Financial advice from my father (when I was nineteen)

Dad at work in his shop "Who was there for your father when he died?" Kim asked me a few moments ago. She's interested in becoming a death doula, so she's reading a book about end-of-life care.

"It's odd you should ask that today," I said after I told her the story of my father's six-year battle with cancer.

"Why?" she asked.

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Five lessons I learned while making a documentary film about FIRE

When J.D. decided to spend three weeks in Europe with his family, he asked a few people if they'd be interested in contributing articles during his absence. He even asked me!

My name is Scott Rieckens, and I'm new to the world of smart money management. I'm new to the world of financial independence and early retirement. I'm new, but I've totally immersed myself in it. I've immersed myself so much, in fact, that I've spent the past eighteen months creating a feature film about FIRE. (FIRE is the clumsy abbreviation for "financial independence/retire early". Basically, the FIRE movement is all about saving big so that you can choose to live however you want.)

"You've been in a unique position over the past year," J.D. said when I asked him what I should write about. "You've had amazing access to a variety of people who think and write and teach about financial independence and early retirement. You've been able to hear what they think and say in private as well as public. What about sharing your biggest takeaways from this experience?"

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The case for separate (but combined) finances

In the world of personal finance, the subject of how couples share (or don't share) their money comes up time and time again. It's no surprise. After all, money problems are a leading cause of divorce.

But for some reason, the concept that "personal finance is personal" doesn't always factor into people's opinions about combining finances -- especially within a marriage.

Often, people argue that in order to be a team, couples must combine finances fully. Or that separate accounts mean there's some lack of trust within the relationship. Or that you aren't truly committed to each other. Or that you must not be on the same page about long-term hopes and dreams.

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The perfect gift is cheap and easy

If you're panicked because you still haven't thought of the perfect gift for the people on your Nice List, you'll be relieved to know you don't need to spend as much time as you might think looking for something thoughtful. You also don't need to run up your credit card bill.

Why? Because neither of these things is likely to be appreciated by the gift getter.

In fact, a 2008 study from Stanford University researchers found that spending a lot of time and money to select a gift doesn't make a bit of difference to the recipient. According to Francis J. Flynn, an organizational psychologist at Stanford, the price of a gift is more important to the giver than the getter. (Plus, most recipients actually prefer cash or something from a gift registry, such as their Amazon wish list.)

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Your financial family tree: What our parents teach us about money

Last weekend, Kim and I flew to Utah for a reunion with friends from the 2016 chautauqua in Ecuador. While in Salt Lake City, we met up with Jesse Mecham (the founder of You Need a Budget), visited Utah Olympic Park, and attended a Sunday morning performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Our group also spent an entire afternoon at the Mormon Family History Library, where we explored our genealogy. Not everyone was enthused about researching their family tree at first, but eventually even those who thought the exercise would be lame found themselves wrapped in it. It's fun -- and enlightening -- to unravel the threads of time and discover who your ancestors were and where they came from.

Kim at the Family History Library

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Time is more valuable than money

It's a GRS tradition! Each year on Halloween, I publish a story about planning for death. Usually these are general articles about estate planning. This year's story is personal.

When my best friend died in 2009, one of my biggest regrets was that I hadn't made time to travel with him.

Sparky had previously asked me to join him on trips to Burning Man (in 1996) and southeast Asia (in 1998) and Mexico (in 2003). I'd declined each invitation, in part because I was deep in debt but also because I thought there'd be plenty of time to do that sort of thing in the future.

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The right way (and the wrong way) to lend money to family and friends

There are those who believe that money writers lead perfect financial lives. Ha! Would that it were so. When we get together, we often share stories about the dumb things we’ve done. Today, my friends, I want to tell you about an instance in which I failed to follow my own advice, an example of how not to get rich slowly.

For several years now, one of my indulgences has been season tickets to the Portland Timbers, my home-town’s professional soccer team. I’ve been a Timbers fan since I was six years old. I used to listen to their exploits on the radio during the 1970s. I can still sing "Green is the Color" from memory:

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How to have fair fights about money

While I've made plenty of money mistakes in my life, I've also done some things right. One of those things is the way in which I've handled money in my romantic relationships. I've managed to navigate nearly thirty years of adulthood without ever having a fight about money. (I've had disagreements, sure, but never a fight.)

Contrast this with my parents. My parents fought about money all of the time. It's one of my most vivid memories from my childhood, actually: Mom or Dad (they took turns) brandishing the checkbook and yelling about the near-zero balance. In retrospect, it's probably because my parents fought about money that I've so steadfastly avoided doing so in my own life.

It's not just my parents, though. Many couples fight about money. It's one of the most common sources of friction in relationships.

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How to manage money as a couple

As January fades and February blooms, we're going to turn our attention from basic money management to something much more complicated: how money affects our relationships.

In December 2016, Bloomberg published a piece that profiled seven different couples from around the United States. The article -- which was essentially a series of short interviews -- offered a quick glimpse at how other people handle money in their relationships.

Here, for example, are Rebecca and Ari discussing what it was like to move in together:

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Dissatisfied customer? Make an effective complaint

I've often heard that there are two kinds of customers, those who will complain and those who won't. The ones who complain are better for a company because they're more likely to stick around if the company can successfully resolve their issue. The customer who doesn't complain, on the other hand, is more likely to quietly go elsewhere.

But sometimes it's uncomfortable to be the squeaky wheel. Even though I write about money and personal finance, I often avoid complaining. I feel uncomfortable being in the presence of others while they are complaining — I stopped going to lunch with a former coworker because he complained to the manager at almost every restaurant.

While that's a little extreme, it is important to speak up. Companies want to retain you as a customer, especially if you're reasonable and have a valid complaint. Good customer service still exists. The key is to approach the complaint process with a plan. Continue reading...

More about...Psychology, Relationships