Tucking money away for a rainy day or retirement is always useful, so allow me to recommend to you J. B. Quinn's new book, which I spent most of yesterday reading.
Jane Bryant Quinn answers more questions more completely than any other personal-finance author on the market today. Here are a few of the subjects she examines: ...
Making the Most of Your Money Now
• Setting priorities during and after a financial setback, and bouncing back
• Getting the most out of a bank while avoiding fees
• Credit card and debit card secrets that will save you money
• Cutting the cost of student debt, and finding schools that will offer big "merit" scholarships to your child
• The simplest ways of pulling yourself out of debt
• Why it's so important to jump on the automatic-savings bandwagon
• Buying a house, selling one, or trying to rent your home when buyers aren't around
• Why credit scores are more important than ever, plus tips on keeping yours in the range most attractive to lenders
• Investing made easy -- mutual funds that are tailor-made for your future retirement
• How an "investment policy" helps you make wise decisions in any market
• The essential tax-deferred retirement plans, from 401(k)s to Individual Retirement Accounts -- and how to manage them
• How to invest in real estate at a bargain price (and how to spot something that looks like a bargain but isn't)
• Eleven ways of keeping a steady income while you're retired, even after a stock market crash
• Financial planning -- what it means, how you do it, and where to find good planners
I flipped through almost all of "Making the Most of Your Money Now", and found it to be thorough, detailed, and wise. Over the past fifteen years, I've been involved with TAG's 401(k) Plan and read a lot of financial/ investing books out of self-defense, so a good portion of the material here is familiar.
J.B.Q. approaches the whole crowded field of investing and financial planning with hard-headed skepticism. She knows what works and what doesn't. (She's similar to William J. Bernstein; they both believe that low-cost index funds are the best bet for most people, and that age appropriate asset-allocation, aided by steady, disciplined investing will provide people with better retirements.)
All in all, it's a solid book that provides one-stop-shopping for financial advice. And over on her blog, Quinn makes this fine suggestion:
New Year’s resolution: Fire your bank
The big banks needed billions of dollars from the taxpayers to stay alive. Now they’re thumbing their noses at the very people who saved their tails. They’re hiking fees and interest rates on credit cards, and refusing to modify mortgages so that willing people can keep their homes. They’re socking it to small businesses, by restricting credit and hiking rates.
Why would you want to do business with an institution that puts people last? Tell them they’re fired. You’re through. You’re outta there. Switch your account to one of the small banks in your city or suburb. You’ll find plenty of good ones, rated A for safety and soundness and with deposits insured by the FDIC. Find them by entering “community bank” with the name of your town in a search engine. Or use the bank locator compiled by the Independent Community Bankers of America. Or the the IRA Bank Ratings locator. These sources list different banks so check them all.
The IRA Bank Ratings site runs a dandy little video, showing kindly community banker George Baily(Jimmy Stewart) fighting the heartless Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore)–a stand-in for all the greedy bankers of today. “It’s a Wonderful Life” may be an old film but it’s looking more current all the time.
The Mrs. and I ditched our Wells Fargo branch years ago for a local credit union. Personally speaking, I wouldn't go back to one of those big bloodsuckers unless I was under some sort of major duress, like for instance the Bank of America had a Glock pointed at my head.
Now go watch the Rose Parade and some Bowl games.