Thoughts and Riches

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Sunday, September 30, 2007
Weekend Quote - Prayer
Prayer changes things
- Bumpersticker on a car


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Saturday, September 29, 2007
Netbank goes under due to mortgage defaults
The current mortgage mess has caused problems for another bank - this time a major online bank - NetBank, Inc. As per an article on Yahoo Finance, the bank had $2.5 billion in assets and was shut down by the government on Friday, September 28, 2007 due to an excessive level of mortgage defaults. However, since the bank was FDIC-insured, customers with less than $100,000 deposited with NetBank will be protected by FDIC insurance.

"Customers of NetBank should have confidence and security knowing that they will have access to their insured funds in a timely and orderly manner," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a prepared statement.

About $1.5 billion of NetBank's insured deposits will be assumed by ING Bank which will pay $14 million for the deposits and receive 104,000 new customers.However, the bank had $109 million in deposit accounts that exceeded the FDIC limit of $100k.

Those customers will become creditors in NetBank's receivership, the FDIC said.

I used to have an account with them but fortunately, closed it earlier this year. However, if anyone still has an account with them, you can contact the FDIC at their toll-free number: 1-888-256-6932.

For complete article, see:

Yahoo.com: FDIC Shuts Down NetBank Due to Defaults


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Friday, September 28, 2007
Black Enterprise Financial Fitness Contest
Black Enterprise Magazine is inviting entries for its 2007 Financial Fitness Contest. For details, see:

Black Enterprise Financial Fitness Contest


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Thursday, September 27, 2007
Website Review - Online Casino Bluebook
Received an offer recently to do a paid review of a Website called Online Casino Bluebook. Since I didn’t know much about the online casinos or online gambling, I decided to do the review to find out more information.

The Online Casino Bluebook web site has a pretty straight-forward, simple Web site interface. As indicated by its name, the site basically provides an online bluebook or guide to popular online casinos, such as those with the highest payout rates, for both new and experienced gamblers. For example, it provides a list of 10 best casinos based on what the site describes as the reviews by experienced online gamblers. As per its Web site, it identifies and ranks popular online casinos based on feedback from experts, books and articles on online casinos and talking to the casinos themselves, and uses a variety of criteria for ranking, including payout rates, customer support quality, payout time, being licensed, number of games, etc. The site also provides a newsletter which can be subscribed for free, and also allows casino operators to email information about their casinos for potential inclusion in the online casino guide.

The site also provides information regarding how to play games like online poker, online blackjack, etc. The information about poker was interesting to read since every now and then I come across discussions about poker in get-togethers with friends. In the past, I stayed away from such discussions since I didn’t know anything about poker. I don’t know much about it now also that will cause me to play poker but at least now I have some understanding of the rules.

Overall the site has useful information for someone who is interested in finding about online casinos. However, before venturing out to gamble online, it’s good to know about the laws regarding online gambling in your community and country as online gambling in prohibited in am some parts of the world, including the US.

posted by Ruby @ 11:25 PM   0 comments

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Between golf and a hard place - perils of early retirement
The pittsburghlive.com article discusses the potential problems of early retirement - changes to post-retirement benefits at your former company. The article profiles the situation fo Jeff Rea, who thought he had saved sufficient money for his retirement and decided to take an early retirement in May 2004, at the age of 50, after having worked 30 years at Allegheny Ludlum's Brackenridge plant.

However, things changed after his retirement when in June 2004, his former company decided to cut pension medical benefits beginning Jan. 1, 2010, for salaried retirees. In addition, the company decided to cap its benefits contribution at the company's 2004 level. Result? Rea who is now 53, and still 12 years away from being able to collect Medicare, estimates that he will need to cough up up to $1,200 per month to keep the same health-care coverage he has now.

"Asked if he would've worked a couple more years, Rea said, "Quite possibly I would have. Being that close, I could've worked a few more years to put myself in a better position, but it's hard to tell."

