below! Where should I start saving? First up, ashleyD commented on my recent post about using financial spreadsheets. She’s beginning to get control of her finances, but she doesn’t know where to…

  • Investing 101: Average is NOT Normal (48 comments)

    This is a guest post from Carl Richards at Behavior Gap. It’s based on one of my favorite posts at his site, and is a terrific complement/counterpoint to my article on how much the stock market actually returns. As he points out, average returns are not normal. On average, stock market returns are higher than inflation, money markets, or bonds. Understanding this is an important step to any successful financial plan, but there is a…

  • “What Next?” The Third Stage of Personal Finance (142 comments)

    I earned more money in 2008 than I’ve ever made in my life. Get Rich Slowly isn’t just a personal success — it’s a financial success, as well. Combine this income with an ongoing campaign of frugality — my spending last year was the lowest it’s been since I started tracking it — and my financial position is rosy. My plan to get rich slowly is succeeding. Financial security Yet despite my increased wealth, I…

  • 5 Credit Card Company Tricks — and How to Thwart Them (56 comments)

    This is a guest post from Justin McHenry, president of Index Credit Cards, a credit card comparison and information site. Index Credit Cards was named “most comprehensive” by Reader’s Digest in its October 2008 issue, and regularly cited by both old and new media. True or False? Credit card companies lure you in with big promises, but bury the nasty stuff in fine print. It would be hard to find many people that disagree. Unfortunately,…

  • 9 Methods for Mastering Your Money (75 comments)

    2008 was a miserable year for money. The stock market tumbled, unemployment soared, the housing market continued to crumble, and retirement savings shriveled away. Whew! Here’s hoping 2009 will be better! But hope can only do so much. Hope cannot bring change. Action brings change. If one of your goals for 2009 is to take control of your money (instead of letting it keep control of you), this crash course in financial basics can help…

  • Personal Finance 101: How to Pay Your Utility Bills (17 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation. This is a guest post from Wanda, who wrote to tell me that a shocking number of people have trouble paying their utility bills correctly. How do you pay your bills? My father taught me to pay them on time and in full. That’s great advice, but there is so much more to correctly paying your bills. As a small town municipal employee, I have assisted people with their water bills…

  • Yes, You Can Achieve Financial Independence (33 comments)

    In the midst of our rush to earn money, our scramble to save for retirement, our focus on frugality, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re doing this. What is the goal? What is it we’re trying to accomplish by getting rich slowly? For me — and for many others — the answer is Financial Independence. Your Money or Your Life defines Financial Independence as “having an income sufficient for your basic needs and…

  • Investing 101: An Introduction to Index Funds and Passive Investing (57 comments)

    This is a guest post from ABCs of Investing, a new site for novice investors. ABCs of Investing offers two short and simple investing posts each week. Personal finance bloggers are vocal proponents of passive investing in index funds and exchange-traded funds. But not everyone knows much about these, and not a lot of bloggers do a good job of explaining the basics of passive investing. This post is intended to explain the basics —…

  • When Less is More: The Importance of Perceived Value (71 comments)

    The things we buy have an absolute value — the price we pay for them — but they also possess relative perceived values. Not everything with the same price holds the same value to me. An $80 pair of work boots might be worth much more to me than an $80 sweater or an $80 meal in a restaurant. And I can often (not always) derive more value from something cheap than from a more…

  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want: The Dark Side of Personal Finance (127 comments)

    I drove down to clean the moss of the roof of my mother’s house last week. I spent several hours on top of the house with my cousin Nick, scraping and hosing and blowing away years of green growth. We chatted as we worked. I told him that I was going to speak with a literary agent on the following day, and that I hoped I might soon have a book deal. “How does that…

  • Do the Tools of Personal Finance Actually Work? (23 comments)

    New visitors to Get Rich Slowly are sometimes skeptical. “Do the things you write about actually work?” they ask.  Absolutely they work.  They work financially, but many of them also work psychologically. That last bit may be the most important. I frequently say that money is “more about mind than it is about math”, and I mean it. We all know the basic arithmetic behind money management — it’s the psychological stuff that gets in…

  • All You Ever Wanted to Know About Emergency Funds (But Were Afraid to Ask) (183 comments)

    This is a guest post from Dylan Ross. Dylan is a long-time member of the Get Rich Slowly community: a frequent commenter and occasional guest author. He’s also a Certified Financial Planner. This article is an abridged version of a chapter Dylan contributed to Investing in an Uncertain Economy for Dummies, which was recently published by Wiley. See the end of this post for a chance to win a copy. Even if you’ve never had…

  • Making the Most of Your Checking Account (104 comments)

    In the past, we’ve discussed the best online high-yield savings account, covered the basics of certificates of deposit, and even explored the beauty of Roth IRAs. But we’ve never talked about checking accounts. Many people believe checking accounts are the dinosaurs of the banking world. They’re not extinct yet. In the past few weeks, I’ve received two questions about them: “Where can I get the best rate on a checking account?” “How much should I…

  • Ask the Readers: How Can I Know Whom to Trust? (60 comments)

    Joleen wrote this week with a unique situation. She’s a Canadian who has been working overseas in China for the past six years. She has accumulated substantial savings in the local currency, but has no idea what to do with her money. She writes: I was recently approached by a financial advisor who works for a large international brokerage. He wanted me to think about investing in an offshore account and/or the stock market. I’ve had one…

  • Put Your Savings on Steroids with Certificates of Deposit (73 comments)

    High-yield savings accounts are great. They allow you to set aside money in a safe place to earn a respectable return. (That return is low right now, but will increase as the economy improves and interest rates rise.) But did you know you can put your savings on steroids by using a certificate of deposit? Certificates of deposit (often simply called CDs), by definition are time deposits. You give your money to the bank and…

  • Creating a Will: It’s Not as Scary as You Might Think (42 comments)

    My friend Sparky called the other day. We chatted about work, we chatted about the economy, and we chatted about investing. We also chatted about our families. We talked about my mother and her health problems, and then we talked about his parents and their health problems. “I can’t believe they haven’t updated their wills,” said Sparky. “What?” I said. “Are you kidding me? How old are they?” “They’re both about 65,” he said. “Maybe…

  • Ask the Readers: Twenty-Something Needs Help! (191 comments)

    In general, when I share reader questions, I try to keep them as broad as possible. I get a lot of requests for advice about specific situations, but I try to steer those to the Get Rich Slowly discussion forum. I like for the questions on the blog to be relevant to a lot of readers. Here’s a small exception. Christine wrote for help with her specific circumstances. She’s a twenty-something student overwhelmed by her…

  • The Balanced Money Formula (86 comments)

    Building a budget is one of the basic tasks of personal finance. But not everyone can keep a budget. As much as I’d like to, I don’t feel comfortable with detailed planning. I continue to use a spending plan as a rough guide to my future, but a traditional budget just doesn’t work for me. Last night I stumbled across the Balanced Money Formula proposed by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi in their excellent book,…

  • How Low Can You Go? Cutting Back to Minimum (192 comments)

    I was sick again yesterday morning. To console myself, I made a cup of cocoa. As I was preparing to add the required three tablespoons of chocolate powder, it occurred to me that maybe I could get by with two tablespoons. I’d be saving calories and money at the same time! The cocoa wasn’t quite as good as usual, but it was good enough. And by dropping to two tablespoons instead of three, I saved…

  • Beyond “Real Hourly Wage”: How Much Time Does Stuff Actually Cost? (35 comments)

    In my last post, I explained how to compute your real hourly wage, a notion popularized by the book Your Money or Your Life. Authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin encourage readers to calculate their real hourly wage to gain insight into how much time and energy things cost. To do this, you must subtract your annual work-related expenses from your annual income, and then divide the total by the number of hours you spend…

  • How to Compute Your REAL Hourly Wage (39 comments)

    Like many Get Rich Slowly readers, I credit Your Money or Your Life with changing the way I approach my personal finances. This book transformed my relationship with money, and helped me to understand that by spending beyond my means, I was sacrificing a secure future for today’s passing pleasures. One of the book’s key insights is that time really is money. Or, approaching it from the other direction, money is time. The authors write:…

  • Investing in a Bear Market (93 comments)

    On 09 October 2007, the Dow Jones Industrials hit a record high, closing at 14,279. What a difference a year makes: Last Friday, the Dow closed at 8451, and there’s a good chance it will drop even further. Unsurprisingly, my inbox is filled with e-mail from people who wonder what they should do. Here are some typical questions from readers like you: “Originally we had planned to open Roth IRAs this weekend, but with the…

  • The Sunk-Cost Fallacy Revisted (38 comments)

    Last month I wrote about the sunk-cost fallacy, the mistaken belief that just becuase you’ve spent money on something you should continue to spend money on it. In reality, once you’ve spent your money, it’s gone. According to economists and psychologists, it’s a mistake to consider past expenses in deciding what to do with your investments, your home, or your Stuff. What’s important are future expenses and future happiness. To the extent that we can…

  • Funding the Future with a Financial Savings Plan (21 comments)

    When do I want to retire? How much do I want to have saved? What sorts of things do I want to accomplish before then? I’ve begun to think seriously about these questions lately. Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity recently offered some tips on how to draft a basic financial savings plan, a tool that could help me craft a road map for my future. He says that failure to plan is one of…

  • What is Money? A Basic Economics Lesson from 1947 (19 comments)

    I was pleased recently to discover another handful of short films about financial topics from the 1940s and 1950s. I’ll share them over the next few months, starting with this timely piece from 1947. With the recent economic turmoil in the U.S., it’s worthwhile to answer the question: What is money? This ten-minute film takes its structure by following a single $5 bill as it circulates from person to person, being used in a variety…

  • The Millionaire Quiz (46 comments)

    How much do you know about millionaires? Kris recently had dinner with her friend Linda, who is a high school social studies teacher. As they ate, Linda bemoaned the lack of personal finance and economics education in the United States. She mentioned that every year she gives her economics students a short “Millionaire Quiz” to see just how much they know about wealth and where it comes from. They do poorly at it, which surprises…

  • Are You Worried About Today’s Economy? (44 comments)

    I drove to the box factory earlier this week to chat with my former co-workers. While I was there, I asked my cousin Nick (the bookkeeper) for info on the company retirement plan. I still have $80,000 that I need to roll over once I set up my new 401(k) for the blog. Only, it seems I don’t have $80,000 in retirement savings anymore. It’s more like $60,000. 2008 has not been kind to American…

  • How and When to Cancel a Credit Card (79 comments)

    Update: After feedback from readers, I’ve made some clarifications to this post. My recommendations have not changed, but I’ve tried to emphasize the effect closing a credit card can have on your credit score. My recent two-part series on responsible credit card use (Five essential credit card skills and How to choose a credit card) prompted several readers to ask the same question: What’s the best way to cancel credit cards in order to minimize…

  • The Budget Toolbox: 13 Tools for Building a Better Budget (55 comments)

    Sara’s been reading personal finance blogs for a while now, and she’s ready to set up a budget. She’s come to us for help. She writes: I would like to start listing my spending totals into a spreadsheet budget along with setting goals for ‘bigger things’ (trips, winter tires etc). Do you have a budget template that works for you, or could you please recommend a few tips on getting started? A budget can be…

  • Net Worth: The Most Important Number in Personal Finance? (50 comments)

    Do you know your net worth? Your net worth is a snapshot of your financial life at one moment in time, a single number representing your financial health. It’s the total of everything you’ve earned and spent until today. In The Wall Street Journal Complete Personal Finance Guidebook, Jeff Opdyke writes: Knowing your net worth is important…if only for one reason: It forces you to interact with your financial life, keeping you in touch with…

  • How to Choose a Credit Card (63 comments)

    A credit card can be a useful tool or it can be a dangerous weapon. Most of this depends on you — the best credit card in the world won’t help if you spend beyond your means. American adults carry thousands of dollars in average credit card debt. I lived a decade mired in it and I don’t recommend it to anyone. If you’re responsible, however, a credit card can be both convenient and efficient….

