Kelly writes in: I’m reading about retirement and I see terms like Traditional IRA and Roth IRA and 401(k) thrown around without really explaining what they are or what the differences between them are. Do you have a summary of these plans and how they work? There’s no better time than the present to offer up some great fundamental personal finance information like this. I’m going to ask a series of basic questions about retirement plans and provide the answers …

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A little over five years ago, I set a tremendous goal for myself. I wanted to completely overhaul my financial life. I was in a pile of debt. I was working at a job that I enjoyed, but it often felt like it was pulling me both from my family and from my dream career. My goal was to eliminate my debts and put my finances in a position so that I could switch careers. I achieved that goal, and …

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What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Car buying question 2. Food business 3. Student loan question 4. Difficult car choice 5. Moving from Mint to spreadsheet 6. Savings or down payment? 7. Homeschooling 8. Overwhelmed by mortgage 9. Investing versus loan repayment 10. Hidden messages? Yesterday’s review of The Total Money Makeover Workbook left several people asking …

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Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance or other book of interest. Also available is a complete list of the hundreds of book reviews that have appeared on The Simple Dollar over the years. Ronald writes in: I really loved your series of posts on The Total Money Makeover. I decided to pick it up for myself but when I went to the store they had The Total Money Makeover and The Total Money Makeover Workbook. Which one …

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Plastic Flowers

June 5 2011

My sister-in-law is a florist. She can take a few hands full of ditch weeds and dandelions and make them look amazing in about five seconds. On the flip side of that coin, many department stores sell centerpieces stuffed with plastic flowers consisting of perfectly-arranged imitations of beautiful blossoms. Sit them side by side and the arrangement of ditch weeds and dandelions looks far more impressive. The same is true with people. I find a person whose life is full …

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One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about life over the past several years is that your good hours are the only valuable ones. You know exactly what I’m talking about. There are a few hours during the day where you’re revved up. Your mind is clicking. You’re efficient at solving problems. You’re able to produce great things. At other points in the day, though, you’re nowhere near as able to produce good work. You sit there staring at …

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Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well. 1. Des Moines Family Music Festival This past weekend, the five of us went to Every Family Rocks in Des Moines, Iowa. It was a concert of various children’s music acts, accompanied by a wide variety of art projects and similar fun things for families. Both of our children were really into the event, particularly …

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Baked Salmon with Asparagus One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to cook an excellent meal with minimal dishes to do afterwards. If I can make something delicious with only the silverware, plates, and perhaps two more items in the sink, then it’s a big win for me. This leads us to baked salmon and asparagus, which I make on two cookie sheets (and a single person or a couple could make on one cookie sheet). …

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A few days ago, I had a chat with a friend of mine who is struggling mightily with his job right now. He took a high-paying job with a rather prestigious title at a well-known company. The biggest drawback of this job is that he carries around a company phone and receives calls on it at all hours of the night. At first, this wasn’t a big deal for him. He actually only needs to be at the office a …

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Taking the Long Road

June 3 2011

When I woke up this morning, the biggest thing I wanted to do was to just curl up in a comfortable chair somewhere and finish the novel that I’ve been reading for the past several days (A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin, for those of you who enjoy knowing what other people are reading … like I do). As I sat down to work this morning, a little voice in my head kept whispering Don’t you want …

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