Personal Finance Introduction

Over time many work colleagues, friends and family members have asked me about various topics regarding their personal finances, and I have heard a lot of different questions from:

  • “What is a budget?”
  • “How much money should I have in checking versus savings?”
  • “How do I buy a car?”
  • “Which is the best stock?”
  • “What should I pay monthly on my credit card?”
  • “How does my credit score work?”
  • “What are my taxes and how can I save?”

What I notice the most about the questions I am asked is that most of them stick out as a pointed question that cannot be answered without addressing a few simple things. For instance, here are someone common questions and my initial responses:

  • Question: “What should I pay on my monthly credit card?”
  • Answer: “What is your current budget?” or “What types and amounts of debt do you have and at what interest rates?”
  • Question: “How do I buy a car?”
  • Answer: “Let’s get an idea of your general budget and then work towards a price you can afford then review some options.”
  • Question: “Which is the best stock?” (this one I love)
  • Answer: “There is a lot to consider here so let’s slow-down.” “What is your monthly income and monthly expenses? Do you have any debt and at what interest rates? Have you maxed out any retirement plants for matching and tax purposes? Do you already own funds outside of individual stocks? When do you plan to retire?” (the list here goes on and on).

These questions signal to me that the person asking may be missing the overall picture. Here we address the general mindset and how to understand your financial situation. We then move through the basics, for which there is a very clear simple order.  These basic articles are permanently linked on the right side of this site as Pillar Articles.  These should be read first and in order.  Everyone can get something here. Following that we can get into the more complicated and specific questions such as investments, tax approaches and estate planning.

The key here is simple and clear. We want to have a comprehensive and logical view of our finances. We want to get you to the point where you are fluent in your financial situation and ideally even picture your finances in your head.

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