  • The Sunk-Cost Fallacy: Good Money After Bad (97 comments)

    My mother spent three weeks in the hospital in August. Her extended stay affected me in lots of little ways I couldn’t anticipate. To escape my daily worries, I went searching for a little solace — I re-activated my World of Warcraft account. World of Warcraft is a subscription-based online computer game. As a player, you become immersed in a virtual fantasy world, interacting with thousands of other players from around the globe. It’s great…

  • Credit Card Basics: Five Essential Skills for Mastering Plastic (43 comments)

    The latest issue of Consumer Reports (October 2008) has an article about the new credit card jungle. The faltering economy and the ongoing mortgage crisis may be affecting your credit cards; issuers are raising rates, changing terms, and lowering credit limits. The magazine notes: “Now is an essential time to do a credit-card checkup to make sure your accounts haven’t changed for the worse.” I like the idea of a credit-card checkup, but I don’t…

  • Financial Success Comes from Within (36 comments)

    This is a guest post from Flexo at Consumerism Commentary, the granddaddy of personal finance blogs. Previously at GRS, he shared how to be the Chief Financial Officer of your own life. Success, financial or otherwise, comes from within. According to studies by psychologists and researchers, people with an internal locus of control are more apt to plan for long-term goals, delay gratification, and accept more risk for the promise of more reward. These qualities…

  • How to Win the Lottery (128 comments)

    Ray Otero cannot buy a break. For the past three years, he’s spent $500 to $700 a week playing the lottery, but he’s only won big a few times: $1,000 once and $2,000 twice. Still he keeps playing. He’s sure his luck is bound to change. Otero’s story, told in a recent New York Times article, is simultaneously funny, poignant, and exasperating. This New York City building superintendent simply wants the “easy life” for his…

  • The Psychology of Happiness: 13 Steps to a Better Life (104 comments)

    We think we know what will make us happy, but we don’t. Many of us believe that money will make us happy, but it won’t. Except for the very poor, money cannot buy happiness. Instead of dreaming of vast wealth, we should dream of close friends and healthy bodies and meaningful work. The psychology of happiness Several years ago, James Montier, a “global equity strategist”, took a break from investing in order to publish a…

  • Using an Allowance to Teach Kids About Money (40 comments)

    This is a guest post from Nickel, who writes about personal finance at Five Cent Nickel. Since that and his four kids don’t keep him busy enough, he’s launched another site more narrowly focused on credit card offers. Though small was your allowance, you saved a little store; and those who save a little shall get a plenty more. — William Makepeace Thackeray Just over three years ago, we decided to start paying our kids…

  • A Quick and Dirty Budget (21 comments)

    I’m not a budgeter. I’m not able to sit down and draft a detailed budget. I use a spending plan instead, which is a sort of road map to the where I want to go, but which does not contained detailed directions. I recognize that budgets are valuable tools for many people, though. Dayana Yochim at The Motley Fool has some tips about budgeting for lazy people. She says that the secret to setting up…

  • The Best Advice I Ever Got: 40 Great Money Tips (28 comments)

    CNNMoney has posted a gallery of money tips from 40 “great minds”, ranging from Derek Jeter to Tim Ferriss to Burton Malkiel. Each participant provided an anecdote about the best piece of financial advice they ever received. I’ve listed some of the highlights below. Remember: this is the best advice given to these people. It’s the financial advice they feel has made the biggest difference in their lives. Dean Kamen, Segway inventor: “Find work in…

  • Why I Fought to Save Three Bucks (and Why You Should Too) (201 comments)

    This guest post comes from Donna Freedman, a blogger at MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog. Donna is one of my favorite personal finance writers. This is a reprint (with permission) of one of her recent pieces. On Friday I visited Office Depot for school backpacks at the killer price of $2.99. Along with other loss-leader school supplies, they’ll be donated to a local social services agency. At the checkout, I handed over a “20% off…

  • If Personal Finance is Easy, Why Isn’t Everybody Rich? (53 comments)

    Yesterday, MSN’s Smart Spending blog posted a version of my recent article about the dirty secrets of debt reduction (and what to do about them). “You make it sound so easy,” one commenter wrote. But it’s not, and I know that. Here is a reprint of a post from June 2007 that acknowledges this fact. Last fall I wrote an article describing how to get out of debt. Debt elimination involves three steps, I said:…

  • All I Really Need to Know About Stocks I Learned in the Sixth Grade (An Interview with David Gardner) (28 comments)

    This is a guest post from Jericho Hill (a.k.a. Stephen), Get Rich Slowly forum administrator and resident economist. I recently attended a focus group at The Motley Fool, a website about financial education. After the focus group, I had a few moments to talk with David Gardner, one of the site’s founders. I asked David if he’d be willing to sit down for a few minutes for Get Rich Slowly. He was happy to chat,…

  • Funding the Future: The Benefits of Being Flexible (4 comments)

    This is a guest post by Christopher L. Jones, author of The Intelligent Portfolio. The following is an excerpt from his book. During the meandering path of our lifetimes, there are many types of financial goals that we strive to reach. Some goals are short term in nature, such as having enough money to pay the taxes to Uncle Sam next quarter or paying for that trip to Hawaii next spring. Others might span decades…

  • Stale Checks: How Long Can Someone Wait to Deposit a Check? (79 comments)

    While running errands this afternoon, I stopped by the bank to deposit a check. All of the tellers were occupied with difficult clients. (I’m old-fashioned and go inside to make deposits for my business finances.) While I waited, I eavesdropped on the nearest conversation. A woman was frustrated because she’d just opened a checking account a few weeks ago, and now it was overdrawn. She couldn’t understand. “I don’t see how that’s possible,” she said….

  • Simplify Your Investing: An Introduction to DRIPs (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Sara, who writes about reaching for a life of greater simplicity and deeper meaning at On Simplicity. I’m a simple girl and I love simple solutions. That’s why I’ve fallen in love with DRIP investing — it’s about as simple as investing gets. If you’re an investor who likes to set it and forget it, DRIPs are a great weapon to have in your financial arsenal. What Is a…

  • Five Tactics for Pursuing Voluntary Simplicity (26 comments)

    One of my favorite personal finance bloggers is Philip Brewer at Wise Bread. He writes long, thoughtful articles about the philosophy of money, not just on tips and tricks to save at the grocery store. Brewer recently posted a piece called “What I’ve Been Trying to Say” that summarizes his philosophy. Explaining why he believes voluntary simplicity can be a great choice for many people, he writes: You can choose how you want to live. If…

  • Ask the Readers: How to Get Started with Investing? (70 comments)

    Christina sent a question that puzzles many people — including me. Once we’ve established good personal finance habits, we know that it’s time to begin investing. But how? Christina writes: I’ve had an ING direct account for a few years now, and today I decided to take the plunge and open a ShareBuilder account. No sooner had I gotten to the “What do you want to do?” page did I realize that I have absolutely…

  • Is It More Important to Be Rich or to Be Happy? (54 comments)

    Sometimes we in the United States forget how privileged we are. Because of our relative wealth, we can make claims like “it’s more important to be happy than it is to be rich”. In this guest post, Saravanan P of Engineer’s Finance argues that for the poor, money is more important than happiness. Though this post has been heavily edited, keep in mind that English is not Saravanan’s native language. Being happy is a state…

  • The Four Pillars of Investing (15 comments)

    For the past year, I’ve been looking for a book to recommend for novice investors, a book that would offer sensible advice without becoming too technical. I believe I’ve finally found that book. In The Four Pillars of Investing, William Bernstein describes how to build a winning investment portfolio. He doesn’t focus on the details — he tries to explain fundamental concepts so that readers will be able to make smart investment decisions on their…

  • Money Tips from Consumer Reports (19 comments)

    The August 2008 issue of Consumer Reports — one of my favorite personal finance magazines — features two articles that may be of interest to readers of Get Rich Slowly. The first offers tips for cutting expenses. The second gives a brief overview of budgeting. Cut your spending by $500 per month The Consumer Reports Money Lab looked for easy ways for the average American to save money. They came up with six suggestions and…

  • How to Avoid Bank Overdraft Fees (45 comments)

    Last fall, I discovered my Quicken data file from the mid-1990s. It contains all my transactions from 01 January 1995 until 06 April 1998. There are many fascinating insights to be gleaned from my crazy spending a decade ago, but as I was looking through my checkbook register, one thing in particular stood out. Before nearly every paycheck, my bank balance would dwindle to $12.33 or $7.14 or something similar. When I was paid, the…

  • Personal Finance Made Easy: Pay Yourself First (84 comments)

    Yesterday I shared some financial tips my father gave me when I was a sophomore in college. He didn’t stop there. After I graduated, he continued to offer advice. One of the things he told me was, “Pay yourself first.” To explain, he gave me a copy of George Clason’s 1926 classic, The Richest Man in Babylon. I didn’t read it. In retrospect, I ought to have been a little less stubborn. It took years…

  • Financial Advice from My Father (When I Was Nineteen) (44 comments)

    Today is Father’s Day in many countries, including the United States. While sorting some old letters and photos recently, I stumbled across a letter my dad wrote to me during my sophomore year of college. This is my father’s financial advice to me when I was nineteen years old. I haven’t attempted to edit — any misspellings are his. J.D.’s Points to Ponder Warning — Make sure you read them all. There may be some…

  • The 13 Commandments of Savvy Consumers (33 comments)

    Last week I wrote about the 2008 Consumer Action Handbook. This freely-available guide from the U.S. government is packed with useful information. I was leafing through the book again this morning before I put it away, and I noticed that the good stuff starts on page one with a list of thirteen quick consumer tips. I’ve transcribed these tips below, quoting verbatim from various sections of the book (which is in the public domain), as…

  • The New Reader’s Guide to Get Rich Slowly (40 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly — recently named most inspiring money blog by Money magazine — is devoted to sensible personal finance. You will not find any get-rich-quick schemes here. Nor will you find multi-level marketing fads or hot stock tips. I am not pitching any product or book. Instead, you’ll find daily information about personal finance and related topics. I share stories about debt elimination, saving money, and practical investing. I also post occasional reviews of…

  • The New Thrift and Seduction By Debt (40 comments)

    In today’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks writes about seduction by debt. The United States was founded on a moral structure that emphasized hard work and thrift, he says, and this helped the country grow affluent. But somehow we’ve lost our way. He writes: The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The…

  • Unit Pricing: Get More Food for Less Money (66 comments)

    This is a guest post from Charlie Park at PearBudget. Recently, Get Rich Slowly readers got upset at the idea of spending $6 on a gallon of milk. Reading that, I had to chuckle a little bit: Shortly before we had to give it up, our milk went up to $11 a gallon. Yup. You read that right: $11. A gallon. Technically, the milk was free, but the boarding and care of the animals that…

  • 2008 Consumer Action Handbook (11 comments)

    Every year, Kris and I place an order with the Federal Citizen Information Center in Pueblo, Colorado. The FCIC is a small department in the United States government with a mission to distribute free and low-cost Federal consumer publications. In other words, it’s a government office that offers lots of free (and cheap) pamphlets about all sorts of cool stuff. Many of these publications are freely availabe online in electronic format. Here are just a…

  • Closing the Gap Between Dreams and Reality (32 comments)

    While sorting through reader e-mail yesterday morning, I began to detect a subtle recurring theme. People were writing because they had a goal in mind, but their present circumstances seemed to be far from their intended destination. These two points were so far apart, in fact, that my correspondents were afraid to begin moving. Because the distance seemed overwhelming, they were paralyzed. The importance of action I used to feel this way, too. I would…

  • Richer Than Rockefeller: Putting Wealth in Perspective (64 comments)

    This is a guest post from Bob at ChristianPF.com. Bob writes about personal finance from a Christian perspective. John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil company in 1870. He was the first American billionaire and one of the richest men to ever live. I am sure many people today wish they could have walked in his shoes. If, somehow they could, I think some would find it to be eye-opening. Are you richer than John…

  • Saving with Albert: Teaching a Four-Year-Old the Value of Money (33 comments)

    My friend Albert — age four — loves electricity. Ever since he was young (ha!) he’s been fascinated by the stuff. His parents have carefully nurtured his hobby. Now that Albert’s older, they’ve decided this might be a good way to teach him about money. In this guest post from my friend Lisa, she describes how they’re helping Albert take the financial plunge. My son Albert loves his collection of colored light bulbs with all…

  • A Rather Obvious Metaphor for Personal Finance Couched in a True Story About Physical Fitness (8 comments)

    This piece originally appeared at Andrea’s Consultant Journal in a slightly different format. Exercise is a funny thing. When you start a fitness regimen, you feel awful, especially if it’s been months (or years) since you’ve been physically active. The first couple of weeks can be grueling. But once you make it a habit, once you find the groove, exercise can become exhilarating, even addictive. During the summer of 1997, I lost 40 pounds. My…

  • Robert Kiyosaki: Increase Your Financial IQ (69 comments)

    The problem with the standard financial advice is that it’s bad advice. You’ve been told to work hard, save money, get out of debt, live below your means, and invest in a well-diversified portfolio of mutual funds. But this advice is obsolete — so argues Robert Kiyosaki in his new book, Rich Dad’s Increase Your Financial IQ. Increase Your Financial IQ is the latest installment in Kiyosaki’s tremendously popular “Rich Dad” series of books. These…

  • Life After School: Advice for New Graduates (50 comments)

    On Tuesday evening I gave my first-ever presentation about personal finance. I spoke to a group of about 70 graduating seniors from Western Oregon University. My talk went okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t good. It’s a start. I learned a lot, and I’ll do better next time. I was the fourth and final speaker of the evening, though. Before I talked about personal finance, three WOU alums spoke about life after college….

  • Ask the Readers: Advice for College Grads? (157 comments)

    Tomorrow I’ll be giving a short presentation about personal finance to a group of seniors at Western Oregon University. I’ll begin by providing a brief version of my own post-college financial failures, but I want to spend most of the talk providing two or three great take-aways that these young adults can put to use as they enter the “real world”. I’ve considered discussing the dangers of lifestyle inflation and the value of goals, but…

  • How to Stop Junk Mail in Its Tracks (59 comments)

    This article is part of Financial Literacy Month. Most Americans receive a daily flood of junk mail. Some savvy citizens take a stand against the torrent. My friend Pam gets great delight from calling the sender of every catalog she receives in order to be removed from their mailing lists. This works well, but there are easier ways to deal with the problem. Here’s a list of four tools you can use to keep the…

  • Book Review: Investing 101 (9 comments)

    Soon after I started this site two years ago, Bloomberg Press sent me several books to review. I thumbed through them, but then put them on my shelf and forgot about them. Recently, while researching diversification, I pulled down one of these forgotten volumes, Kathy Kristof’s Investing 101. I started reading the diversification chapter, then read another. Before I knew it, I’d read the entire book. It’s a solid introduction to investing. The mental game…

  • Round & Round: Capitalist Propaganda from 1939 (6 comments)

    Here’s a short-film produced by General Motors in 1939 called “Round & Round”. It’s a brief look at the free market system. It feels like it was produced for first-graders: This is a factory. This is a machine in the factory. This is the workman who tends the machine in the factory. And this is what the workman makes on his machine in the factory. This is a widget. Inside the widget factory, there are…

  • Saving and Investing: An Introduction to Stock Valuation (13 comments)

    April is Financial Literacy Month, during which Get Rich Slowly is exploring the fundamentals of personal finance. I don’t know much about stocks. I’ve read some books about traders (Den of Thieves, for example), and I understand the rudiments of the stock market itself, but I don’t know anything about the language of stocks. I don’t know anything about the nitty-gritty. I can vaguely describe a P/E ratio, but that’s about it. Obviously, I’d like…

  • Get Rich Slowly! (52 comments)

    Today is the second anniversary of Get Rich Slowly. In celebration, I’m reprinting this revised version of the article that started it all, a l-o-n-g post from my personal blog dated 26 April 2005. One year later — on 15 April 2006 — this site was born. Today’s entry is long and boring — it’s all about the keys to wealth, prosperity, and happiness. Over the past few months, I’ve read over a dozen books…

  • Building Your First Budget (52 comments)

    This article is part of Financial Literacy Month. I’ve never been a budgeter. Budgets seem too prescriptive to me — I prefer to use a “spending plan” instead. But after a month as a full-time writer, I suspect a budget may be in my future. My income is fine, but it’s highly variable. I’m accustomed to a steady, consistent paycheck, and I don’t have that anymore. I also have some savings goals that I’d like…

  • Learning to Love the Emergency Fund (50 comments)

    I wasn’t raised in a culture of saving. My parents never made it a habit, and so could not pass the skill on to me or my brothers. In fact, I didn’t establish my first savings account until three years ago, when I was 36 years old! (I had a passbook savings account as a young boy, but it never had more than $5 in it.) Minor-league start Soon after I decided to take control…

  • What’s the Reason for Saving and Investing? (35 comments)

    Yesterday, in his final piece for The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Clements shared what he learned from writing 1,008 columns about personal finance in 26 years. What is the reason for all this saving and investing? The short answer is, you save now so you can spend later. But what will you spend your money on? People dream of endless leisure and bountiful possessions. Unfortunately, after a few months, endless leisure often seems like endless…

  • 66 Ways to Save Money (12 comments)

    Hidden around the web are lots of little personal finance gems. I stumble across new resources every day — I just don’t have time to share them all! I plan to start sharing more than I have been, however, beginning today with a publication from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Federation of America. 66 Ways to Save Money is a a free 12-page PDF file available from the FTC’S Bureau of Consumer…

  • What If You Didn’t Start Saving Early? Advice for Late Bloomers (30 comments)

    “Saving is the key to wealth,” I wrote last week while trumpeting the extraordinary power of compound interest. “If you do not spend less than you earn, and if you do not save the difference, you cannot build the wealth you desire.” The younger you are when you begin saving, the more time compounding has to work in your favor, and the wealthier you can become. “The next best thing to starting early,” I wrote,…

  • Saving and Investing: An Introduction to Diversification (25 comments)

    April is Financial Literacy Month, during which Get Rich Slowly will explore the fundamentals of personal finance. Today we’ll take a quick look at diversification. Last year, I shared a series of YouTube clips from Michael Fischer, who is on a mission to educate people about essential personal finance skills. His book, Saving and Investing, is 132 pages of fantastic financial information. Fischer doesn’t provide any scams or gimmicks — he just gives the facts….

  • How to Conquer Your Fear of Investing (33 comments)

    Writing for Kiplinger.com last month, Erin Burt laid out some tips to help conquer your fear of investing. This article is specifically aimed at those who are nervous about getting started in the stock market. She writes: The thought of possibly losing any money is a terrifying prospect. And the fact that today’s economy has seen better days probably isn’t helping those fears. Investing in the stock market has its risks. But if you give…

  • The Compound Return Marathon: Which Retirement Strategy Will Win? (53 comments)

    This is a guest post by G.E. Miller, head author of the personal finance blog 20-Something Finance. It’s a nice companion to my article this morning about the extraordinary power of compound interest. Both articles are a part of Financial Literacy Month. Before we fire off the gun to start the ‘Compound Return Marathon’, let’s cover some basics on what compound returns are and why you should care. What is compound interest? You probably became…

  • The Extraordinary Power of Compound Interest (92 comments)

    If you’re young, you may not think you need to open a retirement account. You probably think it’s easier to worry about it five years from now. Or ten. You’re wrong. No matter what your age, now is the time to begin saving for retirement. In The Automatic Millionaire, David Bach writes, “The single biggest investment mistake you can make [is] not using your [retirement] plan and not maxing it out.” Saving is the key…

  • Would You Make a Ten-Minute Phone Call for $57? (35 comments)

    GRS reader Dan recently wrote to share a story I hear often. Many people are afraid to ask for a better deal — they think it’s not worth the effort. Dan has decided that it is: I thought I’d share a short story about credit cards.  I’ve been using them for eight years now, and have always paid my bill in full every month.  I use Quicken to keep track of what I’ll owe at…

  • Don’t Panic! Coping with Financial Mistakes and Setbacks (43 comments)

    When I was young and stupid, I became addicted to spending. I got my first credit card in college, and over the next fifteen years, I accumulated $35,000 in debt. I’m debt-free now, and have even begun building a nest egg, but I didn’t reach this place without making a lot of financial mistakes along the way. And I still make mistakes. Dealing with mistakes and setbacks is an important tool in your personal finance…

  • When the Going Gets Tough, Get Back to the Basics (29 comments)

    I’ve posted several stories about national economic woe recently. In real life, I’ve had conversations with a few of my friends about the mortgage mess, about recession and a possible bear market, and about the nature of poverty. The economy is sour in the United States (and elsewhere in the world), and this frightens many people. I don’t buy in to the forecasts of economic doom. I’m an optimist. Things may get rough, but they’ve…

  • The Magic of Thinking Small (41 comments)

    There’s an old man who lives down the street. I don’t know his name, but every day I see him walking up and down the road with his cane. He moves slowly. He always wears the same thing: faded denim pants, a lightweight tan jacket, and a bright orange cap. For one hour every day — rain or shine — he walks up and down the street. Every day. We live on a steep hill,…

  • Heath Ledger’s Death Highlights the Need for Proper Estate Planning (21 comments)

    You don’t normally find celebrity gossip at Get Rich Slowly, and for good reason: I’m completely out of touch with pop culture. (Plus there’s the fact that this is a personal finance blog, I guess.) But the January death of 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger highlights the need for even young adults to consider basic estate planning. According to The New York Times: Heath Ledger’s will left nothing to his former girlfriend and their 2-year-old daughter…

  • Luck Is No Accident: 10 Ways to Get More out of Work and Life (44 comments)

    Some people are luckier than others. How many of you believe this? Why do you believe it? Are you one of the lucky ones? Or does luck seem to pass you by? And just what is luck, anyhow? According to John D. Krumboltz and Al S. Levin, there’s no such thing as luck. In fact, they shirk the use of the word in their book Luck Is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in…

  • The Key to Wealth is Being Satisfied with What You Already Have (77 comments)

    For the past few weeks, I’ve been making sales calls with David, my replacement at the box factory. We’re visiting existing customers to explain the transition. Most of my clients know that I’m part-owner in the family business. “Why are you leaving?” they want to know. “What are you going to do now?” “I’m going to write,” I say. “About what?” some of them ask. “Personal finance,” I say, and that’s usually the end of…

  • Book Review: Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover (149 comments)

    Dave Ramsey changed my life. In the fall of 2004, I had over $35,000 in consumer debt. I was making a solid middle-class salary, but I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. My money habits were terrible. When I looked into the future, all I saw were years of toil to pay for the things I’d already purchased. Then a friend loaned me a copy of The Total Money Makeover, a book by some guy I’d never heard of…

  • How to Make Yourself Recession-Proof (12 comments)

    The March 2008 issue of Money has an article by Stephen Gandel about how to recession-proof your life. “We may or may not be entering an official recession,” he writes, “but either way 2008 has gotten off to a scarier start than most anyone predicted.” To lower your anxiety level Gandel recommends that you first learn the facts. Educate yourself about past recessions. Try to avoid the media hype — it will cloud your perspective….

  • Real Simple: Save More, Worry Less (14 comments)

    The March issue of Real Simple magazine contains a great article by Elizabeth Fenner about solving your biggest money worries. She writes: For many of us, “manage finances” is right down there with “clean out the basement” on the bottomless to-do list. We put it off until life is less hectic…Well, help is here. Real Simple polled readers on the financial matters that worry them most, then created a completely doable, low-stress action plan for…

  • What Motivates You to Pursue Smart Personal Finance? (47 comments)

    I met with a Get Rich Slowly reader at the local coffee house yesterday. Like many of us, Aaron got into money trouble when he was young — he made some dumb mistakes. He fell for a get-rich-quick scheme that left him deep in debt. For a long time, he floundered, struggling to find motivation, but ultimately he found purpose in religion. Aaron’s faith helped him to turn his life around, to begin making smart…

  • The Wise Use of Credit: Money Lessons from 1960 (18 comments)

    “To develop a better understanding of the wise use of credit, let’s spend a few minutes with a certain individual we’ll call Mr. Money.” Here’s another short video from Sutherland Educational Films designed to teach young adults about their finances. In this installment, Mr. Money teaches John and Judy about the ins and outs of credit. To earn credit, first you have to develop your character. You have to be trustworthy. Second, you have to…

  • A Free and Simple Budget Planner (49 comments)

    During past discussions of on-line money-tracking tools and desktop software, many Get Rich Slowly readers have sung the praises of home-brew budget planners built using Microsoft Excel. In this guest post from Jeff M., he shares a spreadsheet he created and describes his own budgeting system in detail. J.D. doesn’t talk a lot about budgeting at Get Rich Slowly — he uses a spending plan — but I want to share a personal budget planner…

  • The Power of Positive Cash Flow (42 comments)

    When I lived paycheck-to-paycheck, there never seemed to be enough money to go around. I was perpetually $50 or $100 short of what I needed. Because I was spending more than I earned, I fell further behind every month. I had a negative cash flow, which led to more debt, which put me deeper in the hole. It is mathematically impossible to get ahead with a negative cash flow — in order to save money,…

  • What to Consider When Opening Your First Brokerage Account (23 comments)

    This is a guest post from Dong, who writes about personal economy at Ask Dong. Who can forget their first time? I certainly can’t.  I was 22 and fresh out of school.  The NASDAQ was around 4000, and young turks like myself were getting jobs that we had no business holding.  The times were good. Even if I couldn’t work for a dot-com, there was no reason for me not to invest in them. The…

  • Car Trouble: A Real-Life Lesson in the Value of an Emergency Fund (155 comments)

    I drove south yesterday morning to meet with Mac, my partner at Get Fit Slowly. Between Portland and Salem, a warning light came on in my Ford Focus — the temperature gauge had risen into the red. I pulled to the side of the road, called to cancel our meeting, and cursed fate. I hate my car. After the engine cooled, I nursed the vehicle to the local Ford dealership. I gave them the keys,…

  • 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances in 2008 (59 comments)

    The new year is a time for goals and resolutions. If one of your goals in 2008 is to take control of your money (instead of letting it keep control of you), this crash course in financial basics can help guide the way. Here’s a summary of everything I’ve learned about personal finance. Track every penny you spend The authors of Your Money or Your Life admonish readers to “keep track of every cent that…

  • Asking for a Better Financial Future (27 comments)

    This is a guest post from Daiko, who previously shared how to feed yourself on $15 a week. Asking questions can be a powerful tool for developing financial resilience. Two weeks ago, for example, I received an overdraft charge from my bank. My first reaction was to curse and pound my head against the desk, but after taking a deep breath I thought: “Why not ask them to remove the charge?” I called the bank,…

  • The Architecture of Personal Finance: Choosing the Right Materials (14 comments)

    Nearly three years ago, in the original Get Rich Slowly post, I compared smart personal finance to building a house. This is the first part in a series that will explore that analogy. In his excellent Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, Gerald Weinberg describes a simple metaphor for the writing process. Writers, he says, gather fieldstones (ideas) and use them to construct walls or buildings (finished stories). But each stone is different, and so…

  • Sweating the Small Stuff (62 comments)

    Two readers sent me a New York Times story from M.P. Dunleavey that addresses a problem many of us face, especially this time of year. We do our best to set budgets, to track our spending, and to make smart financial decisions, but when we sit down to run the numbers, somehow we’ve spent too much. Dunleavey writes: I [totaled] the extra and unexpected costs that had cropped up throughout the year: $4,900 for new…

  • The Random Walk Guide to Investing: Ten Rules for Financial Success (18 comments)

    In 1973, Burton Malkiel published A Random Walk Down Wall Street, in which he argued that a blindfolded monkey could pick stocks as well as a professional investor. Though I bought a copy of Random Walk for $3.99 at the local Goodwill last year, I haven’t read it. It looks dense. I know it’s written for the layman, but it still seems rather academic. In 2003, Malkiel published The Random Walk Guide to Investing, “a…

  • Ben Stein: Buy Low, Sell High (32 comments)

    Dave pointed me to the latest column from Ben Stein, in which he writes about market fluctuations and subprime morality. The first half of this article interests me more — it discusses a fundamental principle of investing. I continue to get questions about whether now is a good time to invest in the stock market. The truth is: nobody knows. In his column, Stein stresses the importance of maintaining a cash reserve. When things get…

  • The Prosperous Peasant: Five Secrets of Fortune and Fulfillment (116 comments)

    One night each month, I meet at a local restaurant with a group of friends. We are the Woodstock Writers Guild. Mostly we eat, drink, and chat, but we also take turns sharing the stuff we’ve written: fantasy novels, horror stories, and even some literary fiction. Though most of us are only aspiring amateurs, we do have one real writer in the group. Mark has published two novels: The Green Age of Asher Witherow and…

  • A Brief Introduction to Insurance (25 comments)

    This is a guest post from Aaron Pinkston. He used to help other insurance agents understand insurance. Now he prefers dealing directly with the public. Insurance is an oft-misunderstood financial tool. I feel like it’s my responsibility to help folks out with their questions when I can. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m the patron saint of insurance, but I do think the world would be a slightly better place if I could…

  • Book Review: All Your Worth (39 comments)

    Three years ago, I decided to get out of debt. I hit the books, reading one personal finance title after another, searching for answers. Two books — Your Money or Your Life and The Total Money Makeover — were perfect for my situation. They gave me the tools I needed to tackle my problems. Now I’ve found a third book that would have been useful at the start of my journey to financial freedom. All…

  • Setting and Achieving Financial Goals (37 comments)

    For three years I’ve had a single goal directing my actions: I wanted to get out of debt. Now that my consumer debt is nearly gone, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what to do next. I was worried that I’d lose focus, lose direction. That’s not going to be the case. I’ve set three major financial goals for 2008. After I pay off the last of my final loan next Tuesday, I intend…

  • Letter to a Godchild: Passing on Financial Wisdom (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from Suzanne S. I’m English and live in California. My goddaughter recently graduated in England (with a degree in Art). I’m one of those who regrets not starting off with good financial habits when I was younger. I thought I would write her a letter giving her the advice that I wish someone had given me when I graduated. I would love the perspective from Get Rich Slowly readers on…

  • Why You SHOULDN’T Prepay Your Monthly Bills (61 comments)

    Earlier today I wrote that I like to prepay my monthly bills. I acknowledged that some people might think this was dumb, but that I liked to do it anyhow. It’s not often that I share something with which GRS readers vehemently disagree. This is one of those rare cases. Because there’s so much opposition to this idea, and because each of these points is valid, I’ve combed the comments to compile a list of…

  • Yardwork and Financial Setbacks: A Metaphor (11 comments)

    A metaphor Kris and I did more yardwork today — it never ends. We wheeled out the chipper and continued to grind away at the branches and the leaves. We spread the resulting mulch at the base of our blueberries and grapes. After about ninety minutes of work, however, disaster struck. Kris was pouring a tub of oak leaves and acorns into the hopper when the chipper ground to a halt. I crossed my fingers…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do I Find a Good Lawyer (or Accountant)? (26 comments)

    Jonathan recently wrote with a common question: How does one find a good lawyer or accountant? I’ve heard from several sources — including The Millionaire Next Door — that wealthy people generally have an accountant and a lawyer that they trust. I’ve been asking friends and family members, but none are very confident in their recommendations. How do I go about finding these people? I’m fortunate. I didn’t need to search for competent help: I…

  • Basic Personal Finance: Know How Your Accounts Work (30 comments)

    Sometimes it’s the easy stuff that catches us off guard. We spend so much time trying to get the big stuff right, that we forget about the basics. I’ve had a couple experiences lately that left me feeling a little silly for missing the obvious. Hassles with the “no hassles” card This past summer, I signed up for my first personal credit card in nearly a decade. I went over all the legal stuff carefully…

  • A Brief Overview of Estate Planning Software (21 comments)

    It’s that spooky haunted time of year — my annual post about estate planning! Last year I shared a brief guide to creating a will. Today I’m going to look at a recent New York Times article by Christine Larson that provides an overview of will preparation software. Larson writes, “Recently, the increasing sophistication of software and services for estate planning, combined with growing consumer comfort with online financial management, has led to a boom…

  • A Credit Card is Not an Emergency Fund (84 comments)

    Sometimes I wonder: Have I always had personal finance conversations all the time? I don’t often initiate them, but money seems to be a constant topic, even when people are unaware that I write about it every day. Just this morning, for example, I met with a fellow who needs some boxes to ship his woodworking products. (By day I am the sales force for my family’s small box factory.) My customer gave me a…

  • Frugality is NOT a Dirty Word (69 comments)

    From a few of our recent discussions, I get the sense that some people are uncomfortable with the notion of frugality. These are some actual comments: “Frugality should not be about a total excision of quality of life. Unfortunately, this is how it seems most personal finance writers talk about it.” “I dislike this philosophy of ‘work hard all your life so you can retire and live a modest but comfortable life’. That’s an awful…

  • Understanding the Seven Habits of Wealth (38 comments)

    This is a guest post from Dough Roller, a Washington D.C. blogger who writes about building wealth, one dollar at a time. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. — Aristotle We tend to define our lives by the big events: graduation, marriage, children, a big promotion, retirement. What often gets neglected are the little things we do every day, the little things that make the big…

  • Reader Advice: How to Live Debt-Free (29 comments)

    Recently I wrote about the transition from “becoming debt-free” to “living debt-free”. One reader e-mailed me some advice that I felt did a good job summarizing what everyone had said. The following was written by James Crocker, and is an excerpt from a much longer message. This post has been edited for clarity. Congratulations! You’re about to accomplish something many people have never done, and something that many others never will do: become debt-free. (Well,…

  • What is Financial Security? (136 comments)

    This is a guest-post by Michael Mihalik, author of Debt is Slavery (and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money). Two commenters on this post will win free copies of his book. Read on for details! Wouldn’t it be great to be financially secure — to never have to worry about money? What would it take to get there? In fact, what exactly is financial security? Ask ten people to…

  • The Upside of Risk: Why Market Volatility is a Good Thing (13 comments)

    The November 2007 issue of Kiplinger’s has a great article from James K. Glassman called “The Upside of Risk”. Glassman’s explanation of market risk is wonderful. Normally, I’d post an excerpt from the online version of the article and then point you to it, but I can’t find this piece anywhere on the web. Instead, I’ll post a longer excerpt than normal. Imagine a world in which stock investments performed the same year after year….

  • Breaking the Shackles: How to Escape from Minimum Wage (70 comments)

    Earlier today I provided a statistical snapshot of minimum wage earners. The numbers indicate that in the United States: Most minimum wage earners are young. Most minimum wage earners work in food service. Most minimum wage earners have never attended college. Statistics are one thing, but real-life is another. There are still millions of older college-educated Americans who earn minimum wage in jobs outside the food service industry. Many of these people want to escape…

  • 10 Ways to Build the Habit of Saving Money (52 comments)

    This is a guest post by Mehdi, author of StrongLifts.com. How much do you save? I hope you put money aside. You don’t? Neither did I until a few years ago. How do you become a money saver? I’ll first tell you how you don’t: Not by using discipline or willpower. Discipline and willpower only work in the short-term. What works in the long-term is understanding your spending habits. Once you understand, you can change…

  • Always Check Your Receipts (30 comments)

    IKEA opened in Portland recently. I’d never been to IKEA before, but had heard that it’s a great place to pick up inexpensive furniture and gadgets for the home. One recent Friday afternoon, Kris and I decided to go on a date to the new store. Not very romantic, perhaps, but oh-so-practical. IKEA stores are huge. Each one is laid out like a giant maze. You don’t browse aisles, but instead walk from the start…

  • Smart Money on How to Live Debt-Free (21 comments)

    Brad Reagan at Smart Money has advice on how to live debt-free. His article is really about how to get debt free, and it contains some useful tips. Keeping your debt load as light and as cheap as possible is the key to a more secure future and to guilt-free spending on the things you need and want. It’s a skill that’s often neglected and seldom discussed, but understanding how to manage your debt will…

  • Getting to Now: How to Beat the Procrastination Habit (82 comments)

    I am a procrastinator. I always have been. It’s a character flaw, and I admit it. I’ve tried all sorts of things to beat the habit — Getting Things Done, e-mail reminders, dozens of list systems — but the only thing that seems to work is to: Do it now. This is blindingly obvious, I know, but many people lose sight of this fundamental skill. It’s not that we don’t know that we should do…

  • Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People (7 comments)

    This guest post is from Suzanne S. Jane Bryant Quinn has been a personal finance writer for decades. She currently writes for Newsweek and Good Housekeeping. She also wrote a doorstopper of a personal finance tome called Making the Most of Your Money. That book was just too intimidating for me. I dipped into some chapters but really didn’t do it justice. Plus, it is now a little outdated in some areas since it was…

  • Lifestyles of the Rich and Boring (12 comments)

    Index funds are boring. They’re not sexy. No one gets excited when your hot stock tip is to buy the Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund (VTSMX). Yet indexed mutual funds are the best choice for most investors. Last January I shared a story about the best investment advice you’ll never get written by Mark Dowie of San Francisco magazine. Dowie’s piece explored the rise of index funds, and the reasons traditional brokers are reluctant to…

  • Using the Bank: State-of-the-Art Personal Finance (from 1947) (9 comments)

    I’ve removed the entry pointing to the Dave Ramsey video on YouTube. Here instead is a different sort of personal finance video, one that is squarely in the Public Domain. Remember what banking was like back in the olden days, in the dark ages before computers? Neither do I. All my adult life, I’ve had access to Quicken, and for most of that time I’ve been able to check my balance online. I’ve never known…

  • Young Money, the Personal Finance Magazine for College Students (17 comments)

    Todd Romer, excecutive director of Young Money magazine, recently sent me a couple of copies for review. Romer writes: Young Money is published bi-monthly and is the only national money magazine for the college market. Our editorial objective is to inspire, inform and motivate today’s young adults to begin managing their money at an early age.   We have increased our distribution now to nearly 140 schools. I didn’t expect much from the magazine, but I’ll…

  • Credit Card Advice from Consumer Reports (30 comments)

    The October 2007 issue of Consumer Reports contains a credit card roundup, including an overview of the worst and best credit cards based on responses from 36,000 readers. The best cards generally came from credit unions, and the worst from large banks. “Almost anyone can join a credit union these days,” the magazine says, “and it might be a good idea, if only for a good credit card.” There’s also a reminder that it pays…

  • 20 Great Nuggets of Personal Finance Advice (12 comments)

    Yesterday I mentioned a Money magazine article called “The Best Advice of All Time”. The web version has been posted, though it’s in the annoying “gallery” format. (It does contain links to supplemental information, though, which is cool.) Here’s a list of the “rules”, along with the quotes that author Carla Fried chose to pair with them. For detailed information on each point, follow the links. Be humble. “When you do not know a thing,…

  • When a Saver and a Spender Say “I Do” (25 comments)

    This guest post is from Sara Wallace, a member at Debt Management Talk. When my husband and I got married, we brought a lot more to our marriage than ourselves. Financially, I brought my entire life savings — while he brought just about the same amount in credit card debt. “So what?” you say. My savings meant we could clean up his debt and start our marriage debt free — not bad! While it’s true…

  • Sammy the Rabbit Teaches Kids to Save (3 comments)

    Financial literacy is best taught at a young age. Some of us are just coming to terms with basic financial skills at 38 — what if we’d managed to start on these habits when we were eight? The goal of the It’s a Habit Company (IAHC) is to “change children’s lives one dime at a time”. To meet this objective, the company has developed a character named Sammy Rabbit to better reach kids. IAHC (and…

  • The Top 3 Mental Blocks to Personal Finance (and How to Get Past Them) (14 comments)

    This is a guest post by John Wesley. He blogs about self improvement, motivation, and productivity at PickTheBrain.com (feed). The transition from student to professional is a psychological challenge. For many people, it’s the first time we experience complete financial independence. Although the basic principles of personal finance are simple, completely changing your mentality isn’t. These are the top three mental blocks you’ll need to overcome to position yourself for a prosperous future. Mental Block#1:…

  • Book Review: Debt is Slavery (43 comments)

    While on vacation I found time to read five personal finance books, each of which was good in its own way. Rather than swamp you with book reviews, I’m going to space them out over the next few weeks. Here’s the first. One of my goals for the next two years is to write a book about personal finance. I want it to be a practical volume filled with great tips, while also exploring the…

  • Money Day: Your Personal Finance Holiday (22 comments)

    I opened my first checking account on the day I entered college. During registration, local banks set up tables at one end of the room. They all seemed the same to me. I chose the bank that gave me a free Frisbee. I did business with that bank for seventeen miserable years. I loathed that bank. They were constantly finding new and interesting ways to charge me money. If I hated it so much, why…

  • An Imperfect Credit Score is Not the End of the World (13 comments)

    This is a guest post from Kim McGrigg of Money Management International, the nation’s largest nonprofit credit and debt counseling firm. I often warn consumers about the little things that can have a big impact on their credit score. Today, I’m in more of a “don’t sweat the small stuff” kind of a mood. It is apparent that some people take this credit reporting stuff very seriously. In fact, one consumer recently took time out…

  • Gary Coleman Pitches Outrageous 99.25% APR Loans (78 comments)

    You guys are awesome. I’m scrambling to get things organized before I leave for London this weekend, and GRS readers continue to send me great story ideas and guest entries. I won’t get to all of them before I leave (not even close!), but you’ve given me lots of fodder for when I return. Here’s one I can’t pass up, though. Two readers — Jeremiah and Matt — sent me the exact same story, and…

  • How I Escaped from Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck (46 comments)

    Many of you wrote last week to say that I was too harsh on my friend Gillian, the woman with the “I can’t” attitude. Perhaps you’re right — I may have given up too early. I used to live like she does, and if I can turn it around, anyone can. For a decade I was a deficit spender. I spent more than I earned. I used credit cards to fund a lifestyle that was…

  • A Working Woman’s Guide to Financial Security (10 comments)

    Sometimes you can find personal finance tools in the most unlikely places. The University of Illinois Extension Service offers a collection of consumer money resources, including tips for thrifty living, credit card smarts fact sheets, and a guide to consumer and family economics. I was most impressed with A Working Woman’s Guide to Financial Security. This series of planning guides has been designed to help women of all ages develop skills they need in order…

  • Which Investments Are Best for a Roth IRA? (37 comments)

    This is part three of the GRS introduction to Roth IRAs. You may wish to begin with parts one and two. I used to believe the stock market would make me rich. All I needed to do was pick the right stock and I’d be a millionaire. In March of 2000, I decided that stock was PALM, which I bought the morning it went public. Within days my $1,000 investment was worth $600, and my…

  • The New Graduate’s Guide to Financial Freedom (36 comments)

    I graduated from college in 1991 with a degree in psychology and a minor in English lit. I was one course shy of a second minor in speech comm. With credentials like these, it’s no surprise that my first job out of school was knocking on doors, selling crummy insurance to little old ladies in Eastern Oregon. I hated the job, but I could not quit. I was trapped by debt. After I was hired,…

  • How to Start a Roth IRA (and Where to Do It) (240 comments)

    You’ve heard how awesome Roth IRAs are and how starting one now can mean big bucks when you’re older. You’ve even done some research so you have a vague idea of how a Roth IRA works. Now what? How do you actually start one yourself? It’s surprisingly easy to set up a retirement account and to begin investing in your future. Before you invest Putting money in savings accounts or certificates of deposits for retirement…

  • The Money Savvy Pig: A Piggy Bank for the 21st Century (28 comments)

    One of the best things parents can do to prepare their children for the Real World™ is to teach them basic financial skills. A kid who knows how to save is a kid who has a jump-start on life. Money Savvy Generation is a company designed to “help kids get smart about money”. Founder Susan Beacham writes: I am the mother of two girls. I was also a private banker, who repeatedly saw in my…

  • What is a Roth IRA and Why Should You Care? (88 comments)

    The most common e-mail I get goes something like this: I’m going to start a Roth IRA on my own, and I’d like to know what online sites you or your readers would suggest. I want to invest in index funds, having heard they are the bee’s knees, but books and the web, and magazine articles are sadly silent on the HOW, spending lots of time on the WHY. Right now I’m looking heavily at…

  • Clutter’s Last Stand: The Cost of Buying Things You Will Not Use (59 comments)

    During the 1990s, I used credit cards to fund my every whim. I bought books and games and computers and gadgets. Now, ten years later, I’m still carrying a lot of that debt in the form of a home equity loan (into which I rolled all my credit cards several years ago). I also still have a lot of the crap I bought. I have a plan for getting rid of the debt by next…

  • Proper Care and Feeding of Your Credit Score (46 comments)

    Your credit score is like a pet monster under the bed. Feed it and care for it, and it will do your bidding. But if you neglect it, it will turn against you. But beware! Taking good care of it can bring you dangerously close to its sharp teeth. Your credit score determines the types of credit you can obtain, and how much you will be charged in interest. Last year I described the anatomy…

  • Tip and Tricks to Ensure You Track Your Money? (32 comments)

    One of my friends has decided to take a closer look at his personal finances. He and his wife make good money, but they live paycheck-to-paycheck. They spend whatever they have. It’s only since starting to track his expenses in Quicken that he’s discovered, for example, that each month he’s spending over a thousand dollars on groceries. This realization has prompted him to create a budget. Now he has some financial goals, and is trying…

