A Father Knows Best


With Father’s Day just around the corner (Sunday, June 17), here are a few personal finance tips, compliments of “Dad” – mine, and likely yours, too:


Start saving early

As soon as you get your first job, you should start saving for retirement — ideally, 15% of your gross income every month. Fund an IRA, a 401k and learn about the power of compounding interest, which can help multiply the money you save the longer you save it.

Budget, budget, budget

What are your fixed expenses (such as mortgage, car payments)? What are your variable costs (like entertainment, groceries, dining out)? If your monthly expenses exceed income, determine where/how you can cut costs. And then do it. A good place to start: mint.com.

Spend less than you earn

One of the primary reasons people get into debt is because they spend money they don’t have.  And once they’re in the hole, they keep digging – deeper and deeper. Did you know that the average household has about $15,000 in credit card debt?  Don’t become a statistic! Be disciplined and use credit wisely.  This means paying your bills off — in full — each month, and on time.

Home is where the heart is

OK, so you probably don’t want to live at home indefinitely with your parents, but you also shouldn’t break the bank trying to live on your own.  Remember, no more than 30% of your income should go toward your housing costs. For an estimate of the monthly costs of home ownership within the context of your monthly budget, use Zillow’s affordability and mortgage calculators.

Money can’t buy happiness

One takeaway from the recession that has been a positive: we are much less focused on the materialistic side of things/keeping up with the Joneses, and are more focused-and appreciative — of the things that really matter: family and friends as opposed to McMansions and mega yachts.

It if sounds too good to be true…

There are many companies — from pawn shops to rent-to-own companies to debt management companies — that prey on those who aren’t smart about money or are desperate to get out of a trying situation In the short term, you may be offered some attractive, seemingly life-saving benefits, but in the long run, it could cost you dearly.

Be a smart consumer

Before you make a purchase — especially a big one — read the reviews, compare competing products, and talk to friends who’ve made similar purchases.  The key is learn all you can about the product you’re interested in because buying the cheapest item is not always the most economical choice.

Learn how to negotiate

A recent Zillow survey shows that two-thirds of renters don’t research rental prices! How can you negotiate if you don’t know what the going rental rates are for the area(s) you’re interested in?!! Your first stop: Zillow’s Rent Zestimates. Then learn how to ask for a break — this is a skill that can not only save you on your rent, but on just about any other big ticket product or service, from new appliances and cars to medical bills and more.

Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.


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