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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Show Me the Money!

My attempts to become more fiscally stable have led me to research various financial gurus' budget plans.  I've studied Dave Ramsey's plan, I watch Suze Orman every week, and I've followed Gail Vaz-Oxlade for over a year now.  After considerable research, all I have is a headache.

The first thing I wanted to find out is simply, "How am I doing?" I have some savings, some retirement, some investments.  I have good equity in my home.  I don't have a car loan and my medical bills are paid.  On the other hand, I have a credit card balance and I don't have the recommended eight months' expenses saved in my emergency fund.  My car is over ten years old.  The next few months will bring more medical bills. My furnace is twenty years old.  I feel like I'm doing okay, but I really do not know, at this point in my life, if I'm on track for the future, for retirement, etc.  Even after my research, I'm still not sure.

No matter who's plan you look at, the basics are the same: live on cash, don't carry consumer debt, save for retirement and keep a liquid emergency fund.  Which leads me to my next question:  what, exactly, constitutes an emergency?  I know a job loss is one thing, but what about  something less drastic?  What if, say, my car breaks down?  Do I take the repair cost out of my emergency fund?    Or do I walk to work until I save enough money to get it fixed? Do I need a "big time" emergency fund and a "little crap that adds up" emergency fund?  If I ever accumulate the recommended eight months' expenses in my savings, I want to make sure I'm handling it correctly.

I think what I need to do is just pick a plan. One plan, and stick to it. I'm waffling between Suze and Gail right now (sorry Dave!) and, while their objectives are the same, I think they each have a unique approach.  While I try to puzzle it all out, I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing.  I don't have an urgent need to change anything, other than my own desire to make sure I get and stay on track financially as quickly as possible.   Cancer is scary, but having cancer without adequate financial resources is terrifying.  I don't ever want to be in that position again.

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