  • Understanding Money (5 comments)

    The Australian Government provides a money-management site that is useful to people around the world. Understanding Money encourages readers to adopt a three-point approach to their finances: Prepare a budget plan - work out how much you earn and what you spend it on, to help you see where you could make changes. Set some financial goals - they don’t have to be big, but they’ll help you see what you could gain by being better with…

  • A Collection of Financial Literacy Resources (19 comments)

    April was National Financial Literacy Month. Get Rich Slowly did its part by featuring a video series that explored saving and investing. Here are links to each part in the series: Introduction The power of compounding Providers and users of capital The difference between debt and equity What is leverage? An introduction to financial statements Why do financial markets exist? What is a bond? What is a stock? What is a stock market index? The…

  • Saving and Investing: 5 Popular Misconceptions (18 comments)

    This is part twenty in a series that has occupied the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Michael Fischer’s series on Saving and Investing ends today with a look at five popular misconceptions about money. Even if you haven’t watched any of his other videos, I urge you to watch these. Here Michael explains why it is so important for each of us to understand basic…

  • Saving and Investing: Getting Started (4 comments)

    This is part nineteen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Michael intended today’s video to be the final one in the series. Here he ties everything together and explains how we can use the things he’s taught to make better decisions about saving and investing: Getting started (7:18) I have nothing to add — Michael does a good job…

  • Saving and Investing: Coping with High-Interest Debt (1 comment)

    This is part eighteen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Today, Michael Fischer covers two closely-related subjects: high-interest credit card rates and debt consolidation. High credit card interest rates (3:48) “With the effects of compounding, having credit card debt is a really bad idea.” Credit card interest rates are high because lenders are taking a greater risk. When you…

  • Saving and Investing: Three Enemies of Growth (3 comments)

    This is part seventeen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Through Michael Fischer’s video series, we’ve come to understand that the sooner we invest our money, the longer it has to compound, and to grow to large sums. But things aren’t that simple. Compounding has some enemies. One of these enemies is taxes: Taxes and compounding (4:36) Because taxes…

  • When and How To Hire a Financial Planner (14 comments)

    Last week Dylan Ross, a certified financial planner, explained what a financial plan is and why it’s important to have one . Today he discusses why you might want to hire somebody to help you create one. Typically people seek the help of a planner when they don’t have the time, know-how, or desire to do create their own financial plan. In its 13 February 2006 issue, Newsweek featured a great article by Jane Bryant…

  • Saving and Investing: The Impact of Time (2 comments)

    This is part sixteen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. During the first fifteen days of this video series, Michael Fischer explained the basics of saving and investing, introducing us to stocks, bonds, and compound returns. This week he pulls this information together to show how these concepts affect our investment decisions and our use of credit. He begins…

  • Saving and Investing: An Introduction to Dollar-Cost Averaging (12 comments)

    This is part fifteen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. The three videos scheduled for today were going to cover hedge funds. After watching them, however, I’ve decided they’re not necessary for basic financial literacy. Unless I’ve missed something, hedge funds are targeted primarily at institutional investors. If you want to learn more about them, you can visit the…

  • The Get Rich Slowly Budget Workbook (Version 2.0) (37 comments)

    Last month Stephen Popick shared his home-grown budget spreadsheet with GRS readers. He listened to your suggestions and went back to the drawing board. Here is with an updated version.   Growing up, I was taught the importance of having a budget.  It wasn’t until I finished college that I understood it.  I started reading and listening to financial experts such as John Bogle, Clarke Howard, and a lot of folks in between.  Their recurring…

  • Saving and Investing: The Difference Between Active and Passive Management (1 comment)

    This is part fourteen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. First, Michael Fischer introduced us to mutual funds. Next, he described the various types. Today he looks at the difference between actively- and passively-managed funds. What are active and passive management? (4:27) In a way, passive management is like “autopilot” — the fund manager feeds parameters into a computer,…

  • Saving and Investing: Types of Mutual Funds (4 comments)

    This is part thirteen in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Yesterday Michael Fischer explained how mutual funds allow individual investors to pool money in order to achieve goals that would otherwise be out of their reach. Today he looks at different kinds of mutual funds: Types of mutual funds (2:10) There are several thousand mutual funds available in the…

  • Saving and Investing: What is a Mutual Fund? (6 comments)

    This is part twelve in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. As an individual investor, you can build a portfolio of stocks and bonds, but to do so properly requires time and effort. For most people, it makes more sense to invest in mutual funds. But what is a mutual fund? Michael Fischer explains: What is a mutual fund? (3:44)…

  • Saving and Investing: What is a Stock Market Index? (6 comments)

    This is part ten in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Have you ever wondered what all of those numbers on the nightly business report actually mean? Michael Fischer explains: What is a stock market index? (3:44) Just as you cannot accurately gauge the health of a garden from the growth of a single plant, you cannot gauge the health…

  • Saving and Investing: What is a Stock? (4 comments)

    This is part nine in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Yesterday we learned about bonds, which are small slices of debt. Today Michael Fischer defines stocks, or small slices of equity: What is a stock? (2:37) The stock market has its own unique vocabulary, with “puts” and “calls”, “preferred stock” and “P/E ratios”, “dividends” and “spread”. I’ll cover more…

  • 7 Essential Skills to Protect Yourself from Scammers (19 comments)

    Sabino sent me an MSNBC article about the unfolding subprime lending crisis. The piece provides a glimpse at the deceptive practices used to prey on people like Kerrie Russo, who chose to refinance her mortgage on a promise of lower payments. When she failed to read her loan documents closely, she found herself deep in expanding debt. Though the mortgage broker lured her into this loan, she signed the papers. Because she didn’t know how…

  • Saving and Investing: What is a Bond? (7 comments)

    This is part eight in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Today’s episode of “Saving and Investing” moves us from the introductory material to the details of common investments. To begin, Michael Fischer explains bonds: What is a bond? (2:38) This video left me wanting more. Bonds, like leverage, have been a blank spot in my financial education. I’ve never…

  • Saving and Investing: Why do Financial Markets Exist? (4 comments)

    This is part seven in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. In today’s episode of “Saving and Investing”, Michael Fischer explains why we have financial markets. If you’ve been following along, you can probably guess that their primary function is to encourage interaction between providers of capital (savers and investors) and users of capital (companies and governments). Why do financial…

  • Financial Literacy for All Ages (7 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly readers have taken Financial Literacy Month to heart, and have been sending me information about money education for people of all ages. Kristin wrote to tell me that her two grade-school-aged boys have been reading about money: [My children participated] in a reading program sponsored by the State Treasurer, The Oregon College Savings Plan, and Oppenheimer Funds, Inc. It required 800 minutes of reading, including at least two books from a recommended reading…

  • Saving and Investing: An Introduction to Financial Statements (12 comments)

    This is part six in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. (Now with correct videos!) Today’s episode of “Saving and Investing” features three short videos, each of which is an introduction to a particular financial statement. Learning to read financial statements can help you evaluate the companies in which you would like to invest. (These statements are mandatory parts of…

  • Saving and Investing: What is Leverage? (24 comments)

    This is part five in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. In today’s episode of “Saving and Investing”, Michael Fischer explains a concept I’ve heard mentioned a lot, but have never understood. The term “leverage” is used in many financial books and articles, often referring to real estate investments. The concept has always puzzled me, even when I looked it…

  • Saving and Investing: The Difference Between Debt and Equity (2 comments)

    This is part four in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Yesterday Michael Fischer differentiated between providers of capital and users of capital. Today he explains the two ways in which these groups interact: through the exchange of debt and the exchange of equity. Equity and Debt (5:57) When a provider of capital loans money to a user of capital,…

  • Saving and Investing: Providers and Users of Capital (8 comments)

    This is part three in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. In his book Saving and Investing, Michael Fischer writes: Compounding our money with a return over a long period is the key to accumulating larger sums, but what is it that allows our money to receive a return, and what determines whether this return will be good or bad?…

  • Saving and Investing: The Power of Compounding (21 comments)

    This is part two in a series that will occupy the “money hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. Albert Einstein reportedly called compound interest the greatest mathematical discovery of all time. On its surface, compounding is innocuous — even boring. “So what if my money earns 5.40% in a high-yield savings account?” you might ask. “What does it matter if it averages 10% annual growth in a…

  • Saving and Investing: Introduction (5 comments)

    This is the first in a series that will occupy the “Money Hacks” slot at Get Rich Slowly during April, which is National Financial Literacy Month. While browsing YouTube a couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon some short videos about saving and investing. They were low-key and low-tech, and I might have dismissed them except that the information they contained was solid and easy-to-understand. Intrigued, I contacted Michael Fischer, the man who created the videos….

  • April is Financial Literacy Month (35 comments)

    How much do you know about money? Have you learned about the power of compounding? Do you know how the stock market works? What is a bond? Can you tell the difference between an Income Statement, a Balance Sheet, and a Cash Flow Statement? Do you even know why you would want to? Do you know how to keep a budget? Do you understand how your taxes are used and why we pay them? Do…

  • 10 Reasons You Aren’t Rich (31 comments)

    A couple of readers forwarded Jeffrey Strain’s list of 10 reasons you aren’t rich. It’s a fine piece, though it takes a negative approach. Sometimes we need to hear the negative. Strain’s ten reasons (with my commentary): You care what your neighbors think. It’s not a competition. Who cares if your best friend just bought a BMW? What does it matter that your sister dresses her kids in designer clothes? You know what’s best. Live…

  • Book Review: Time is Money (4 comments)

    One of the most puzzling things about money is knowing where to begin. You get out of college and suddenly find yourself in the real world, with a job, with rent, with student loans, and wonder how you’re going to make ends meet, let alone save for retirement. Retirement seems so far away. It’s easy to just forget about it. Ignoring retirement could be one of the biggest financial mistakes you’ll ever make. Compound returns…

  • Ask the Readers: How Much in an Emergency Fund? (91 comments)

    Andrea writes with a question about emergency funds: Does it make sense to keep six to eight months of expenses in an emergency fund? I always thought so. However, when I was doing my MBA, a classmate told me that emergency funds are unnecessary if you have a home equity line of credit. She said it makes more sense to use it to pay down your mortgage. If you lose your job, use the line…

  • The Road to Wealth is Paved with Goals (39 comments)

    Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, recently shared his thoughts on a New York Times profile of Russ Whitney, a real estate mogul who charges thousands of dollars to learn the secrets of his success. (Whitney helped inspire Casey Serin’s foreclosure odyssey. John T. Reed has extensive information on Whitney, not all of it negative.) Ramit’s post prompted me to read the original New York Times article. I began the…

  • BBC’s Financial Healthcheck (4 comments)

    Most financial calculators require you to enter a lot of numbers, after which they spit out more numbers in return. What if you’re not a numbers person? The BBC offers a financial healthcheck tool that uses plain English to help evaluate your money situation. Our financial healthcheck will give you some tips for a healthier financial lifestyle — now and in the future. It will only take a few minutes. There’s no need to dig…

  • Basic Personal Finance: Shop Around for the Lowest Price (18 comments)

    Tony forwarded an eye-opening post from Stephen J. Dubner at the Freakonomics blog. Most shoppers assume that prices on a given product will be roughly the same from store to store. This is not always the case. Dubner cites research from Cyril Wolf, a Houston doctor who is upset that many generic medications are too expensive for his elderly patients to afford. Wolf began snooping around and found that two chains, Costco and Sam’s Club,…

  • Get Your Money Right: The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (18 comments)

