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Quick Steps to Financial Stability

Book Description

Quick Steps to Financial Stability

     Find money you didn't think you had

     Deal with your debt

     Make the most of tax breaks

     Boost your investment returns

     Get your kids through college

     Ditch the job and retire

     Choose the right loan

     Save time and money by using our easy-to-follow templates

No time to figure it all out on your own? Let Quick Steps to Financial Stability be your guide.

"When it comes to financial self-help advice, Al Lavine and Gail Liberman are as good as it gets. Whether it's setting up a budget, reducing debt, or taking out the right loans, Lavine and Liberman boiled it all down in this latest book to a series of practical steps to make complicated financial planning simple."

—David Callaway, editor-in-chief, MarketWatch

Looking to get your finances on track? It's as easy as following the steps outlined in this book. You needn't be an accountant or a financial planner. Get the straight and simple scoop on how to take the bull by the horns yourself—just follow the step-by-step approach outlined in Quick Steps to Financial Stability. Have access to a computer? If so, it's even easier. And there are several online calculators you can use to help you get the job done.

Alan Lavine and Gail Liberman are husband-and-wife syndicated columnists. Their columns run in the Boston Herald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Palm Beach Daily News, several Scripps Howard newspapers, and several online websites. They also write a biweekly consumer banking column for Dow Jones MarketWatch. They have been guests on CBS's The Early Show, Fox and Friends, CNN, CNBC, The 700 Club, and PBS. Their book, Rags to Riches, was featured on Oprah's television show and hit two best-seller lists. They live in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
    1. Dedication
  2. About the Authors
  3. Books by Alan Lavine and Gail Liberman
  4. Acknowledgments
  5. We Want to Hear from You!
  6. Reader Services
  7. Introduction
    1. What Quick Steps to Financial Stability Can Do for You
    2. How This Book Is Organized
    3. Special Elements and Icons
      1. To Do Lists
      2. Special Icons
  8. I. Are You Ready?
    1. 1. Examining Your Financial Condition
      1. Net Worth: Finding Your Bottom Line
        1. Step 1: Round Up Your Assets
        2. Step 2: List All Your Liabilities or Debts
        3. Step 3: Subtract Your Liabilities from Your Assets
      2. Reviewing Income and Expenses
        1. Step 1: Calculate Your Monthly Income
        2. Step 2: Categorize Monthly Expenses
        3. Step 3: Determine Where You Stand
      3. Setting Your Financial Goals
      4. Freeing Up Quick Cash
        1. Controlling Your Debt
        2. Trimming Expenses
        3. Beefing Up Your Income
      5. Summary
    2. 2. Identifying Your Financial Goals
      1. Preparing for Life
        1. Identifying Your Insurance Needs
        2. Setting Financial Goals
        3. Considering Your Savings Plan
      2. Planning for Big Goals
        1. Buying a Home
        2. Having a Baby
        3. Saving for Your Children’s Education and Retirement
      3. Summary
    3. 3. Zeroing In on Your Debt
      1. Over Your Head in Debt? Try These Fixes
        1. Controlling Debt Yourself
        2. Credit Counseling
        3. Consolidating Your Debts
        4. Bankruptcy
      2. Understanding Your Credit Score
        1. Getting Your Score
        2. Check Your Credit Report to Raise Your Credit Score
        3. Correcting Mistakes on Your Credit Report
        4. What If Your Bad Credit Score Is Accurate?
      3. Summary
  9. II. Creating a Simple Investment Plan
    1. 4. Weighing the Pros and Cons of Simple Investment Options
      1. Understanding Basic Investments
        1. Cash
        2. Bonds
        3. Stocks
        4. Basic Investment Rules
      2. What Kind of Investor Are You?
      3. Investing in Mutual Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds
      4. Summary
    2. 5. Creating a Plan That Works for You
      1. Choose Low-Risk Investments for Short-Term Goals
        1. Bank Deposits
        2. U.S. Treasury Securities
        3. Other Lower-risk Investments
      2. Stocks: More Risk for Better Long-Term Returns
      3. Choose Mutual Funds to Help You Diversify
        1. Analyzing the Risk of Mutual Funds
        2. Pinpoint Your Strategy with Life-Cycle and Target Funds