The article hightlights the potential problems with early retirement. Not only you may not be eligible for partial social security or medicare benefit until a later age but you may not have enough medical insurance. While the article discusses medical insurance problems for early retirees, the issue is faced by many younger workers too who have pre-existing conditions and cannot qualify for or don't get affordable insurance. Hopefully, we will finally have some form of universal healthcare so that people don't have to worry about not having medical insurance.

For complete article, see:

Pittsburghlive.com: Ludlum retirees worry about pinch


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posted by Ruby @ 7:39 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Millionaires in the Making - Tracy and David Seim
The CNNMoney.com article discusses the finances of a couple in their early 40s, Tracy and David Seim. With a combined salary of $103,000 from a small company they run, they have managed to have a net worth of almost $750,000, consisting of:

$67,000 in savings accounts
$300,000 in retirement accounts
$200,000 in home equity
$175,000 in business equity

How did they do it? By working hard, being frugal and saving diligently. The couple max out their Simple IRAs by contributing $10,500 each last year. They’ve also saved $52,000 towards their daughters’ education, and have about $15,000 in bank CDs.

"They have no credit-card debt, have lived in the same house (worth about $300,000) for 14 years and don’t drive fancy cars."

The Seims, however, don't think they have enough when comparing themselves against their free-spending friends. However, as per a financial planner, Seims aren't doing as bad as they think. I liked the recommendation for the Seims:

"Don’t judge progress by looking at other people’s stuff. Just because a neighbor owns a vacation house or drives a Jaguar doesn’t mean he’s smarter with his money: He may be living scarily above his means. The Seims need to stick to their own plan and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing."

While their comparison with their friends is natural, Seims, hopefully, will realize that for couples in early-40's, they are doing very well. Its kind of like in a school where you see some of your friends partying and always having a good time, without worrying about grades etc, while you are working hard to acquire as much knowledge as possible along with good grades. Reason? You want to study now to ensure you have a better future. That's the same way when it comes to personal finances and being frugal - you work hard and make some sacrifices now in order to have a better future for yourself and your family. So, as the article suggests, stick to your goals and avoid comparison with others.

For complete article, see:

CNNMoney.com: Millionaires in the Making:Tracy and David Seims


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Chance to earn "good karma" credits - buy 1 donate 1 laptop
A non-profit is giving Americans and Canadians a chance to buy a laptop and at the same do good for the children in the developing countries. Under the 'Give 1 Get 1' marketing program currently promoted by the non-profit, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization, Americans and Canadians can buy two laptops for $399. Named as the XO Laptop, one of the laptops will be given to a child in a developing nation, and the other one will be shipped to the purchaser by Christmas. Not only, this program gives donars a chance to do good for children, but they may also get a tax-deduction for charitable contribution for the donated computer. The program will run for two weeks, starting from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26.

While the laptop is a low-cost machine, it by no means is lacking in functionality. The laptop is supposed to be energy-efficient, light, rugged and versatile, and is preloaded with many useful open-source software applications.

For related articles and site, see

NYTimes.com: Buy a Laptop for a Child, Get Another Laptop Free

Yahoo/Business Week: Give a Laptop and Get One

XOGiving: One laptop per child



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Monday, September 24, 2007
On the road to billions
The Kiplinger.com article profiles, Brad Duke, a 34-year old who is working on turning his $125-million Powerball lottery winnings grow into $2 billion which means an an annualized return of nearly 23%. So far, he has already made more than $15 million in just over a year, with the goal of reaching $2 billion by the time he is 55.

To achieve his goal is has put together a 3-person financial team and making investments in real estate, etc. What's interesting about Brad is that despite the new-found wealth, his lifestyle hasn't changed. His advice to people who come into sudden money?

"Remember the value of a dollar. It's easy to forget when you're making checks out for millions, but 15 bucks will still buy you a pizza."

