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French toast ... fewer credit cards and lower debt

Published 9/12/16

By Peter Andrew

The French may get a few things wrong, but their attitudes to credit cards and debt might be better than ours.

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The danger money poses to your relationship

Published 6/9/16

By Peter Andrew

Back in the 1990s, soon after my better half and I moved in together, my parents came to stay. We all went out for a shopping trip one morning, and when my dad saw my partner's spending habits, he was aghast: "Good grief!" he said to me, disbelievingly. "You're the financially responsible one in this relationship?!" 

Dad was right to be worried. I already had an unchallenged reputation for financial incontinence within my family, and he had naturally assumed it would be impossible for me find anyone worse in that respect. Yet here we were. And, amazingly, we're still here; still a couple more than 25 years later.

Ignorance isn't marital blisscredit lessons

It's surprising we're still together because finances are a huge source of conflict within relationships. Back in 2012, Money Magazine commissioned a survey that found married couples argue more about money than anything else: more than sex, household chores, time spent together and (unbelievably) even snoring.

And yet it's something few engaged couples explore ahead of their marriage. And, you might assume, even fewer unengaged couples do before they shack up together. In May 2016, credit bureau Experian published the results of a survey that found just how poorly prepared many newly weds are for their spouse's financial foibles:

  • Some 40 percent didn't know their spouses' credit scores.
  • A third didn't know the extent of their spouses' student debts.
  • A quarter didn't know their spouses' annual incomes.

Money matters matrimonially

The survey uncovered just how stressful it Read the full article »

How to get through January

Published 1/27/16

How to get through January By Peter Andrew

When you recite the months, do you begin, "Penury, February, March, April ...?" If so you're not alone.

Being broke after the holidays is a common experience for millions of us. We're dragging ourselves out of bed, in the dark, and we've nothing to look forward to for months. Daylight is scarce and unavailable outside the hours when we're cooped up at work. Our checking accounts are drained, and December's credit card bills have arrived. What's not to hate?

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Scrooge writes on saving Christmas

Published 12/1/15

Scrooge writes on saving Christmas By Peter Andrew

Bah humbug. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with the holidays. It's great when people observe the religious elements, exchange cards, eat too much, drink too much and give joy and wonder to children in the form of seasonal spirit and extravagant presents. After all, most kids have just two opportunities a year to have their material dreams fulfilled, and only one comes with seasonal magic.

Get a grip, grown-ups

But it's different when it comes to gifts for adults. When you want something, don't you just save up (or get out the plastic) and buy it? Do you really think someone else could do a better job of buying the thing you want? It's not as if the exchange of gifts between grown-ups isn't a zero-sum game: You're almost always trying to guess how much the other person's going to spend so you can match it. And, if you get it wrong, don't you even things up the following year?

After years of faking happiness over slightly off (or downright bad) gifts, adults in my circle of family and friends have agreed on a $15 holiday present cap for each other. Amazingly, some of the inexpensive ones I've received remain precious many years later.

Peculiar presents

Unless they're your own, it can remain very difficult to buy gifts for kids. Of course, that's been the case since the very beginning. One wise man turned up in 1st century Bethlehem with gold, but the other wise guys decided on frankincense and myrrh. And, Read the full article »

Managing money when self-employed

Published 10/26/15

Managing money when self-employed By Peter Andrew

Are you an "independent"? I'm not asking if you're politically unaligned. I want to know whether you "turn to freelancing, contract work, consulting, temporary assignments or on-call work regularly each week for income, opportunity and satisfaction," which is a definition of the word used by the MBO Partners State of Independence study, 2015 edition..

That document contains some astonishing statistics:

  • In 2015, there were 30.2 million Americans over 21 years of age who fit that description, of whom 17.8 million are full-time independents and 12.4 million are part-timers. Another 11.9 million take on those sorts of assignments occasionally.
  • Together, they generated revenues topping $1.15 trillion. That's nearly 7 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.
  • The number of independents working in America is expected to hit 37.9 million by 2020.
  • Of those who work this way, 30 percent are Millennials (defined in this study as those age 21-35 years), up from 12 percent just four years earlier.

The "gig" economy

The rise of the gig economy (so called, because each assignment lasts a short time, like a musician giving a one-night performance) may or may not be transforming how we work. Some argue there have always been millions of freelancers and contract workers, and the fact they're now booked online rather than through Yellow Pages and brick-and-mortar agencies isn't such a big deal. But new companies like cab facilitator Uber, butler service Alfred, home cleaning provider Handy and freelance resource eLance might make real change in many lives.

If it does, it's likely to bring challenges as well as Read the full article »

Making the most of an inheritance

Published 8/24/15

Making the most of an inheritance By Peter Andrew

The very worst thing about getting older is that your family and friends do too. And that, naturally enough, means they begin to die in increasing numbers. I lost my best friend three months ago. And, over the last decade, both my parents have died along with a score of friends who were very dear to me.

Nothing makes up for such losses, but occasionally people remember you in their wills. Usually, you get some small memento, perhaps something you once admired. Rarely, a financial legacy comes your way, though usually only from close family members. Suppose you one day get a four- five- or six-figure check from a loved one's estate. What should you do with it?

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