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Consumer Price Index – A Short Tutorial

Budget Beginnings

Tender Hearted Daisy (what a great name) wrote a nice, little post about some things she’s learning about budgeting.

What I love about this post is that 1) it’s personalized, 2) she shares from her heart, and 3) she definitely doesn’t come off like a holy rolling guru.

To summarize, Liane admits that her and her husband were “lousy at money management” over the years. As a result of being out of the work force and not having medical insurance for several decades, Liane made a commitment to get on the right financial path.

With that, she shares some tips on what helped her and her family get back to financial health.

Be joined with your spouse in your budgeting goals. Have a frank, honest, and truthful discussion about the amount of debt you have.

After eleven years of marriage, I finally had the money discussion with my wife. But it was only after major money mis-handling on my part. It was awful. And hard. But it was necessary even though it will take much more talking (and time) to heal.

Don’t leave God out of your finances. Pray with your spouse in asking God to give you wisdom and direction in the management of your finances.

This is also important for my wife and I. And, being Christian, something I wasn’t doing. My wife and I are called to be of one mind. If we’re hiding stuff and, out of guilt, not praying for fear of being found out, well…that’s probably not going to work out.

Know where your money went. Write down all of the expenditures you made in the past three months. A visual picture is worth so much.

I think this is the part many people fear the most. They either don’t want to know or think it will be too much of an inconvenience. There is software available for both PC and Mac that dang near automates most of it. Keeping and tracking receipts never worked for me. I had to find a software solution.

Read the full article at Tender Hearted Daisy.

It’s Going to get Worse. Much Worse.

I’ve discussed the issue of equity investment returns (i.e. stocks, bonds, mutual funds) in the long term and whether lower returns are the new normal.

I don’t consider myself a doomsday kind of guy. But I do like to keep my expectations in check. And questioning the “rule” of 10-12% market returns is how I like to do just that. Paul Farrell at MarkWatch.com seems to agree when he states:

Warning: More bad news ahead. Welcome to a bleak second half 2010, worse for 2011.

And, yes, I understand pundits like to tout historical stock market returns of 10-12%. So, if you wait long enough, the bad times iron themselves out. But this may depend more on luck as I’ve previously addressed.

Farrell goes on to describe how today’s headlines are all, well…bad. It’s hard to look and not see bleakness in newspapers nor online. In his opening anecdote, Farrell begins his morning by reading…

…Gary Shilling’s new Insight newsletter, just before I head for the kitchen to make my wife’s breakfast. Gary’s “Mid-Course Checkup” doesn’t raise my spirits. Sure, he’s got bragging rights. His January forecasts are still on the money. But don’t you just hate guys like him? Brilliant. Honest. Great track record.”

Trying to find the silver lining in a cloudy stock market, Farrell offers some recommendations.

Buy Treasury Bonds: Stay with this big winner. Stockholders hate them, but this is a safe haven in the coming deflation storm on into 2011.

Score: Stocks-0. Bonds-1. But if you have to buy securities (stocks), then stick with the income producing genre.

Buy Income-Producing Securities: Still viable. Stock market’s gone nowhere for 12 years, says Shilling. Pick selective income-producers: utilities, drugs, telecoms, hi-grade munis, preferreds, etc. Buy direct or ETFs.

And, as a third investment…

Buy Consumer Staples and Foods: Less volatility than S&P 500. Hey, you gotta eat, brush teeth, wash your clothes. Good bet in good and bad times.

Now, this one is interesting. I’m guessing most people (myself included) don’t fully understand the magnitude of this statement. Why would I buy consumer staples? Because they’re going to get expensive, really expensive. As he referred to above, deflation erodes our purchasing power. Hmm. Now that’s something to think about.

Read the rest of Farrell’s recommendations and cute references to Eat, Pray, Love at MarketWatch.com.

Excuses for not Having a Will

B Simple over at Simple Financial Lifestyle wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about the 10 Reasons Not to Have a Will. Thinking it was a list of reasons why we should forego having a will, I realized it was a list of reasons that were really just excuses.

Among the highlights of silly reasons why most of us don’t have a will,

I’m not alive, why should I care? I will not be around so why should I plan how my assets will be divided. I believe my ex-spouses and children are more than capable of dividing my assets evenly so that everyone is happy and gets their fair share.

In a society filled with utter selfishness, I wonder how many times this excuse has been invoked? Have you thought of it?

And, of course, amidst the public’s distrust of Congress and the government in general,

My elected officials can handle it better than I can. Since I have elected these individuals to represent me, I believe they have my best interest at heart and will implement laws that will benefit me and my family. They will know how my assets should be distributed.

I admit that I’m guilty of not having an up to date will. When my wife and I had our first child (She had the child. I had the luxury of watching.), we made a point to get a bona fide will put together.

At the time, we were more concerned with who would be responsible for our son should something happen that incapacitated both my wife and myself at the same time. We didn’t have any assets to speak of. Or assets that had any meaningful value. Meanwhile, 7 years, two more babies, and considerable assets later, we haven’t updated our will (yikes!).

I know what I’ll be doing this week.

Read the entire article at Simple Financial Lifestyle.

One Page Guide To Personal Finance

Everything you ever really needed to know about personal finance on just one page:

Read the original source document on TheSimpleDollar.

Pay for a Wedding – with Cans?

Andrea and Peter wanted a nice, modest wedding for their 150 person guest list. Nothing grand. In fact, their $3,800 budget was light years below the $19,581 average wedding cost for U.S. couples. How did they pay for it? With cans of course:

“From the start, we knew we wanted a simple wedding, an event that was more a celebration of the friends and family that made us who we are and are a part of our lives. Basically, get an awesome space large enough to hold everyone, and have a party — with a small ceremony held somewhere in the middle of it all”, Andrea said.

So they decided to raise the money by recycling aluminum cans—400,000 of them. What prompted them to go the frugal route when so many couples seem to have budgets that are bursting at the seams?

“When we started the project, it was the budget friendliness. I just got a job after 10 months of unemployment, we had just purchased a house a few months before I got laid off, and in general live pretty frugally. The prospect of dropping even $3,000 to $4,000 on a wedding just hurt.”

They were already living a frugal and environmentally friendly lifestyle so adding the can collecting to their already full schedule wasn’t a stretch.

They’ll say their “I dos” July 31 in Spokane, Wash., with their goal met, thanks to a little help from their friends, 1,487 Facebook fans, 247 Twitter followers, a blog and a worldwide media blitz. True budget snobs indeed.

Read the full story at MSN Money Central.

Financial Literacy

A presentation of personal financial discipline. Do you have it?

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