For complete articles, see:

Kiplinger.com: Turning a Lottery Win Into $2 Billion



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Sunday, September 23, 2007
Weekend Quote - Love versus Quantity
God doesn't look at how much we do, but with how much love we do it.
- Mother Teresa


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Saturday, September 22, 2007
Free Samples from Walmart - GoodNites® Sleep Boxers and Sleep Shorts for Children
For a limited time, Wal-Mart is offering a free sample - check out:

Walmart: Free Sample - GoodNites® Sleep Boxers and Sleep Shorts


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Friday, September 21, 2007
$75 bonus for HSBC Interest Checking Account
For a limited time, HSBC Bank is offering $75 bonus for opening an Interest Checking account. Offer expires September 30, 2007.

For complete details, including terms and conditions, see

$75 Cash Bonus - HSBC Interest Checking Account


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posted by Ruby @ 6:19 AM   0 comments

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Avoiding Bank's ATM fees
Continuing with yesterday's theme about banks, Bank of America recently jacked up ATM-fees for non-customers from $3 to $2. Like most people, I don't like paying such fees. The amount may be small but the amounts can add up pretty quickly if there are many transactions over the month, especially since both the bank owning the ATM as well as your own bank may charge fee. To avoid going to ATMs frequently, we carry small amount of cash. If needed, we just go to our bank's ATM to withdraw cash, so don't have to worry about paying surcharges. Problems may come if we are short of cash or when traveling out of town, where there may not be any ATM machine of our bank. Fortunately, since we try to use credit/debit cards for shopping and most other transactions, so far such problems about ATM charges have been rare.

Also, some of the online banks, such as E*Trade Bank and Everbank, reimburse fees for ATM charges up to a certain number of transactions (if you meet their conditions). The Kiplinger.com article lists some of those banks as well as other ways (such as using debit cards) to avoid paying ATM fees.

For related articles, see:

Kiplinger.com: Bank of America raises ATM fees to $3

Kiplinger.com: Breaking the bank: ATM fees


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Thursday, September 20, 2007
Fed rate cuts and lower interest rates on bank accounts
With the feds cutting the interest rates by 0.5% this week and another rate cut expected in the near future, some banks have started lowering the interest rates on bank accounts while others are likely to do so soon. While the interest rates on savings/checking a/c is likely to drop because of these rate cuts by the Feds, now may be a good time to search the internet and lock-in the rates on the CDs as some of the CD rates are still decent. For example, HSBC is currently running a promotion of 5.10% APY on 9-month CD (needs to be new money for existing customers). Similarly, E-LOAN is offering 5.35% on 3-month CD (it also offers 5.25% on savings a/c but that is likely to drop given the recent fed rate cuts). Before signing up for any offer, it's always good to check out the internet for the CD rates offered by other banks. One good site to search is BankRate.com.

For info about CDs from HSBC and E-loan, see:

HSBC Deposit Rates

E-LOAN


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posted by Ruby @ 6:43 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007
On the road to millions despite lower salary
The Kiplinger.com article profiles, Earl Crawley, a 69-year old parking-lot attendant who earns $20,000 a year and yet has been able to amass a stock portfolio woth more than $500,000! How did he do that?

"I did it with good old-fashioned nickels and dimes. My mother taught me how to budget, which made me appreciate how a little money can grow. I saved what I could from odd jobs, such as lawn-cutting and window-washing, that I did in addition to my day job. I used that money to buy one share of IBM stock back in 1981, which cost $400."

Despite being dyslexic and not knowledgeable about the stock market, Earl wasn't scared of the stock market and used tips from financial planners etc for making investing decisions. Result? - he is able to have a sizeable savings and investment portfolio.

The story is indeed very impressive and shows how a person can accumulate wealth in this great country even on a lower salary. What's required is the willingness to work hard, persistence and effort to acquire knowledge.

For complete article, see:

Kiplinger.com: Investing With Nickels and Dimes


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Monday, September 17, 2007
The Suze Orman show and the art of gifting
As usual, watched the Suze Orman show last weekend. One question that a 28-year caller asked was whether she could afford to attend her friend's wedding in Jamaica. The trip would cost her $1,000 and she wanted to know whether she could afford to go there or should she just send her an "expensive gift". Considering her low savings and credit card debt, Suze Orman recommended denial but she also made a good comment about whether the caller should give an "expensive gift".