        3. Take a More Conservative Approach with Balanced Funds
      4. Boost Your Performance
        1. Stick with No-Load Funds
        2. Use Index Funds
        3. Opting for Actively Managed Funds
        4. Consider Dollar Cost Averaging
        5. Rebalance Your Investments
      5. Always Consider Taxes
      6. Summary
    3. 6. Protecting the Downside: Insurance and Other Safeguards
      1. Finding Financially Secure Companies
      2. Health Insurance
        1. Policy Types
        2. What to Examine Before Buying a Policy
        3. Cut the Cost of Medical Insurance
      3. Disability Insurance
      4. Life Insurance
        1. Low-Load Companies
        2. Getting Professional Help
      5. Long-Term Care Insurance
      6. Property Insurance
        1. Automobile Insurance
        2. Homeowner’s Insurance
      7. You Need a Will
      8. Summary
  10. III. Supercharging Your Savings Plan
    1. 7. Saving for Retirement
      1. Determine What to Expect from Your Retirement Income Sources
      2. Your Retirement Plan Options
        1. 401 (k)
        2. IRAs
        3. Roth IRA
        4. Annuities
      3. Can You Retire?
        1. Need More?
        2. Other Ways to Retire
      4. Summary
    2. 8. How to Pay for Your Children’s Education
      1. Getting Your Hands Around the Cost of College
      2. Step 1: Determine What You Can Save
      3. Step 2: Examine Your Investment Options
        1. 529 Plans
        2. Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts
        3. Uniform Transfers to Minors Act and Uniform Gifts to Minors Act
        4. Other Tax-Advantaged Options
      4. Tax Breaks for College Savings
        1. The Hope Scholarship Credit
        2. The Lifetime Learning Credit
        3. Tax Deduction for Student Loan Interest
      5. Rules for College Investing
      6. Financial Aid
      7. If You Must Borrow
      8. Other Ways to Get Your Children to College
      9. Summary
    3. 9. Save by Choosing the Right Loans
      1. Your Loan Objectives
      2. The Scoop on Credit Cards
      3. Understanding Car Loans and Leases
      4. Picking a Mortgage
        1. Checking Out Loan Upfront Costs and Fees
        2. Choosing a Mortgage Type
        3. Finding Information on Special Mortgage Programs
      5. Home Equity Loans and Lines
      6. Other Low-Cost Ways to Borrow
      7. Beware When You Borrow Money
      8. Eliminating Debt from Your Financial Life
        1. Refinance Your Home
        2. Prepay Your Mortgage
        3. Consider a Biweekly Mortgage
      9. Summary
    4. 10. Your Keys to the Good Life, Now and Later
      1. Evaluate Your Income and Spending
      2. Evaluate Your Insurance Coverage
      3. Review Your Investments
      4. Review Your Tax Situation
      5. Update Your Estate Plan
      6. Enjoy Your Great New Financial Life
      7. Summary
  11. IV. Appendixes
    1. A. References and Resources
      1. Online Calculators
        1. Net Worth Calculator
        2. Goal Calculator
        3. College Cost Calculators
        4. Retirement Savings Calculators
        5. Home Loan or Home Buying Calculators
        6. Disability Insurance
      2. Search Engines
      3. Low Down-Payment and Low-Cost Government Mortgage Programs
      4. Credit Card Best Deals
      5. Money Market Mutual Fund Yields
      6. Scholarships and Loan Sources
        1. 529. College Savings Plans
      7. Reverse Mortgage Information
      8. Taxes
      9. New and Used Car Prices
        1. Consumer Reports
      10. Car Leasing
      11. Home Buying
      12. Attorneys
        1. Elder Law
        2. Consumer Law
        3. Marital Law
      13. Low-Load Life Insurance
      14. COBRA Insurance Information
      15. Insurance Safety Rating Agencies
      16. No-Load Mutual Fund Families
      17. Mutual Funds Information and Analysis
      18. Purchase U.S. Treasury Securities
      19. Check for Complaints Against a Person or Business
      20. Credit Reports and Credit Scoring
        1. Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies
        2. Largest Credit Scoring Provider
      21. Help with Debt
      22. Bankruptcy Information
      23. Fraud
      24. Insurance Information
      25. Social Security Administration
      26. Unclaimed Property
      27. Consumer Expenditures
      28. Economic Statistics and Salary Data
      29. Financial Regulators
    2. B. Finding the Right Help
      1. Getting Good Investment Help
      2. Getting Credit Counseling
    3. C. Mortgage Shopping Worksheet