Understand what role money plays in your life
A critical skill for a fulfilling financial life is understanding your own money priorities. Without taking this first step, it's like driving without a destination -- you will simply end up wherever the road takes you.
I've touched on the topic of setting priorities in a number of past posts:
Now I'd like to take a more detailed approach and propose a list of seven independent activities that will drive you to find what's at the heart of your financial desires.
I guarantee that doing even one of these will bring you much closer to understanding what you value and aligning your daily actions with where you'd like to finish. It's worth the effort.
Consider these seven individually, or as a group:
The savings are probably more than you think
The October 2009 issue of Consumer Reports contains an article extolling the virtues of generic store-brand products. While shoppers used to sacrifice quality when choosing generic, that's no longer the case. From the article:
If concern about taste has kept you from trying store-brand foods, hesitate no more. In blind tests, our trained tasters compared a big national brand with a store brand in 29 food categories. Store and national brands tasted about equally good 19 times. Four times, the store brand won; six times, the national brand won.
In other words, store brands offer roughly the same quality as national brands, but at a much-reduced cost. How much reduced? Consumer Reports says the store brands they tested cost on average 27% less than the name-brand equivalents.
How much can you save?
Sometimes theory is one thing and reality another. It's nice that Consumer Reports can score great deals on store brands. But could I? Last week, I walked to two local grocery stores to do my own research. First I looked at Safeway, where Kris and I shop most often. Next, I walked across the street to Fred Meyer, a store we usually try to avoid. (The store is huge and its layout makes little sense to me.)
Health care costs are part of the problem
Here's a statistic that should give us all pause: The average credit card debt of seniors grew by 26% between 2005 and 2008, CreditCards.com reports. For the rest of us, the increase was a comparatively modest 3%.
Also, CreditCards.com says: "According to a study (.pdf file) released in July 2009 by New York City-based Demos, a public policy group, consumers 65 and older carried $10,235 in average card debt last year." That is a lot.
And that's very troubling, considering that so many retirees are living on Social Security and no other savings, and face considerable medical expenses despite government-run Medicare. The dreaded "doughnut hole" is just a drop in the bucket compared with the other potential health care-related demands on their money.
What's happening here?
Surprise! People with the highest credit scores
Conventional wisdom would seem to dictate that someone with an excellent credit score is less likely to walk away from a mortgage than someone with poor credit.
That's not so, syndicated real estate columnist Kenneth Harney writes in a story The Washington Post headlined "Good credit scores, deadbeat choices." In fact, people with excellent credit scores are 50% more likely to "strategically default" on their mortgages -- intentionally walk away -- than are lower scoring borrowers, according to a study by credit bureau Experian and consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
Bank returns interest rate to previous level, 12.99%
Ann Minch, the California woman who took her fight over a credit card rate increase to YouTube, apparently has extracted the concession she sought from Bank of America.
In a new video posted Saturday, she said Bank of America had agreed to return the interest rate on her $5,943.34 balance, which had been hiked to 30%, to 12.99%. The bank's first offer was 16.99%, which she said she rejected.
Live Nation venues offer all concerts for one price
With the recession taking a bite out of concert ticket sales, concert promoters have come up with all kinds of deals and discounts this year to lure us into the venues. For good music, we don't need too much luring, if we can afford the tickets.
Live Nation has continued to offer promotions every Wednesday with discounts on concerts nationwide.
Now, Live Nation is offering a concert pass. The Live Nation Club Passport gives music lovers entry into every concert the rest of the year at participating venues for $49.99 -- if the show isn't sold out. That includes all fees except parking.
Group says taxing surgery drinks would improve health
Is it time to tax sugary drinks?
Another group is saying yes. In a paper published in the Sept. 16 issues of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a group of public health experts is advocating a tax of one cent per ounce on sugary beverages, The New York Times reported. The tax would apply to soft drinks, energy drinks, sports beverages and many juices and iced teas -- but not sugar-free drinks.
Truly "found money," those stray pennies and dimes will add up -- if you save them.
I'm superannuated enough to remember penny candy. Finding a cent was cause for celebration, because it would buy Squirrel Nut Zippers (the candy, not the band), Smarties, Pixy Stix or a host of other treats.
I still pick up pennies. Also nickels, dimes and any other American paper or specie I see on sidewalks, in parking lots or pooled in the rejected-change bin of those Coinstar change-counting machines.
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