Suze Orman mentioned that why do people always feel that they need to give an expensive gift. She rather have gifts that are useful instead of expensive, rather than expensive but not useful.

I found her reply very interesting and could relate to it. Am not sure why people think expensive gifts are better than less expensive gifts, especially if someone has to break their budgets to buy it. Am sure a good friend/relative will never want to receive a gift for which the giver had to face any financial hardship.

Over the years, we have been in a similar situation where people have given us expensive gifts which unfortunately, were not very useful or practical. In addition, expensive gifts also create a pressure on us since we also feel obliged to buy expensive gifts in return (and who knows, our recipients also probably find them not very useful). However, over the last couple of years with the arrival of the kids, we have sifted to being more conscious about our situation and give gifts according to our budget. In addition, we have switched to giving either gift cards or cash. Not only it makes life easier for us since we don't have to spend time looking around what to give, but our friends also tend to like them since they can buy things on their own and when they need them, rather than ending up with duplicate items. Not surprisingly, we also have been increasing getting gift cards lately which works well with us too as it lets us avoid stuffing our house with items that we are not going to use.


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Sunday, September 16, 2007
Weekend Quote - Time vs Gold
An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.
- a Chinese Proverb

Ellis College  Recent Markdowns at Overstock.com!
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Saturday, September 15, 2007
Hitachi Software's StarBoard(R) Summer School Contest for K-12 educators
As part of the the StarBoard® Summer School Contest, Hitachi Software Engineering America, Ltd is inviting K-12 teachers to upload their lesson plans "designed to optimize the use of an interactive whiteboard and/or LCD projector" on its Hitachi Software online Educators Resource Center. Deadline is October 31, 2007.

Prizes include a Hitachi 50" Plasma TV for one lucky first place winner, and a Hitachi 42" Plasma TV for the second place winner.

For complete details, see:

Hitachi Software Extends StarBoard(R) Summer School Contest



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Friday, September 14, 2007
Reminder from the mortgage industry layoffs
Washington Mutual has become yet another company in recent days to announce layoffs due to the current subprime mortgage crisis. H&R Block's Option One, CountryWide Financial and many other mortgage firms have already laid off many workers. An important reminder from these layoffs is the importance of having adequate emergency funds. Whether its layoffs, car problems, sickness or other problems, emergencies may happen any time. While such situations can be depressing, with some cushion in the form of emergency funds, they don't have to be defeatning.
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Thursday, September 13, 2007
Chance to Win $1,000 in gift cards as part of Fun for Fall Sweepstakes
GiftCertificates.com is offering a chance to win $1,000 in gift cards as part of its Fun for Fall Sweepstakes.
posted by Ruby @ 10:09 AM   1 comments

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Getting phone service extension from Skype
We use Skype for our local and long distance within North America. Last month, Skype had some problems with their service and like many other customers, we also couldn't log in to my account to make any calls for some time. A few days ago, I received the email from Skype, informing us about the problems with their service and as a nice gesture, they extended our subscription by a week.

We use Skype extensively for making calls to our friends locally as well as through out North America. Before we joined the service, we were not sure about the quality of call since they are made over the internet. So far, however, the service, including call quality, has been very good, barring a couple of occassions where we did encounter some static. Fortunately, such occurrences have been rare and so far, we have been pleased with its call quality.

Earlier, we used to use prepaid phone calls for long distance calls. Now, we just use Skype as we signed up for the SkypeOut (Skype's Unlimited plan) earlier this year. The plan allows us to make unlimited calls within the US and Canada for a flat rate of $29.95 for the entire year. Fortunately, there are no additional maintenance, dormancy or connection fees etc, and the plan allows us to call people in the US or Canada on their cell or landline phone. This was good since most of our friends use cell or landline phones. Since the plan has no time limited, we use the service frequently to just chat up with our friends even if it just for few minutes, and we do that both from home and work. The good part was that on the Mothers' Day this year, Skype offered free calls to anywhere in the world which was great since it allowed us to get in touch with our friends and families on the other side of the globe.

