Here are the folks whose shoulders I depend on in writing these articles.
Stuff about personal finance
The "Planning To Retire" articles are not intended as an introduction to personal finance or retirement planning. Even if I were qualified to write such an introduction (and I am not), many others have gotten there before me and done, I suspect, a substantially better job than I could have. Therefore below I list specific books that I believe will prepare the reader to understand this series.
Reading books, articles, etc. on retirement planning is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. To help me make sense of it all I started to write notes. These notes provided details on the what, the how and the why of Marina and my's retirement planning process. As I talked with my friends about the contents of those notes I found that although nobody had exactly the same financial situation as Marina and I, nevertheless, there were more than enough similarities for each of us to learn from the experiences of the other. It was this realization that inspired me to start writing a series of articles on how we have gone about our retirement planning process. This article is the introduction and outline for that series.
Marina's car's air conditioning broke, again! From an economic perspective we should have just fixed it but her car was crappy and life is to be enjoyed. So we decided to get her another car. We assumed it would be a used car but much to our mutual surprise we ended up buying a new car, mostly because the cost difference between a new and used car just wasn't all that great. Still, a car is a huge purchase and something that needs careful attention. Below I walk through the ten steps we used to figure out how much we were willing to pay, what cars made sense and how to get the best price.
In a bid to avoid the inevitable moral hazard of privatizing Social Security the U.S. government will most likely turn the U.S. into a managed economy where corporate success will be more about pleasing Congress than succeeding in the market. My, but aren't I cheery?
[6/20/2005 – The Christian Science Monitor had an interesting editorial that gives a real world example of how special interest groups are currently gaming the government's internal pension system in exactly the manner I describe below.]
I just finished comparison shopping for auto and renter's insurance and the reward for my several hours of effort was a 20% savings. Below I explain both what kind of insurance Marina and I bought and how we comparison shopped.
I check prices on just about everything I buy on-line. There are a couple of on-line price comparison services I have found extremely useful.
Books – Best Web Buys (I usually end up buying at Buy.Com)
Restaurants – Zagat (I pay for the on-line membership)
Everything Else – Yahoo Shopping
Random but excellent – Consumer Reports (I pay for an on-line membership here as well)
Recently I sat down to plan out my giving for the year. I listed all the organizations I wanted to give money to and then stack ranked them to decide who was going to get the most and who was going to get the least. A lot of different factors go into the stack ranking. For example – how important do I think the organization's activities are? Whose work is more important, the CATO Institute or the ACLU Foundation? How effective do I think the organization is? Who is achieving more, the Electronic Privacy Information Center or the Electronic Frontier Foundation? These questions don't lend themselves well to quantitative analysis so one is left with having to trust one's instincts. But one area in which one can get solid information is – how efficiently does the organization spend your money?
I have been on a 2 year odyssey to get my financial life in order. Mostly I've failed. I started by reading lots of books which generally said "do this" but never explained why. Over the next few weeks/months I'm going to try and summarize what I've learned.
It was late 2000 and I knew I wanted to marry my girlfriend. So I did what I always do, I researched. After some searching I bought a book called Just Say Yes! How Real-Life Romeos (and Juliets) Popped the Question" by Kathryn Mills, Debbie Appel, & Kristan Ginther. Reading all the different stories put me in the right mood to figure out a meaningful and beautiful way to propose.
Next came the ring. Here are my observations on buying an Engagement Ring: