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Alan Prahl column: People share their best financial moves

6:36 PM, Apr. 26, 2013  |  Comments
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Many students will be soon be graduating from high school or college and living on their own. They might benefit from a few words of financial wisdom.

For the past several months, I have been asking adults at some workshops I've taught to share the best financial move that they have ever made. Here are some of their suggestions.

"I started saving for retirement when I was 20." This is one of the top tips. Starting to save as early as possible is an outstanding principle and a great suggestion.

"I went to college in order to land a good-paying job." While some people today are questioning the value of a college degree, people who have graduated from college often have more opportunities and lower unemployment rates. College can still be a high return investment.

"The only clothes I buy at retail are underclothes. Resale shops and garage sales are fun ways to hunt for great finds. I buy electronics and jewelry at pawn shops." One frugal person offered this trio of creative ways to shop. She also wisely cautioned against overspending at resale shops and garage sales, where the deals can be great. Just because something is a great price doesn't make it a great deal for us if we don't need it.

Multiple people said, "I made a budget and used the envelope system." Having a budget or plan for our spending is another proven principle. Many people use envelopes with a limited amount of cash as a visible reminder of how much they have chosen to spend in each cash category. Some people also use electronic tools like Mint.com to keep track of their spending.

"Making a plan with my husband for savings, retirement, budget and tithe" repeats the principle of having a budget, and points out the wisdom of including priorities in your budget, like general savings, saving for retirement, and donations. Other people had similar comments like, "Save before spending" and, "Always give to the Lord first."

If we try to save or donate money after we have paid all of the bills, we may not have enough money to do these things. That's why many people treat saving and giving as top priorities.

"Saving early for big things like a vacation, new vehicle and education." Saving was a popular principle.

"Don't get a credit card in your 20s." Several people had comments about not relying on credit cards, evaluating purchases carefully before buying and minimizing the use of credit.

If you know someone who is graduating or moving out on their own, gently share some of your best financial moves. You can help them to avoid some pitfalls and make better choices.

- Alan Prahl is with FISC (www.fisc-cccs.org) a nonprofit program of Goodwill North Central Wisconsin. He can be reached at aprahl@fisc-cccs.org.

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