Eric Tyson’s 20 essential principles for sound personal finance

Eric Tyson’s 20 essential principles for sound personal finance

Make better financial decisions, as Eric Tyson lays out these key tips

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In my previous work as a personal financial advisor where I worked on an hourly basis with clients, and through the adult education classes I previously taught at the University of California, I saw many folks’ financial details up close and personal. I witnessed many of the same mistakes over and over again. Conversely, folks who managed their money well followed some relatively simple paths.

Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson
Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson

My first book, “Personal Finance for Dummies” is now entering its 10th edition and still going strong. Here are the 20 themes that run throughout that book that form the basis for your future personal financial success:

1) Take charge of your finances. Procrastinating is detrimental to your long-term financial health. Don’t wait for a crisis or major life event to get your act together. Prepare and start implementing a plan now! Consider how many hours weekly, monthly and yearly you work for money. Compare that with how many hours you spend figuring how to best manage and make the most of your money. The best way to get a crash course in personal financial management is to read a good book on the subject.

“Don’t wait for a crisis or major life event to get your act together.”

2) Don’t buy consumer items (cars, clothing, vacations, and so on) that lose value over time on credit. Use debt only to make investments in things that gain value, such as real estate, a business, or worthwhile cost-effective education. Of course, you can get too much of a good thing so always examine your monthly spending and see how taking on more debt will impact your situation.

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3) Use credit cards only for convenience, not for carrying debt. If you tend to run up credit card debt or spend more when using credit cards, then get rid of your cards and use only cash, checks, and debit cards.

4) Live within your means and don’t try to keep up with your co-workers, neighbors, and peers. Many who engage in conspicuous consumption are borrowing against their future; some end up bankrupt.

5) Regularly save and invest at least 5 to 10 percent of your income. You may want to or need to save more to accomplish your goals. Preferably, invest through a retirement savings account to reduce your taxes and ensure your future financial independence. The exact amount you should be saving is driven by your goals and current financial assets and liabilities. Take the time to crunch some numbers to determine how much you should be saving monthly.

6) Understand and use your employee benefits. As a financial counselor, I inevitably added value when reviewing people’s situation by simply reviewing their current employee benefit’s materials. In most cases, folks had not bothered to ask for and review current information. If you’re self-employed, find out the best investment and insurance options available to you and use them.

7) Research before you buy. Never purchase a financial product or service on the basis of an advertisement or salesperson’s solicitation.

8) Avoid financial products that carry high commissions and expenses. Companies that sell their products through aggressive sales techniques generally have the worst financial products and the highest commissions.

9) Don’t purchase any financial product that you don’t understand. Ask questions and compare what you’re being offered to the best sources I recommend.

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10) Invest the majority of your long-term money in ownership vehicles that have appreciation potential, such as stocks, real estate, and your own business. When you invest in bonds or bank accounts, you’re simply lending your money to others and will earn a return that probably won’t keep you ahead of inflation and taxes.

“Ignore the predictive advice offered by financial prognosticators – nobody has a working crystal ball.”

11) Avoid making emotionally based financial decisions. For example, investors who panic and sell their stock holdings after a major market correction miss a buying opportunity. Be especially careful in making important financial decisions after a major life change, such as a divorce, job loss, or death in your family.

12) Make investing decisions based upon your needs and the long-term fundamentals of what you’re buying. Ignore the predictive advice offered by financial prognosticators – nobody has a working crystal ball. Don’t make knee-jerk decisions based on news headlines.

13) Own your home. In the long run, owning is more cost-effective than renting, unless you have a terrific rent-control deal. But don’t buy until you can stay put for a number of years and local rent versus buy comparison makes financial sense.

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14) Purchase broad insurance coverage to protect against financial catastrophes. Eliminate insurance for small potential losses.

15) If you’re married, make time to discuss joint goals, issues, and concerns. Be accepting of your partner’s money personality; learn to compromise and manage as a team.

16) Prepare for life changes. The better you are at living within your means and anticipating life changes, the better off you will be financially and emotionally.

17) Read publications and sources that have high quality standards and that aren’t afraid to take a stand and recommend what’s in your best interests.

18) Prioritize your financial goals and start working toward them. Be patient. Focus on your accomplishments and learn from your past mistakes.

19) Hire yourself first. You are the best financial person that you can hire. If you need help making a major decision, hire conflict-free advisors who charge a fee for their time. Work in partnership with advisors – don’t abdicate control.

20) Invest in yourself and others. Invest in your education, your health, and your relationships with family and friends. Having a lot of money isn’t worth much if you don’t have your health and people with whom to share your life. Give your time and money to causes that better our society and world.

About the author

Eric Tyson is the bestselling author of Personal Finance For Dummies, 10th Edition (Wiley), Investing For Dummies and numerous other money titles in the For Dummies series.

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