Make a wish list of financial goals

If one moves confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. — Henry David Thoreau

What would you do if money were not a concern? Would you quit your job? Would you travel? Would you live in another state? Another country? Would you write? Would you garden? Would you devote your life to charity? Would you race cars? Would you enter politics?

Many people make poor financial decisions because they don't have long-term personal goals. If you don't understand that buying a new cell phone or playing a game of poker takes money from a larger goal — a new home, a new car, a vacation to Europe — then there's no incentive not to use the money for whatever seems fun at the moment.

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Once-a-Month Cooking: Cooking for the Rushed

Get Rich Slowly-reader Kevin comments:

Eating well on a budget requires some thought. But planning out a whole month of meals, and shopping for that month (you only get two paychecks a month) is the real challenge. Is there a web site with a month long meal plan of healthy meals, in a spreadsheet shopping list, that can be used at most grocery stores? I cannot find any.

While you can try the 14-day trial of $5 Meal Plan, my brother suggests books might be more useful than web sites for long-term meal planning. His family has been using a couple of volumes that do just what Kevin wants:

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The Wealthy Barber

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 instead of presenting information in a dry subject-by-subject manner, Chilton has written the story of Roy, a small-town barber who is also a millionaire. (Roy got rich slowly.) The reader learns about IRAs and whole life insurance and compound interest as Roy dispenses advice to a trio of customers, each of whom has different financial circumstances. (This allows Chilton to highlight different approaches to certain problems.)

The Wealthy Barber's financial planning guidelines include:

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How compound returns favor the young

In an earlier entry about the cost of waiting one year to begin investing for retirement, I posted a chart from AllFinancialMatters that demonstrated the power of compound returns. Vintek posted a math exercise related to the subject.

I got this from a book called The Random Walk Guide to Investing by Burton Malkiel. It's a book I recommend, and I'll eventually talk about it in the forum. Here's the exercise:

William and James are twin brothers who are 65 years old. 45 years ago (at the end of the year when he reached 20), William started an IRA and put $2K in the account at the end of each year. After 20 years of contributions, William stopped making new deposits but left the accumulated contributions in the IRA fund. The fund produced returns of 10% per year tax-free. James started his own IRA when he reached the age of 40 (just after William quit) and contributed $2K per year for 25 years, making his last contribution today. James invested 25% more money in total than William. James also earned 10% on his investments tax-free. What are the values of William's and James's IRA funds today?

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More about...Retirement, Planning