Personal Finance For Dummies, 9th Edition
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A lot of financial advice ignores the big picture and focuses narrowly on investing. Because money is not an end in itself but a part of your whole life, connecting your financial goals to the rest of your life is important. You need a broad understanding of personal finance to include all areas of your financial life: spending, taxes, saving and investing, insurance, and planning for major goals such as education, buying a home, and retirement. The following keys to success aren’t a magic bullet, but they can help you get started thinking about the big picture.

Personal finance fundamentals

  • Take charge of your finances. Procrastinating is detrimental to your long-term financial health. Don’t wait for a crisis or major life event to get your act together. Start implementing a plan now.

  • Live within your means and don’t try to keep up with your co-workers, neighbors, and peers. Many who engage in conspicuous consumption are borrowing against their future; some end up bankrupt.

  • Save and invest at least 5 to 10 percent of your income. Preferably, invest through a retirement savings account to reduce your taxes and ensure your future financial independence.

  • Own your home. In the long run, owning is more cost-effective than renting, unless you have a terrific rent-control deal. But don’t buy until you can stay put for a number of years.

  • If you’re married, make time to discuss joint goals, issues, and concerns. Be accepting of your partner’s money personality; learn to compromise and manage as a team.

  • Prioritize your financial goals and start working toward them. Be patient. Focus on your accomplishments and learn from your mistakes.

  • Prepare for life changes. The better you are at living within your means and anticipating life changes, the better off you will be financially and emotionally.

Invest in yourself and others. Invest in your education, your health, and your relationships with family and friends. Having a lot of money isn’t worth much if you don’t have your health and people to share your life with. Give your time and money to causes that better our society and world.

Credit and insurance

  • Don’t buy consumer items (cars, clothing, vacations, and so on) that lose value over time on credit. Use debt only to make investments in things that gain value, such as real estate, a business, or an education.

  • Use credit cards only for convenience, not for carrying debt. If you have a tendency to run up credit-card debt, then get rid of your cards and use only cash, checks, and debit cards.

  • Purchase broad insurance coverage to protect against financial catastrophes. Eliminate insurance for small potential losses.

Investing and financial advice

  • Understand and use your employee benefits. If you’re self-employed, find the best investment and insurance options available to you and use them.

  • Research before you buy. Never purchase a financial product or service on the basis of an advertisement or salesperson’s solicitation.

  • Avoid financial products that carry high commissions and expenses. Companies that sell their products through aggressive sales techniques generally have the worst financial products and the highest commissions.

  • Don’t purchase any financial product that you don’t understand. Ask questions and compare what you’re being offered to the most highly respected sources.

  • Invest the majority of your long-term money in ownership vehicles that have appreciation potential, such as stocks, real estate, and your own business. When you invest in bonds or bank accounts, you’re simply lending your money to others, and the return you earn probably won’t keep you ahead of inflation and taxes.

  • Avoid making emotionally based financial decisions. For example, investors who panic and sell their stock holdings after a major market correction miss a buying opportunity. Be especially careful in making important financial decisions after a major life change, such as a divorce, job loss, or death in your family.

  • Make investing decisions based upon your needs and the long-term fundamentals of what you’re buying. Ignore the predictive advice offered by financial prognosticators — nobody has a working crystal ball. Don’t make knee-jerk decisions based on news headlines.

Hire yourself first. You are the best financial person you can hire. If you need help making a major decision, hire conflict-free advisors who charge a fee for their time. Work in partnership with advisors — don’t abdicate control.

© Eric Tyson

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About the book author:

Eric Tyson is an internationally acclaimed and bestselling personal finance book author, syndicated columnist, and speaker. He is also the author of Investing For Dummies, Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s For Dummies and coauthor of Home Buying Kit For Dummies.

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