    Tina forwarded a USA Today article that manages to be simultaneously informative and surreal. The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has begun its seven-city tour to “teach young minorities how to handle their financial lives”. Bun B, who started duo UGK in 1987 with his friend Pimp C (before Pimp C went to jail and was later released), is part of a nationwide tour of hip-hop recording artists who are using their fame to draw young…

  • Financial Education: Are Schools Doing Enough? (63 comments)

    I read a lot about the lack of financial education in the United States. It’s a popular topic among personal finance bloggers and in media interviews. But I wonder how widespread the problem really is. At my high school during the mid-eighties, juniors were required to take a semester of personal finance. I thought the class was lame. It wasn’t challenging. I never did any of my homework, and so earned an F on every…

  • 10 Common Money Mistakes (23 comments)

    In my office, I have an entire shelf devoted to books I’ve borrowed from the public library. One that I’ve been browsing recently is Ilyce R. Glink’s 100 Questions You Should Ask About Your Personal Finances. This book is structured as a series of questions and answers addressing personal finance concerns. It’s not bad. In the appendix, Glink lists ten common personal finance mistakes. She writes: There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake. It happens…

  • How to Organize Your Finances in Four Easy Steps (22 comments)

    You’ve heard that to take control of you finances you sould track every penny you spend. You’d like to try this, but it sounds like such a pain. There’s so much paperwork involved. You lose receipts. You forget when bills are due. It’s hard enough making sure the bare necessities are tackled — who has time to track every penny? I’ve been there. My financial life used to be a mess. Whenever a bill was…

  • Beware the Insidious Power of Marketing (46 comments)

    Advertising is powerful. Avoiding it — in print, on radio, on television — is one of the best ways to control your urge to spend. When you willingly expose yourself to commercial pitches, you risk spending more than you intend. I’ve posted two articles recently about how marketing manipulates us to buy things. Allow me to belabor this point one last time before I move on. It’s important. Corporations manipulate us in subtle ways. We…

  • What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen (9 comments)

    CreditPro is a new blog featuring advice from an employee of a non-profit credit repair agency. The site has only been around a week but already has several great articles: The top 7 credit score secrets Avoiding payday loans Improving your credit after a bankruptcy 8 things you must do if your identity is stolen I particularly like the article on identity theft. What should you do if your identity is stolen? CreditPro suggests: Call…

  • Scary Story: Billed for Service I Never Received (43 comments)

    While cleaning cruft at my personal site, I found this little gem from 2005. It belongs here. In the middle of December I received a bill for $5.30 from Sprint. There’s nothing remarkable about this except that I’ve never had a Sprint account! I immediately called the customer service phone number on the bill. It only took a few moments to reach a live operator. “There must be some mistake,” I told her. “Why am…

  • Are Index Funds the Best Investment? (59 comments)

    For 35 years, Bay Area finance revolutionaries have been pushing a personal investing strategy that brokers despise and hope you ignore. [This is] the story of a rebellion that’s slowly but surely putting money into the pockets of millions of Americans, winning powerful converts, and making money managers from California Street to Wall Street squirm. So writes Mark Dowie in a recent issue of San Francisco magazine. Dowie describes how Google prepared for its IPO…

  • A Brief History of Money (1 comment)

    Rhetorical Device has published an article entitled “A Brief History of Money” which answers some questions I’ve had lately. The piece provides an overview of the history of financial exchange, including: Bartering at Mesopotamian markets and the limitations of this system (“for a trade to occur each person must have something the other wants, and must have it at the right time”). The introduction of the “Barley Standard”, which is similar to the modern gold…

  • Facing and Fighting Financial Trolls (18 comments)

    Money is more about mind than it is about math — that’s one of the fundamental precepts of this site. If you improve your self-esteem, if you improve your mental attitude, if you improve your knowledge, you will improve your finances. To this end, it’s important to avoid negative messages about money. It’s difficult to improve your mental attitude when you’re besieged by financial trolls. What are financial trolls? In a recent article, Steve Pavlina…

  • 7 Ways to Take Charge of Your Finances in 2007 (36 comments)

    Always broke? Burdened by debt? Living paycheck-to-paycheck? Here’s a list of seven simple but effective steps you can take to seize control of your money instead of letting your money control you. ~ Track every penny you spend ~ The authors of Your Money or Your Life admonish readers to “keep track of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life.” [This is] the best way to become conscious of how money…

  • Personal Finance 101: Dumb Mistakes Lead to Financial Ruin (20 comments)

    Here’s a disturbing question from AskMetafilter: I received a foreclosure notice. I have the money, but have been having a difficult time with the lender. How do I prevent a foreclosure on my house? I purchased my house about five years ago, and set up my mortgage to be paid with an automatic bank draft. Last May, I fell for a phishing scam and had to close my checking account immediately. I called the mortgage…

  • How to Get Out of Debt (207 comments)

    Nick writes with a common question: I am a college student with $8,000 of debt. What is the first step in paying this off? Debt elimination involves three steps: Stop acquiring new debt. Establish an emergency fund. Implement a debt snowball. Here’s how to approach each step. (I’ll use Nick’s situation as an example, but the principles apply to everyone.) Stop acquiring new debt (This step can be accomplished in an afternoon.) This may seem…

  • How Do You Teach Kids the Value of Money? (35 comments)

    At the grocery store yesterday, I passed a man and his daughter in the snack aisle. She was maybe ten or eleven, a little overweight, and begging for cookies. He was tall and muscular, a blue-collar type, clearly exasperated with her. “You have no conception of how hard your mother and I work to earn money, do you?” he said. There was desperation in his voice. This brief encounter has been in my mind ever…

  • Getting Things Done: How to Take Control of Life (48 comments)

    Taking control of your finances is easier when the rest of your life is in order. If your mind is swamped with worries about work, or home improvement projects, or obligations to friends and family, personal finance can become a low priority. You have other Stuff to worry about. David Allen’s Getting Things Done provides a system for tackling all of the Stuff in your life. I’ve avoided mentioning Getting Things Done before today. But…

  • A Brief Guide to Creating a Will (19 comments)

    It’s Halloween — time for a scary, morbid subject. Young adults don’t think about wills. The typical person graduates from college, gets a job, marries his sweetheart, has children, and never considers a will until he turns fifty. But not everyone lives to be fifty. You can’t always see death coming. A will is for anyone with money and possessions that need to be distributed according to some plan. A Lifehacker reader recently asked about…

  • Sure-Fire Ways to Jump-Start Your Savings (19 comments)

    You know an article must be good when your accountant forwards it to you. Mine sent me this list of 11 ways to jump-start your savings from Dana Bratch at MSN Money. Bratch writes: The secret of successful savings borrows from the tale of the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race. But while it may be a winning strategy, it’s difficult to get motivated when your savings balance is climbing that…

  • Why Bother With Personal Finance? (12 comments)

    Here’s a great comment from a new reader: I just found this blog today, and I’m really confused. The title seems to suggest that this is a blog of good advice for people trying to save money and be thrifty. Overall, though, it seems the posters just end up in the same pitfalls and unpleasant surprises as anyone else. Viz the recent pair of postings of “don’t get an extended warranty” followed by “crap, my…

  • An Introduction to Mutual Funds (18 comments)

    The GRS discussion forums have become spam magnets. They weren’t used much anyhow, so I’m taking them down. (To be replaced by something better in the future.) I don’t want to lose any of the contributions from readers, though, so I’ll move the best posts to this blog over the next few weeks. This first post is an introduction to mutual funds from VinTek — original thread here. This is a very basic introduction to…

  • 8 Ways to Make Bill-Paying Easier (17 comments)

    My friend Mike is well-off. He lives alone, makes a good salary, invests wisely, and doesn’t spend money on foolish endeavors. Yet he often gets charged late fees. Why? Because he’s disorganized. He brings his bills home, throws them on the table, and they get lost under a mass of paper during the weeks that follow. When he remembers his bills, he pays the late fees, and sends extra money to cover the next few…

  • Track Every Penny You Spend (46 comments)

    I struggled with debt for years. I couldn’t get a handle on where my money went. I made a decent wage, but I was always broke! Where did I spend it all? Then I read Your Money or Your Life and heeded the book’s advice to “keep track of every cent that comes into or goes out of your life”. The results were startling. What does it mean to keep track of every penny you…

  • How to Find an Accountant (10 comments)

    I am not a financial expert. I’m just an average guy who wants to improve his personal finances while helping others to improve theirs. I feel comfortable giving general advice, but sometimes people write with specific questions that can only be answered by a qualified financial professional. Some questions are best answered by a lawyer, an accountant, or a financial planner. What do I mean by that? How does one find professional help? To find…

  • Survey: Money and Marriage (22 comments)

    Here’s an excellent question from a Get Rich Slowly reader. While I try my best to “get rich slowly” I have one huge issue: a husband. My husband likes to spend money. I’m referred to as the “Thrifty One Who Won’t Allow Me To Buy Stuff” and he’s referred to as “That Jerk Who Buys Stuff”. Do you have any advice for couples that need to have the other half put on a strict budget…

  • Saving Money vs. Making Money (9 comments)

    I’m sometimes asked, “Which do you think is more important: saving money or making money?” They’re both important, equal factors in the wealth equation: [WEALTH] = [WHAT YOU EARN] – [WHAT YOU SPEND] Which is most important to you depends on your current financial situation. If you have a good income, then the most important thing you can do is to control spending. If your family earns $100,000 a year and is unable to make…

  • How and Why to Start an Emergency Fund (91 comments)

    “Pay off your debt.” “Max out your IRA.” “Buy a house.” “Get a new job.” Personal finance advisers bombard us with a litany of things we ought to do in order to achieve financial independence. It’s overwhelming. Where’s a person to start? Most personal finance books agree: the first thing you should do — after meeting basic needs, and while reducing spending — is to start an emergency fund. What is an emergency fund? An…

  • Survey: What Does Money Mean to You? (44 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly is the final entrant in JLP’s Question-of-the-Day Marathon. There have been many thought-provoking questions over the past month; I hope you’ve had a chance to contribute at some of the participating sites. My question is: What does money mean to you? When I was a boy, my family was poor. Money then meant necessities to me. It was the key to obtaining essentials, especially food and clothing. Sometimes it opened other doors,…

  • 27 Money Tips for College Students (93 comments)

    School’s back in session, and with it come life-lessons in money management for students. But personal finance can be easy, even if you’re just starting out. You just have to know how it works. All of the following are concepts I wish I had known before heading to college. Money Management Now that you’re on your own, you might be tempted to spend money on all the things your parents wouldn’t let you have before….