Skype also allows free PC-to-PC worldwide calls when calling other Skype users but for us and our friends, that's a bit limiting since with young kids (an infant and a two-year old in my case) around, we call each other when ever we have some free time. If we have to use the Skype PC-to-PC calling feature, we would have to schedule time when both of us could be on the computer to talk to each other. May be once the kids have grown up a bit, I might consider the use of that feature but for now, calling others on their landline or mobile phone when ever we have some free time is what works for us. I also heard that you can IM and also make free video calls, although I have never used that feature.

Skype's other calling plans:

SkypeIn – Based on what I read on the Skype's site, this plan allows you to buy a personal phone number on which your friends/customers etc can contact you from their regular phone. So, for example, if your customers or friends happen to be in England, while your business is in New York, you can get a personal number in England, so that when your friends or customers call you, it's local call for them while you can be in New York or anywhere in the US and still be able to receive it. The SkypeIn number along with a and free Skype Voicemail costs $18 for 3 months or $60 for a full year (there are no additional per minute charges).

Skype Voicemail - Skype allows you to buy voicemail by itself. It's useful in case someone's trying to contact you but you are busy or offline or busy, or you want to send record messages to anyone. Surprisingly, the company has listed the price in Euros for this service. It's currently € 5 for 3 months or € 15 for the year, but is free with SkypeIn.

Skype for Business - designed for businesses

If you are new to Skype, Skype is currently offering your first call for free after downloading Skype - up to 10 minutes to any phone, anywhere in the world. The free minutes expire in 30 days. For details, see:

Download Skype and up to 10 minutes of free call anywhere in the world (Info about free call is provided towards the bottom of the page)
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tips for Saving
The Fidelity Investor's Weekly article provides a list of tips from two highly motivated married savers - Jason and Michelle. Among their tips for motivating themselves to save include:

Keeping an eye on the prize - the couple set savings goals, taking into consideration the desired retirement lifestyle. They started saving early and remain committed to their saving goal.

Investing in stock market - being young and knowledgeable about the markets, the couple invest in stocks/bond funds for potentially higher returns over time.

"Both Jason and Michelle feel confident that they're on track to have "the great quality family life" that is so important them. "You never know what the future will bring," he says, "but the best you can do is to learn from the past and build your plans around it."

For complete article, see:

Fidelity Investor's Weekly: Tips from Highly Motivated Savers
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Free subscription to Better Homes & Gardens Magazine
BedBathStore.com/Start Sampling is offering free subscription of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine. For details, check out:

BedBathStore.com/Start Sampling: Better Homes & Gardens Magazine
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The Suze Orman show and the student loan problem
Recently was watching the Suze Orman show (one of my favorite shows) where she discussed a student-loan related problem of a woman. The student had taken a $40k loan for her culminary studies. At the time of signing up for the loan, she was told that the monthly payments would amount to around $250/mo but later she found that the payments would be around $650/mo. Her $40k loan has now mushroomed into $119k loan. She is currently working as a chef and needless to say, she was having lot of problem in repayment.

Because of the student loan contract requirements, Suze Orman couldn't offer much help other than telling her to take up another job(s) so as to pay down her loan. However, she mentioned that people need to write to their politicians to ensure that when students take loan, they are told up front about the correct monthly payments they will have to make later, and if that amount is not correct, the school responsible for providing that loan should be held responsible for those payments for misleading the students.

Writing politicians is good although I am not very hopeful if those political jokers are willing to do much, other than blaming each other for all the problems. Those guys are able to find money for pork-barrel projects but when it comes to passing laws that will be beneficial to the general public, suddenly they become conscious about the deficit, etc, and so they don't do anything. Of course, even when they do pass laws that are beneficial, they make sure to complicate them, for example, by giving tax breaks but not making them permanent or not indexing them to inflation (such as AMT that's not indexed to inflation, or estate planning laws that are set to expire in 2010). Result - people are often confused and either don't do anything or even if they do make financial plans, they need to keep making changes to it, and keep spending their time and money.

This is where it's extremely important for at least one person in every family to learn about personal finances. It's sad that schools teach various courses that may have little use in the real world, but most people don't get to learn about personal finance. I wish I had learnt the value of compounding and the importance of starting to save earlier in life rather than now. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case but better late than never. Hopefully, I will be able to impart the value of it to my kids (assuming they will listen to me when they grow up - already the 2-year old thinks himself to be very smart).

Fortunately, these days there's lot of useful and free information available on internet sites like Yahoo Finance, MSN etc along with the various useful blog sites. All that's required is for a person to spend a few minutes every day to increase one's knowledge regarding financial aspects because ultimately, no one has more concern about a person than the person him/herself.
posted by Ruby @ 7:38 AM   0 comments

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$10,000 Scholarship for student bloggers
CollegeScholarships.org is offering a $10,000 Scholarship to a full-time college student who blogs. The student must be a US citizen or permanent resident, and needs to submit an essay (300 word limit). Deadline is midnight PST on Oct. 6th.

For complete details, see:

CollegeScholarships.org: The Blogging Scholarship

Note: the site also provides info on scholarships for minorities, women, political blogging, etc

Other Scholarship-Related Posts:

$10,000 Scholarship for student bloggers

TYLENOL Scholarship 2007 for students in healthcare

Nelnet's $1 million scholarship giveaway

Justice FCU Annual Scholarship Program

Wal-Mart Scholarships for 2008

$2,500 Upromise Scholarship


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Monday, September 10, 2007
Kiplinger.com's 5 great personal finance books
The Kiplinger.com article lists the five recommended money books for young adults. As per the article, the books are not only easy-to-understand but they also are inspirational and provide a good understanding on the basics of personal finance.

The list consists of:

The Wealthy Barber, Updated 3rd Edition: Everyone's Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent - a self-help book about a story of three young adults who turn to a local barber to gain financial wisdom.


"The Wealthy Barber certainly isn't a John Grisham novel, but at 211 pages it was readable and inspiring. I easily finished it in a weekend with plenty of time to re-evaluate my own long-term financial picture."








Saving for Retirement without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery - a simple yet thorough book on investing for the long-term.


"MarksJarvis doesn't try to impress you with her well of knowledge. Instead, she comes across as a patient and humble parent or teacher taking the time to make sure you know what you're doing. Saving for Retirement is a good size (228 pages) and the table of contents looks intimidating at first. But that's just because the book is broken down into small, easy-to-digest headings. That makes for quick referencing later."






Life After School Explained - a short, humorous and witty book on a variety of topics such as selecting health insurance plan, taxes and investing geared towards people who will leaving their parents to start a life on their own.








Debt-Free by 30: Practical Advice for the Young, Broke, and Upwardly Mobile - a witty book on a serious topics - credit card and other debt, and how to get out of it. The book is written by two people who spent their twenties piling up credit card and other debt.

"Debt-Free by 30 is their first-hand tale of how they dug themselves out of the hole and got on the path to financial freedom. The job wasn't easy, as the authors are quick to point out, but it was worth it."









Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties - a book that's comprehensive yet an easy read, and especially geared towards 20-30 something generation. The book contains info on a variety of topics such as saving money on taxes, insurance, paying off debt, buying a home, managing your daily finances and long term investing.



Except for the Wealthy Barber, I haven't read any of the other four but would now check them out. I definately agree with the reviews on the Wealthy Barber. The book contains lot of financial wisdom despite it's small size. In addition, with the book written in the form of a story, it makes for an interesting read.

For complete article, see:

Kiplinger.com: Five Great Money Books for Young Adults
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Favorite Quote
"If you look at what you have in life, you will always have more. If you look at what you do not have in life, you will never have enough".
                - Author Unknown
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