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Your personal finance voter guide

You won't find these propositions on your local ballot, but you're voting for them every day with your wallet.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 12, 2012 10:17AM

This post comes from Len Penzo at partner blog Len Penzo dot Com.


Len Penzo dot Com logoI love October.


Voter voting in polling place Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty ImagesI mean, really, what's not to love about it?


October is the first full month of autumn and you know what that brings: milder temperatures, cooler evenings, beautiful colors and, um, a never-ending stream of shameless cutthroat political advertisements.


I know. But an informed electorate is absolutely essential for ensuring the health of any representative democracy.


Of course, it's just as important to make the right decisions when it comes to your personal finances. So, in order to help, I've developed the following handy personal finance voter guide:


Proposition 1: The Personal Finances Ignorance Act

Ballot summary: This act would provide additional free time to household CEOs who choose to forgo the work required to maintain a proper budget.
My opinion: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Trying to get a handle on your personal finances without knowing how much money you're earning and where it's all going is tantamount to trying to drive blindfolded.

Vote "yes" if: You have a mind like a steel trap when it comes to tracking expenses (or, at the very least, the bank account of Warren Buffett).
Vote "no" if: You're living on a modest income and want to maintain a sense of financial discipline.


Prop 2: Buy Now, Let It Ride, and (Maybe) Worry About the Consequences Later Act

Ballot summary: This act would encourage consumers to buy goods and services on credit when they are unable to pay off the balance in full at the end of the month.
My opinion: If you can't afford to pay cash for something, then you can't afford it.
Vote "yes" if: You don't mind potentially becoming an indentured servant to your credit card company.
Vote "no" if: You have no desire to sacrifice your future financial flexibility in exchange for impulsive short-term gratification.


Prop 3: The In God We Trust Our Credit Report to be Accurate Act

Ballot summary: This act would reinforce the public's indifference to checking personal credit report information at least once per year.
My opinion: Inaccurate credit records can result in lower credit scores and higher interest rates. Not only that, but by failing to periodically check your credit report, you deprive yourself of the ability to potentially stop an identity thief from devastating your good credit.
Vote "yes" if: You don't mind paying for unwarranted higher interest rates -- or letting identity thieves leech off your good credit.
Vote "no" if: You truly value your credit rating.

Prop 4: The Pay Yourself First Act

Ballot summary: This act would make it mandatory for people to save a portion of their income in a savings or retirement account each month before they pay any of their bills.
My opinion: The government pays itself first every time it withholds money from your paycheck. Why shouldn't you do the same? Start by taking advantage of your employer's matching contribution to your retirement savings plan, and also building an emergency fund amounting to at least three months of expenses. Take advantage of the automatic deductions and start slowly, then increase your savings rate over time.
Vote "yes" if: You are serious about building your savings as quickly as possible.
Vote "no" if: You don't mind the thought of working into your 70s.


Prop 5: The Household Budget Armageddon Act

Ballot summary: This act would give full and unconditional pardons to what I've called "the Four Horsemen of Personal Finance."  
My opinion: The Four Horsemen of Personal Finance can unleash Armageddon on the household budget, thereby impairing one's ability to save any appreciable amount of money for the future.
Vote "yes" if: You enjoy the struggle to stick to your budget and/or make ends meet.
Vote "no" if: You want to free up a significant amount of income for more important things, like your nest egg.


Prop 6: The Windfall Spending Act

Ballot summary: This act would make it a crime to devote any portion of a cash windfall to retirement and other savings accounts, or eliminating debt.
My opinion: While it would be almost unfair to expect folks not to spend at least some portion of a large cash windfall, for most people an unexpected influx of money can usually be better spent building an adequate emergency fund and paying down debt.

Vote "yes" if: You are not only debt-free, but you've already got more than enough saved up for your retirement.
Vote "no" if: Financial freedom is your No. 1 priority.


Prop 7: Store-brand Grocery Products Are for Cheapskates Act  

Ballot summary: This act would provide unspecified funds for a commercial campaign produced by a washed-up television actor nobody has ever heard of proclaiming grocery store-brand labels to be inferior to their name-brand counterparts.
My opinion: I've conducted extensive taste-test experiments that show the store-brand labels often hold their own against the higher-priced name-brand labels.
Vote "yes" if: You're afraid you'll lose your "street cred" if you get caught with store-brand groceries in your shopping basket.
Vote "no" if: You're a savvy shopper who realizes that store-brand labels often offer equivalent taste and quality for as much as 40% less.


So there you have it. And although you won't find these propositions on your local Election Day ballot, you will end up voting on them -- with your wallet.


More on Len Penzo dot Com and MSN Money:

Oct 13, 2012 1:08PM

Voting from a financial perspective would lead one to vote for anybody but Obama.


Unelect the unpresident.

Oct 13, 2012 3:33PM

Right, Do not buy what you can not afford, and pay in cash---that must be a Repulican statement calling the money back from Switzerland or Cayman Islands.--so we must rent houses and cars, never mind College education and medical insurance of 20 K a year!!!! get real USA, most people here are so snowed in!

And all those with a real small business, so highly touted as job creator, how are those people supposed to know when they get the so  called paycheck like you are stressing--and especially if you wait for a check for 4-8 month from State, or university, or if you are a sub for a large company like up to a year, it would be nice if you actually have been around for a while in all types of business!

Oct 13, 2012 3:52PM

Mr. Soul, what a name for someone who doesn't have one.


Yours is one of the most disgusting and ignorant comments I've read and it isn't cute as you intended. It's unfortunate that you are so anti-President Obama that you make rude and ignorant comments about an article that is to be taken with a grain of salt.


You literally shout, "Ignorant and uninformed republiCON here." Don't you have the ability and reasoning to realize that this article is sprinkled with a touch of humor? Did you believe it was a serious article?


Run along now and sip that tea and tune into that fox noise box and keep telling yourself that you're intelligent and informed and you truly deserve the right to vote.

Oct 13, 2012 11:06AM
So you people at MSN are telling us what we saw and heard.   Hmmmmm, since you don't think like the majority of the people, you think we should TRUST and BELIEVE you?  Have a nice day.
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