The cost of pet ownership: The good, the bad, and the ugly

This article is part of relationship month at Get Rich Slowly.

As a dental hygienist, my girlfriend Kim meets lots of interesting people and has lots of interesting conversations. Last week while cleaning a patient's teeth, the topic turned to pets.

"Two years ago, we didn't have any animals," Kim told her patient. "We were on the road in an RV. Today? Today we have three cats and a dog. Honestly, I'd be fine with more animals. We love them."

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Writing your financial autobiography

I believe that each of us possesses a money blueprint, a mental map that defines our behaviors and attitudes toward money. Our basic blueprints come from our parents. They're altered through our interactions with friends and co-workers. And, of course, our own experiences lead us to modify and add to our money blueprints.

A couple of months ago, I had lunch with my friend Michael. We talked a bit about my money blueprint, then we talked a bit about his. Because our backgrounds are similar, our money blueprints are similar.

"You know what would be interesting," Michael suggested. "You should write your financial autobiography."

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How to check your Social Security benefits online

Last week, I drove out to the box factory to see my brother Jeff and my cousin Nick. Ostensibly, I made the trip to check up on Mom's financial situation. Really, though, it was an excuse to spend three hours chatting about nothing and everything all at once.

As I was looking through Mom's Social Security info, I decided to check my own account online.

"Look," I said. "I'll get $1125 per month if I start Social Security in thirteen years. If I wait eighteen years, I'll get $1598 per month. That's as if I had another half-million dollars saved for retirement." [I based this very rough estimate on the math for the four-percent rule.]

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Conducting a family goals conference

If you've been reading my stuff in recent years, you know that I'm a vocal advocate for finding your purpose in life.

I believe purpose is the foundation on which all plans — financial and otherwise — ought to be built. Purpose is a compass. It helps you set big goals, sure, but it also acts as a guide when times get tough. Your mother died? Your wife left? Your husband lost his job? If you know what your primary purpose is in life, these stressful events are much easier to deal with.

To that end, I encourage readers to take the time to craft a personal mission statement. Anecdata from the folks who have actually followed through on this exercise confirms my suspicion: Doing this can be life-changing. I'm not joking.

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The opportunity fund: How to be prepared for lucky breaks

There's a consensus among money writers that one of the most important first steps on the road to financial freedom is establishing an emergency fund. Your emergency fund is like self-insurance to protect you from all the small, surprise disasters we each encounter in daily life.

But not every unexpected event is unwelcome. Sometimes life brings us lucky breaks — but these opportunities can still cost money. That's why I believe it makes sense to also keep a chunk of cash in an "opportunity fund".

The Opportunity Fund

I first learned about opportunity funds from reading about billionaires and business owners. These savvy savers often set aside money specifically to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Continue reading...

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How to calculate your net worth (and what to do with it)

In the spirit of getting back to basics this month at Get Rich Slowly, I'm planning to publish a series of articles about the most important numbers in personal finance. Let's start by looking at how to calculate your net worth.

To measure the value of a business, companies talk about equity or "book value". Jargon, right? In personal finance, equity is known as net worth. It's exactly the same thing but on a personal level. Your net worth is an important number because it reveals how much the business of you is worth at the moment.

Still clear as mud? Maybe this definition of net worth from Wait But Why will make more sense:

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How to set smart goals: What science says about getting what you want

During my two-week break, I've been working to migrate some of my old Money Boss articles to Get Rich Slowly. I thought this long piece on how to set good goals might be useful to those of you about to set goals and resolutions for 2018, so I'm publishing it today. Enjoy!

We've reached one of my favorite parts of the year: the transition from the old to the new. I like that so many of us pause during the winter to reflect on how are lives are going -- and the direction we'd like them to head.

As part of this, many folks set goals and resolutions for the coming year. Unfortunately, most of these goals and resolutions are destined to remain nothing more than dreams. Why? Because most people don't know how to set good goals.

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Visualizing your net worth — and how it compares to others

As you all know, I'm fond of financial scorecards. While admitting their limitations, I like numbers and tools that allow you to compare your financial progress with other people.

I like credit scores, for instance, because they put a number on how you handle money -- a number you can compare to Americans at large. And I like apps like Credit Sesame, which let you to monitor your credit score -- much like a bathroom scale lets you monitor your weight.

Perhaps my favorite number is net worth, the total value of everything you own. Calculating net worth is easy. It's what you own minus what you owe. That's it. Simple, right? Simple but powerful.

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Avoiding the fate of the dodo: How to prepare for an uncertain future

Our financial decisions are based on our expectations for the future.

We save for retirement because we expect we'll live a long time in old age, a period where we expect to be relatively unproductive. We invest in stocks because we expect the market to provide outsized returns when compared to other asset classes. We set aside emergency savings because we expect that bad things will happen -- if not tomorrow, then next week (or next year).

We base our expectations on past experience -- both our own experience and the experiences of others.

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Your lifetime wealth ratio (and how to calculate it)

While browsing money blogs yesterday, I came upon an old article from my pal Joe at Retire by 40. The post is from 2015, but it contains a cool concept that I think might be useful for readers of Get Rich Slowly.

Joe -- who was inspired in turn by J. Money at Budgets Are Sexy -- asks, "What's your lifestime wealth ratio?" According to Joe and J. Money, your lifetime wealth ratio is result of a simple equation:

Lifetime Wealth Ratio = Your Net Worth / Your Lifetime Income

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