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Someday Is Not a Plan
How money works is not rocket science. "Someday Is Not a Plan" explains the basics of personal finance from compound interest to investing for retirement without using charts, formulas, or confusing financial terminology. Follow along as twenty-something Larry gets financial advice from his retired uncle in a series of casual conversations over coffee.
What would you do with a million dollars? It's not an idle question as you'll earn close to that over your lifetime with just a modest income. But as many Americans have discovered, a million doesn't go far at all if you don't know how to manage your money. That's the bad news. The good news is that how money works is not rocket science.
This book explains the basics of personal finance - from compound interest to investing for retirement - without using charts, formulas, or confusing financial terminology. Follow along as twenty-something Larry gets financial advice from his retired uncle in a series of casual conversations over coffee. Larry starts out in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, with no hope for progress. But as his education proceeds, he sees that financial security is possible and not as difficult as he had imagined. By the end, Larry is transformed from misguided dreamer to master of his future.
What are you going to do with your million?
õõ ROGER čč
Family is just as often a curse as a blessing. My brother wants me to talk to his kid, help him get his act together. Funny! Itís not as though I was a poster child for good attitude and responsibility at that age. Arrested development was more like it. Fortunately, Iíve changed over the years. Now Iím your typical 58-year-old retiree checking his investments online, volunteering at a variety of eco-friendly charities, and traveling the country in my quest to run a marathon in every state. But you never would have guessed it had you met me 40 years ago.
It would be nice to blame my folks for my early sins, but the truth is that they were caring, loving parents. I just had my own agenda back then. I had no interest in sports, hobbies, books, Boy Scouts, or anything the least bit productive. It drove my parents nuts, which thrilled me to no end at the time but Iíve since come to regret. High school passed in a daze. Sure, I can recite the Pythagorean theorem and know thatColumbussailed the ocean blue in 1492, but thatís about it. All that other stuff about forms of government, grammar, tangents to a curve, and why Socrates was forced to drink hemlock never sank in. I must have missed class that day.
After high school I had a few manual labor jobs, then enlisted in the Army. Boot camp did not straighten me out. Neither did two years of calisthenics, saluting, and diesel repair. Afterward, I drifted back to my old jobs while many of my service buddies went to college on the G.I. Bill. Using my brain instead of my body hadnít registered as a legitimate and preferable lifestyle yet. But landscaping and construction started to take their toll. Chronic pain has a way of heightening awareness and I began to look for alternatives. What job offered lots of fresh air, no seasonal layoffs, medical benefits, and a pension, I wondered? Ding ding ding! Postal carrier.
The civil service exam didnít succumb to my superior intellect until the third try, but better late than never, I guess. By Christmas of 1973 I was dressed in blue, pushing a tricycle cart, and delivering holiday greetings. Things were looking good. For the first time in my life I had a steady job, had met a nice girl, and much to my surprise, occasionally pondered the future. Twenty-two years old and I was starting to grow up. About time.
One benefit of delivering the mail is that you run across lots of interesting reading material. I couldnít help but notice how Business Week, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and similar periodicals went to the better neighborhoods. There wasnít any proof that reading Forbes guaranteed you a higher income. But it sure seemed logical that I should start reading what the well-off folk read if I ever wanted to be well-off myself.
That observation started a multi-year program of financial self-education which hasnít stopped yet. During the day I delivered the mail, and as the years went by, advanced to window clerk and then supervisor. At night Iíd head to the library to read the same periodicals I had just delivered to the better neighborhoods. At first I didnít understand a thing and my nightly reading was more an exercise in frustration than anything else.
Maybe it was my desire to earn easy money that made me stick with it, but eventually it started to make sense. As my knowledge grew, I began to see how much of the finance world was just hype and that except for a lucky few, there was no easy money to be had. But the good news was that basic finance was not rocket science. Everyone had a chance at financial security if they understood the basics and were willing to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
Of course, thereís a big difference between knowing what you should do and actually doing it. It took me a few more years to change my habits, but Iíve been practicing good finance for 30 years now and things are looking pretty good. My hot-shot lawyer brother doesnít like to admit that I, the lowly civil servant, am far better off than he is. It just goes to show that itís not what you make, itís what you do with it.
I suppose thatís why he wants me to talk to his kid. The acorn doesnít fall far from the tree, which would mean the kid hasnít got a clue about money. And if heís got half the attitude I did at his age, he wonít want to listen to me. What the heck, heís family. Iíll give it a try.
õõ LARRY čč
Iím going to barf if my dad tells me once more how much harder he had it at my age. What does he know? Jobs are scarce. Everything is expensive. Iím seriously in debt. He should be glad Iím not living at home like lots of my friends. Iíve actually got a job and live on my own.
He keeps reminding me how at 26 he was already married, working two jobs, and going to night school. Does he even see how crummy his life is now? He spends all his time at the office, is on cholesterol medication, argues with Mom, and would probably throw out his back if he ever tried to use the custom clubs he got for Christmas two years ago. At least I know how to have fun.
His latest is that I should have a talk with Uncle Roger about my finances. Like that makes a lot of sense. How rich can you get working for the Post Office? Maybe the postmaster general is raking it in, but a branch office supervisor? I donít think so.
Thatís not to say I couldnít use some money help. Just last week I was out for pizza with the guys and ran into trouble. My card was over the limit and the charge was denied. Fortunately, I had just paid the minimum on my other card and was able to use it there. It sure would be nice to charge stuff without worrying about whether it would go through or not.
I suppose I could have majored in something with better income prospects than architecture. I really believed the hype that if you do something you love, you wonít work a day in your life. Ha! Some weeks Iím nothing more than a draftsman, though at least now itís all done on the computer rather than with pencil and eraser. And donít even get me started on scale models. I think Iím developing an allergy to Styrofoam from handling it so much. My boss says Iíll get better stuff to do once I pass the Architect Registration Exam. I keep intending to sign up for the review course, but thereís always something else going on. Whatís the rush?
The partners who started the company seem to be doing well. At least they drive decent cars and live in a nice part of town. But I just canít see myself getting there at the rate Iím going. Iíve been out of school four years now and seem to be struggling just as much as ever. Now, Iím not edging up on 50 like those guys, but still, where is the money supposed to come from? I just donít see it. After rent, car payments, student loans, credit card bills, cable TV, phone plan, food, and incidentals, thereís always too much month at the end of the money. How does anyone get ahead these days?
Uncle Roger said coffee was on him, so I guess thereís no harm in hearing what he has to say. And heís a lot mellower than my dad. Maybe itís because heís already retired and has less stress in his life. The guy is sort of a mystery, actually. Retired early, travels all the time, and lives in a downtown condo with a killer view. Whatís he know that I donít?