Getting Started

Chasing Money

“Don’t think money does everything, or you are going to end up doing everything for money.” – Voltaire It’s not too uncommon for a frugal person to hear the criticism that they are “cheap.” At the same time, it’s also not too uncommon for a wealthy person to hear the criticism that they are somehow …

Categories: Getting Started

The Challenge of the “Best” Choice

As I write this article, my three year old son is perched on my lap with my arms around him. He’s playing with one of his favorite toys, a Transformer that’s easy to transition from a fire truck to a robot, and he’s telling me stories about them. He’s happy and safe and secure sitting …

“If Only I Had This Thing, I Would Be Happy”

Something has captured your imagination or your heart. Maybe it’s an expensive physical item, like a tablet computer or a shiny car. Maybe it’s something like a relationship with another person, either real or visualized. You get wrapped up in this thing that you want. You keep visualizing yourself with this thing in your life …

Approaching Fears

All of us have a fear or two that keeps us up through the night. Maybe it’s debt or being unable to take care of your family. Maybe it’s a lack of money for retirement. Maybe it’s a health issue or early death. My biggest fear, without a doubt, is passing away before my children …

Categories: Getting Started

Failing at Personal Finance

Recently, I’ve been reading the wonderful book The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle, someone whose writings I’ve enjoyed for a very long time. The premise of the book is that, at some point in our lives, we’re going to fail. We’ll fail at a relationship or at launching a business or at a …

Categories: Getting Started

Does the Investing Advice of a Billionaire Help Ordinary People?

A reader passed along this interesting interview from the Wall Street Journal with Mark Cuban. For those unfamiliar, Cuban is a billionaire who made a significant amount of his wealth in the early days of the internet era. His argument in this interview? Diversification is “for idiots.” First of all, let’s talk about what diversification …

Don’t Cut Where It Hurts (At Least, Not at First)

The one part about turning around your personal finance situation that everyone dreads is the cutbacks. It’s easy to see why. Your normal, everyday life is what has led you to this financial corner. In order to turn the ship around, you’re going to have to make some changes to your normal, everyday life. People …

The False Belief of Invincibility

When things are going well, it can be really easy to buy into your own invincibility. You can’t possibly lose your job. You’re dominating in the workplace and taking care of everything that can be asked of you. Your performance numbers are incredible. You can’t possibly get sick. You feel great and your health has …

Categories: Getting Started

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

A long time ago, I wrote an extremely well-received post in which I outlined the basics of personal finance on the back of five business cards. After that, I converted the cards into a presentation that I’ve used many times when I’ve been invited to speak on personal finance topics in my area. A few …

Categories: Getting Started

Forgotten Purchases

Forgetting purchases is my number one personal finance challenge. How does one “forget” a purchase, you might ask? It’s pretty easy. I’ll buy something, but then I’ll forget to take note of it later on where I keep track of my personal spending. Then, later on in the month, it will appear as though I …

Categories: Getting Started

Advice for College Graduates Without Debt

Mary writes in: “I have a son graduating in May and he has a good job lined up making about $60,000 a year. He has no debt and will have about $1000 in credit card debt. He drives a car that we are hoping will last the next 5 months, not in the best of …

Categories: Getting Started

Some Thoughts on Selling to Friends

A while back, I wrote an impassioned column about the dangers of selling to your friends and family. My feeling was that selling stuff directly to friends and family was a very poor idea. Recently, I had an interaction with an old friend that made me re-think this stance a little bit. This friend of …

Categories: Getting Started

Is an Emergency Fund Necessary?

I’m a pretty big advocate for emergency funds – cash stowed away in a savings account for a rainy day. Establishing an emergency fund is one of the first things Sarah and I did during our financial turnaround and that emergency fund took care of several difficulties we faced during the first year or so …

Categories: Getting Started

Net Worth and Pleasure

In a post a few days ago, I made an offhand comment about how I didn’t really receive personal pleasure from seeing my net worth increase, though I once did. A few people emailed me on that subject, so I thought I’d clarify what I meant. When I first began to overcome my personal finance …

Categories: Getting Started

Financial Problems and the Three Ps

Recently, I found myself browsing through a book called Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. The idea behind the book is that an optimistic approach is the best way to handle the problems that life throws at us. I was particularly struck by Seligman’s comparison of how optimists and pessimists handle problems. In Seligman’s view, pessimists …

Some Thoughts on Assets, Liabilities, and “Free” Spending

Right at the start of my professional career, an old friend of mine sat down with me and gave me some advice that I didn’t pay much attention to at the time, to my regret. I thought enough about it to jot it down in my journal a couple times during the late summer of …

Finding Your Bliss Station

Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where [...] you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You …

Categories: Getting Started

The Costs – and Rewards – of Having Children

Erika writes: “My husband and I are weighing the pros and cons of having a baby. We have seen articles that estimate that the cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood is around $250,000 which seems incredible. If you have three kids that would mean you’re putting up $750,000 just to raise them, …

The Risk and Reward of Generics, Store Brands, and “Best Buys”

When Sarah and I were really straining to get our finances under control, we went through a phase where we bought the cheapest versions of every food and common household product. We bought cheap coffee, cheap cereal, cheap dishwashing detergent – you name it. As we used this stuff, we found that most of it …