“401k? We don’t need no stinkin’ 401k!” (Actually, I kinda do)

Republicans talk an awful lot about less dependence on the government–that people need to be more self-reliant. While I agree, I do feel part of government’s role is to help people be more self-reliant.  To me, the retirement plan known as the 401k is one of those things that enable people to be independent. It’s a great way for average Americans to save a bundle for retirement, and with little government involvement. Recently Congress has proposed changes to the 401k, changes that may both hurt us in the long run as a nation and negatively impact the middle-class.  Continue Reading

Become a saving rock star!

Saving is a pain in my neck. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Although I didn’t grow up poor, my parents weren’t financial savants either.  In the end, to become a good saver is about setting a goal, creating a habit.  Or as Tim Ferris puts it, setting a fear.  My fear is life will happen, Murphy’s Law will rear its ugly head and I’ll be unable to afford basic necessities, like housing.  Years ago, my dad died unexpectedly 9 days before Christmas during my senior year in high school.  Weeks later my mom was declaring bankruptcy and the bank foreclosed on our house. My Nana stepped in and made sure we kept a roof over our heads.  You’d think an experience like that would jolt anyone into financial literacy.  But, I’m an experiential learner and I don’t like making a mistake just once.  I need to experience a screw-up multiple times before it really sinks in.  So after I graduated college with enough student loans to buy an Alpaca, bounced enough checks to cover the salary of a bank executive and got fired from my first job, it occurred to me I should try saving a little.   So seeing I’m not very good at it, I made it as easy as possible using internet banking and direct deposit.Continue Reading

Nana was an investing whiz

I’ve been thinking about my Nana lately.  She was my grandmother and she died 10 years ago, at age 94.  She was special in many ways, but lately, I’ve been thinking about her financial savvy.  There’s a whole movement now towards retiring early and financial independence that I think she would’ve loved.  It’s a party I’m a bit late to but hey, better late than never.  I think for me part of the issue was a lack of financial knowledge and drowning in student loan debt.  Fortunately, I’ve recently paid off my student loans and over the years I’ve taken steps to educate myself financially.  Part of that education included a recent Freakonomics podcast that hit me with a statistic that down right shocked me: nearly 70% of Americans can’t pass a basic financial literacy quiz (check it out around the 6:20 mark.)  Continue Reading