  • Make Money Quick! In the Stock Market! (16 comments)

    There is no reliable way to make money quickly. If there were, everyone would be doing it. Get-rich-quick schemes are just that: schemes. Sure, it’s possible to get lucky at a casino, or to make a well-timed stock pick, but these feats are the exception, not the rule. They generally are not reproducible. An AskMetafilter user recently pleaded for some hot stock tips. Where online do you go to find “best buys” about new and…

  • Which Financial Records to Keep (and How Long to Keep Them) (35 comments)

    An AskMetafilter user wonders how long to keep receipts: I have been keeping all of my receipts for some time now. Every day, I enter them into my money tracking system (presently just a text file where I capture date, payee and amount). Then I file the receipts away in folders by month. My question: does it do me any good to save the receipts, or is having the data good enough? [...] I’ve never…

  • Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford (11 comments)

    Live from New York! It’s Saturday night! Okay, it’s really live from Portland, but here’s a skit from Saturday Night Live that features excellent personal finance advice. The best personal finance advice. You can watch the clip for free at Salon, or you can just read the script below: Scene: a typical American kitchen. A husband (Steve Martin) and wife (Amy Poehler) are puzzling over their finances. Wife: Oh, I just can’t get these numbers…

  • Put Yourself on a Debt Diet (2 comments)

    Lifehacker points to Oprah’s Debt Diet, which is a sensible approach to debt elimination and sound personal finance. The “diet” is divided into two phases of four steps each. Short-Term Within a month, you should be able to complete each of these four short-term goals, perhaps pursuing one task per week. These are steps that can be taken now to stop the bleeding and to begin the financial healing process. How much debt do you…

  • Toward Financial Independence (7 comments)

    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. — Henry David Thoreau In the midst of our rush to earn money, our scramble to save for retirement, our focus on frugality, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re doing this. What is the goal? What is it we’re trying to do by…

  • Smart People Ask Questions (1 comment)

    Here’s a some advice Ramit at I Will Teach You to Be Rich shared last winter: Smart people ask questions. Asking questions of the right people does so many things: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you get your problem solved, and you can potentially learn unexpected cool nuggets. But sometimes it’s not obvious what we should ask questions about. Start with the obvious. [...] Think about the curious friends you have. They’re the…

  • Personal Finance Resources from the U.S. Government (0 comment)

    Did you know that the U.S. government has a web site devoted to helping citizens with sound personal finance? MyMoney.gov is the U.S. government’s website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics about financial education. Whether you are planning to buy a home, balancing your checkbook, or investing in your 401k, the resources on MyMoney.gov can help you do it better. Throughout the site, you will find important information from 20 federal agencies government wide….

  • How to Obtain Your Free Credit Report (10 comments)

    Ralph writes: I’d like to know how to get a free copy of my credit report from the agencies. A recent federal law gives consumers access to their credit reports; however, it costs extra to obtain your credit score. Your credit score is not an actual component of your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with…

  • Twelve Financial Truths (1 comment)

    VinTek forwarded a list of twelve financial truths written by Jonathan Clements for The Wall Street Journal. The full article is now behind a paywall. Here are the bullet points: It’s hard to cut back. Once you’re used to a certain standard of living, it’s difficult to go back. This is an excellent argument for socking away salary increases in savings. You’ll never be satisfied. There’s always something else you’ll want. If you can learn…

  • The Most Important Money Tip (32 comments)

    Personal finance is easy. It’s simple. There is one fundamental law that governs your money. If you master this, you have mastered the entire game: To gain wealth, you must spend less than you earn. In David Copperfield — one of my favorite books — Charles Dickens wrote: Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. That’s all it takes….

  • Ben Franklin’s Advice to a Young Tradesman (1 comment)

    TO MY FRIEND, A. B.: — As you have desired of me, I write the following hints, which have been of service to me, and may, if observed, be so to you. Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour and goes abroad or sits idle one-half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only…

  • Necessary Hints to Those That Would Be Rich (0 comment)

    (by Benjamin Franklin, from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1737)) The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money. For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty. He that spends a groat a day idly spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds. He that wastes idly…

  • Plan for Saving One Hundred Thousand Pounds (1 comment)

    (by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1756) As I spent some weeks last winter in visting my old acquaintance in the Jerseys, great complaints I heard for want of money, and that leave to make more paper bills could not be obtained. Friends and countrymen, my advice on this head shall cost you nothing; and if you will not be angry with me for giving it, I promise you not to be offended if…

  • Financial Advice from a Founding Father (1 comment)

    In celebration of Independence Day, I’ve gathered some personal finance advice from Benjamin Franklin, one of our Founding Fathers. Franklin was witty, wise, and eminently practical. He was a master of thrift and frugality. Nearly three hundred years later, his advice is still worth heeding. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” “Buy what thou hast no need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessities.” “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will…

  • Tip: Pay Your Bills as They Arrive (16 comments)

    Here’s a tip that can pay big dividends: Pay your bills as they arrive. This helps financially and psychologically. I get paid twice a month. Because I used to live paycheck-to-paycheck, I paid my bills twice a month, too. Although I now have a buffer of savings, it’s only recently that I’ve discovered the advantages of paying my bills as they come in rather than waiting until they’re due: It saves time. Rather than spend…

  • Get Rich Slowly in the Wall Street Journal (11 comments)

    Jason Leow has written an article for the Wall Street Journal about how to find worthwhile personal finance books (registration required — the article is on page B1 of the 24 June 2006 issue). This weblog is featured in the story. Leow writes: The universe of personal-finance books is exploding. Many of them offer dated advice in plodding prose, so now a mini-industry has evolved to help sort through which are worth reading, which merit…

  • One Uncle’s Advice About Money (9 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly reader Drake says, “I thought you’d be interested in a portion of an email I sent to my college-age nephew several months ago.  It expresses my attitude about money.”   Money is very important, but only if it is understood properly.  Most people don’t understand it at all. They don’t understand how money fits into a full and complete life, how it needs to be controlled, how one should relate to it. …

  • General Investment Tips (2 comments)

    Matt’s General Investing Tips reflect common investment wisdom as I understand it. There is nothing new or shocking here. This is mainstream investment advice. If you’re looking for an introduction to the various investment vehicles, Matt does an excellent job summarizing the pros and cons of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Matt stresses several factors: It is not possible to outguess the market. “If you see a piece of news in the media you should…

  • Saving Electricity: How to Reduce Your Energy Costs (17 comments)

    How much electricity does your computer use? Your refrigerator? Your washer and dryer? Do you know how to save money on water heating costs? Michael Bluejay‘s guide to saving electricity answers these questions and more. Bluejay calls himself “Mr. Electricity” — the title is apt! My guide on Saving Electricity gives you a bit more than you might get elsewhere. I explain exactly what a kilowatt hour is and how much you pay for one….

  • Eight Things Every Credit Card User Should Know (6 comments)

    The official Get Rich Slowly stance on credit cards remains: don’t use them. If you do use them, at least take a few minutes to read this list of eight things a credit card user should know from the website for Frontline’s The Secret History of the Credit Card (discussed here yesterday). Note: Some of this information has changed as a result of the Credit Card Act of 2009. You can read about some of…

  • Action Girl’s Guide to Living (7 comments)

    Sarah Dyer‘s Action Girl isn’t a superhero in the traditional sense. She has her own comic book, sure, but her super power is the ability to help people take charge of their own lives. Dyer has a personal agenda, and she’s pleased to share it with the world. Here is an abridged version of Action Girl’s Guide to Living (follow the link for Dyer’s extended version):

  • The Wealthy Barber (16 comments)

    When I picked up The Wealthy Barber from the public library, I figured it must be good: the book was well-worn, the cover bent, pages dog-eared, passages highlighted, whole sections annotated in pencil and pen. Only the best personal finance books receive this sort of treatment. I’m pleased to report that The Wealthy Barber is a good read — author David Chilton offers an excellent introduction to personal finance. The Wealthy Barber‘s gimmick is that…

  • How To Acquire a Good Entry-Level Job (3 comments)

    Not everyone is ready to aim for a $100,000 job. On AskMetafilter, a user writes: I need to find some sort of long-term employment that will put me on my way to establishing financial independence from my family and also provide me with meaningful work experience. This is made difficult as I am eighteen, I only have a GED, and my resume leaves much to be desired. I do not have any prior work or…

  • Anatomy of a Credit Score (21 comments)

    Your credit score plays an increasingly important role in your financial health. But what is it? And how does it affect what you pay for loans and credit cards? Your credit score is a single number that indicates your creditworthiness. This number is derived from various pieces of information contained in your credit report. Your credit report is accumulated by various credit agencies — credit card companies and banks and other financial institutions, who pass…

  • Pep Talk: Pay Yourself First (7 comments)

    All the money books tell you to do it. All the personal finance blogs say it, too. Even your dad has given you the same advice: Save ten percent of everything you earn. But it’s hard. That money could be used someplace else. You could pay the phone bill, could pay down debt, could buy a new DVD player. You’ve tried once or twice in the past, but it’s so easy to forget. You don’t…

  • The Wealthy Barber on Compound Returns (6 comments)

    I’m nearly finished with The Wealthy Barber, and will post a review soon. However, I wanted to share this passage, which echoes my previous comments on the power of compound returns. Roy, the wealthy barber, is lecturing his patrons: “Regardless of which tax-deferred vehicle you select, IRA or other, start contributing now! I can’t stress that enough. “Two twenty-two-year-old twins decide to start saving for retirement. One opens an IRA, invests two thousand dollars a…

  • The Psychology of Spending (3 comments)

    For many, it’s not the rules of personal finance that are difficult — it’s implementing them. We know what we should do, but we make poor choices. In The Psychology of Spending Money, Deborah Fowles explores our “urge to splurge”. Facing the factors that give you the urge to splurge can be uncomfortable, but if you don’t face them, you may never get control of your spending and your debt. If you’re always trying to…

  • Budgeting for Non-Budgeters: The 60% Solution (15 comments)

    Richard Jenkins at MSN Money has developed what he believes is a simpler way to save. Fed up with budgets that were a burden to implement, Jenkins came up with his own easy method to determine how much should go where each month. What you’re trying to do with a budget is to prevent overspending, which ultimately leads to piling up debt. Contrary to the way most people budget, however, it rarely matters what you’re…

  • 12 Financial Tips for Women (2 comments)

    Dana Bratch has created a list of twelve financial tips for women. While neither gender has an exclusive lock on money management skills, the financial deck is stacked against women. They earn about three-quarters of what men make. In a divorce, they get less of the assets and more of the children. They live longer, and one in eight elderly women lives in poverty, compared to one in 12 men, according to 2003 figures from…

  • Learning to Eat More Meals at Home (31 comments)

    Cooking at home is an excellent way to save money. But if you’re accustomed to dining out for most meals, it can be a difficult transition. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available on the web. The Lazy Person’s Guide to Eating More Meals at Home is a good place to start: If you read personal finance blogs long enough, you’re going to get the idea hammered into you that cooking for yourself rather than eating…

  • How to Dispute Credit Report Errors (4 comments)

    The Federal Trade Commission has many handy publications, including this guide to disputing credit report errors. It’s really just a three-step process: Obtain a copy of your credit report — The Fair Credit Reporting requires that each of the three major credit reporting agencies provide you with a free copy of your credit report once per year. But you have to request it. Do that through annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. Notify the consumer reporting…

  • The World’s Easiest Guide to Retirement Accounts (3 comments)

    Ramit at I Will Teach You to Be Rich has posted The World’s Easiest Guide to Understanding Retirement Accounts, a brilliant introduction to these important investments. “If you start a retirement account in your early 20s and fund it regularly, you will be rich,” he says. He’s right. Topics covered include: The magical benefits of retirement accounts — how the tax advantages of a retirement account are better than a standard investment account. Your 401(k)…

  • Clearing Up Roth IRA Confusion (1 comment)

    Today’s CNNMoney “Ask the Expert” column clears up a common confusion regarding the nature of Individual Retirement Accounts. A woman writes: I opened a Roth IRA at my credit union, but now I’m confused. As I understand it, my Roth, which the teller told me is “just like a CD,” lasts only 23 months. Based on what I’ve read about Roth IRAs, however, I thought you could put your money aside for a couple of…

  • Financial Advice For My Son (0 comment)

    T. Chester has created a great site devoted to financial advice for his son. This is an excellent introduction to personal finance for anyone, and well worth the twenty minutes it takes to read. Some of Chester’s key points: The three most important precepts: The most powerful force in the Universe is compound interest! Savings is most important There is no such thing as a legitimate “get rich quick” scheme. Things to do before investing:…