8 Four-Letter Words You’ll Love for Financial Health

8 Four-Letter Words You’ll Love for Financial Health


Why is it that a few 4-letter words have given thousands of perfectly good four-letter words such a bad rap? It doesn’t seem fair, does it? I took it upon myself to give them a break. Make a habit of putting these 8 words into use and 2014 will be the strongest financial year you’ve ever had. They won’t offend anybody. You can even say them in front of your parents – how great is that?


Why 8? Well, I was reading an article about how we can be pretty hardheaded when it comes to making changes. The author suggested sometimes we need to get hit over the head with a (figurative) 2-by-4 to get a message.  Multiply 2 by 4 and you get 8.


Here you go:


  1. PLAN – let 2014 be the year you outgrow impulse spending. If you’ve got some exciting goals – and I hope you do – planning before spending will make those goals happen sooner. Whether it’s clothes, groceries, or basic household matter, make a list before you head out to spend. You’ll get everything you need and you’ll be less likely to end up with 3 jumbo jars of peanut butter in the cupboard!
  2. COOK – sure, you’re busy, you’re tired. You come home and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking a meal from scratch. I get that. Take baby steps and make it fun.  When you’ve got a little downtime, check out a few online cookbooks and find a new recipe to try.  There are millions of recipes that don’t take long, don’t take many ingredients, and make great leftovers.  Aim for eating one less meal out and cooking one more meal each week.
  3. SWAP – tired of wearing the same scarves and belts over and over?  Tempted to go out and buy a bunch of new ones? Host a swap party instead. Start simple. Invite a few friends to each bring 5 accessories they’re willing to give up for a while and exchange.  It can be temporary or permanent – you decide.  Everyone will feel like they got something new to freshen up their wardrobes but nobody spent a dime. This doesn’t have to be just clothing, either. Sporting goods, furnishings, kitchen items, tools, and electronic gadgets are great candidates for swap sessions.
  4. SAFE – do what you need to do to keep what you’ve got.  If all your electronic accounts still use the same password you’ve had since seventh grade, it’s time to change.  No matter how fond you are of CheetosRgr8t you need to come up with something new and tougher to crack.  Don’t use just one password, either.  Set up different passwords for different accounts.
  5. SAVE – you know I was going to put this in here, right? I am sure you are already saving, so bump up your saving percentage by 1%. Go ahead, you’ll be glad you did. Little increases add up to big results.
  6. ROTH – start now. Open a Roth IRA and set up automatic transfers from your checking or savings account into it.  You will be so glad you did. I promise. Ever wonder why it’s a Roth?  That’s because the legislation was introduced by Senator Roth of Delaware. Just think, if you ran for Congress you could introduce a bill and have something named for you for ever after.  Pretty cool.
  7. DEBT – yes, this can be a good 4-letter word. If you’ve got debt of any sort, the good news is you are building a credit history. Make sure it’s a good one by paying your bills on time. At some point or another, you need to have a credit history in order to qualify for (more) debt.  I know, that sounds a little strange but if you want to buy a house someday, you get a better rate if you’ve got a higher credit score. The score is based on how well you’ve done in the past with paying off debt so show those financial institutions you’ve got it together.
  8. GIVE – almost all the healthiest, wealthiest folks all give time, money, or both to help make the world a better place. If you haven’t done this before try it, you’ll like it. Start giving just a little bit and you’ll be hooked. And if you’re already a giver pat yourself on the back and keep on keepin’ on.

Take these 8 four-letter words and make them a part of your life.  By the end of 2014 you will be in a stronger financial place than you are right now. Want to learn more?  Read Coin! A great 4-letter word and a book that is guaranteed to make you the very picture of perfect financial health. Learn more at www.CoinInTheBank.com.

Let me hear from you –what changes are you making for 2014?

Financial Planning Week 2012

October 22nd-29th is Financial Planning week.  Conveniently positioned before the big holiday shopping season, there are many ways you can celebrate Financial Planning week to make the rest of your year (and the year after that) a lot less stressful.

Here are a dozen suggestions from the Financial Planning Association:

1.  Balance your checkbook

2.  Make a monetary contribution to your favorite charity

3.  Start a savings account for a child, vacation, or a gift for yourself

4.  Help teach your children how to save and spend wisely

5.  Get your estate in order: Create or revise your will & other estate-planning documents

6.  Call your financial planner and share your appreciation for their service

7.  Pay off a credit card

8.  Get a head start on college – investigate collegiate planning options

9.  Establish an emergency fund

10.  Evaluate your employee benefits and begin planning for open enrollment

11.  Develop your holiday spending budget

12.  Plan for year-end tax strategies

A Delightfully Savage Experience

I just returned from the annual conference for the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors, the leading organization of fee-only financial planners.  Three packed days of sessions were terrific, as always, but one session was a special treat.  Terry Savage, the Chicago Sun-Times columnist and well-known author of The Savage Number and The Savage Truth on Money, was a featured speaker.  She’s currently on a nationwide tour with financial literacy as her mission.

She was genuinely delighted to find a conference full of like-minded souls and spent just as much time asking us questions about fee-only financial planning as she did sharing wisdom.  If you get the chance to hear her speak, I recommend going.  She motivates and inspires while explaining financial concepts in ways anyone can understand.

Her website has a nice collection of useful calculators as well as archived columns she’s written for the Chicago Sun-Times. Check it out here: www.terrysavage.com


ob·fus·cate ( b f -sk t , b-f s k t )tr.v. ob·fus·cat·ed, ob·fus·cat·ing, ob·fus·cates

1. To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand: “A great effort was made . . . to obscure or obfuscate the truth” (Robert Conquest).

2. To render indistinct or dim; darken: The fog obfuscated the shore.

[Latin obfusc re, obfusc t-, to darken : ob-, over; see ob- + fusc re, to darken (from fuscus, dark).]

ob fus·ca tion n.

ob·fus ca·to ry ( b-f s k -tôr , -t r , b-) adj.1

Obfuscate is a wonderful word.  I just wish it didn’t apply so often to issues in personal finance.  Annuity contracts are one example.  Recently I met with a client who owned several annuity contracts and she wanted help translating them – from obfuscatory English to plain English. The contracts were thick documents that I’m convinced were carefully designed to keep anyone from actually wanting to read them.   Buried within were onerous sounding surrender charges, various subaccount fees and expenses, commissions, penalties, insurance fees, redemption fees, and enough other terms to make you nervous.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one of the insurance companies selling annuities would lay out the information in a simple diagram or a flow chart? It would make a lot more sense and it would help consumers evaluate and understand, for example, what the real cost of that death benefit is.

If you find yourself struggling to understand the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs of an investment, perhaps it’s due to a deliberate obfuscation of the information.  So what should you do?  If you don’t understand it, don’t buy it.  It’s that simple.

1. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.