This week Gail shares letters from readers who won a free financial how-to book.

Dear Readers,

I was over-whelmed (literally) by the response we got to my column on Ken Marinace's book, "A Step-by-Step Guide to Financial Bliss." More than 350 of you wrote to explain why you wanted a copy and how you'd use it.

Your letters were candid, poignant and touching. Many of you have recently gone through life-changing events such as divorce, the loss of a loved one, bankruptcy, a severe family illness, or the loss of a job (especially in the technology industry). Some described having a "wake-up call" about preparing for retirement. A number of you are in the military.

Several of you wrote about the stress that financial issues were putting on your marriage because you and your spouse didn't see eye-to-eye on money. I heard from quite a few moms and dads who want to get their financial lives in order so they can set a better example for their children.

I want you to know I read every single letter — and RE-read them — several times.

I had such a hard time whittling down the list of those who would receive a complimentary copy, I appealed to the publisher. Tweed Media (search) generously agreed to increase the number of copies to 25.

What follows are excerpts from the letters written by half of the winners. The others will appear later this month. (Please be patient as the books are being mailed by the publisher.)

A word of caution: getting control over your finances entails work. Don't expect a magic "bullet." You will be asked to account for what you're currently doing with your money and also envision where you'd like to be in the future — the type of college you see your child attending, the home you want, the lifestyle you want to live in retirement, the level of security your family needs.

It is a rare person who can afford to have everything he or she wants today and everything he or she wants in the future. For most of us, money involves compromise.

While I cannot promise you that you will attain financial "bliss," if you honestly work through the chapters that pertain to your situation, you will definitely come away more financially aware — of where you stand today, what you value, where you want be in the future, and how to get there.

My apologies to those who were not selected to receive a complimentary copy of "Bliss." It is available in bookstores and at Amazon.com for $13.95 for those interested in purchasing a copy.

Taking an honest assessment of your attitudes and behavior toward money can lead to surprising insights into who you are as a person. My best wishes on your journey.

Gail

 

Dear Gail,

I would like to receive one of the "A Step-by-Step Guide to Financial Bliss" books, and here is why:

My wife and I are just getting out of our 20s and have one child. I can see that we have already made some major financial mistakes — what I would use this book for is to try and figure out what we want financially, how to stop doing the things that hurt us, and how to do the things that would help us. Basically, I want to make sure that our financial lives don't hurt as bad at 60 as they do now.

Thank you!

Scott

Kansas

 

Dear Gail,

For a long time now I have been bemoaning my lack of knowledge on financial matters, and have really wanted to do something to get out of the mess I am in, but I didn't know where to start and was afraid I wouldn't understand any book I got from the library. This book sounds like it is exactly what I need to begin to understand the big picture of managing my finances. I am 43 years old, my husband and I have been through bankruptcy, and have no savings and no retirement — we need to do something!

I know a lot of people will want this book, but I hope can be one of them.

Thanks for making the offer,

Florence

Texas

 

Dear Gail,

I was laid off from my job in the IT industry last year and recently found another job —  in an entirely different business. I have a wife and 2 small children (age 2 and 4 months). Being laid off is a very humbling experience. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad without children but with children, I felt (and feel) incredibly vulnerable. I've dabbled in the stock market and I thought I was "investing" wisely, but watched my portfolio decline in value. I came to realize that I need to invest for the long haul, for not only my future but the futures of my wife and kids.

I've heard a lot of financial jargon over the years — annuities, whole life and term insurance, education IRAs or 529s, bonds, growth and income — yet I feel woefully ignorant about what I need for my goals and my situation. I do not want to make decisions without understanding and knowing all my options. I at least need to know what questions to ask a professional without fear of making the wrong choices.

Best regards,

Jim

New Jersey

 

Dear Gail,

I am a 44-year-old woman who has worked hard and lived frugally throughout my working life. I have set aside a good portion of my income over the years, but I know little about investing and have never made any long-term financial plans.

I have experienced two wake-up calls in recent years: first, the fall in the value of my 401(k) as a result of the drop in the stock market, and second, watching my mother struggle with aging. It sounds as though "Financial Bliss" might have some good advice for me as I try to help my mother with her living arrangements and finances, and as I develop my own long-range financial plan.

Ana

California

 

Dear Gail,

My husband has been in the military for approximately 18 years and will be "retiring" soon.

We have always lived on a very limited income (he's enlisted) with "unusual" expenses (moving every few years, providing for two households when he has been deployed or sent away from home for an extended period of time, having to find a new job every time we move, etc.). The military lifestyle for an enlisted member makes it very difficult to plan or save for an adequate financial future. We will be blessed, in the near future, with a large amount of money from a settlement and would like to wisely plan our financial, retirement and educational future. I hope you still have copies available. Thanks for your time and generous offer.

Toshie

Oklahoma

P.S. We LOVE Fox News....it's the only news that is allowed in our home

 

Dear Gail,

I struggle with my wife over the idea of living on a budget and how important it is to plan for the future, knowing that a $20.00 purchase will not kill the budget, but if you have several of those in a month, it can kill you. The book "Financial Bliss" sounds like it would be just the thing to help convince her. I gave up fighting about this years ago, and we are putting some money away, but we should be doing much better. You could really help us out by sending a copy.

Thanks,

Louis

Pennsylvania

 

Dear Gail,

My husband and I are in our early 30s now and have 3 children and a large fixer-upper home and one car AND have had to file bankruptcy about 3 years ago. We struggle every single day with money. We both do things differently and think differently about money. We need a single focus, a single direction. We don't know where to begin. We need a step by step plan that is clearly defined and that we can team up together and take control 'together' of our future together.

Thanks,

Michelle

Missouri

 

Dear Gail,

I would like to have a copy of Mr. Marinace's book. After 16 years of marriage, my divorce became final on Tuesday ... and I am confronting life as a single mother ... I need to get my finances in order so that I can make the right decisions for my two sons and me.

Lynn

Texas

 

Dear Gail,

As a father of three I continue to struggle with our family's finances. Though my wife and I work hard and try to spend wisely, we have the same financial problems today as we did ten years ago. We've started exploring self-help programs and reading up on budgeting our money, we are tired of the stress caused by being behind.

"Financial Bliss" sounds like it's right up our alley. Of course, we have no money in the budget to buy it anytime soon, so if we could receive a complimentary copy we would be very appreciative. Regards,

Joe

Ohio

 

Dear Gail,

I was the only one of 8 kids who went to college and, against the odds, I've managed to make a better living for myself. I now have a large family of my own — 7 children — some through adoption.

While the lifestyle I provide for them is adequate, I know there is so much more I want to give them. I'm not talking about spending above my means here, and definitely not about spoiling my children. I just want to give them better opportunities than I had as a child. I want each child to have the opportunity to go to college if he or she wishes; and if they do wish to pursue a higher education, I want to be able to help them achieve that goal.

Thanks for your consideration,

Charles

Kentucky

 

Dear Gail,

This book would be a big help to me because I am going through a bankruptcy, caused by a divorce. I was never taught the way to properly manage my finances and I was in fact actively discouraged from learning to do so by my family and husband. Now truly on my own, I would use this book to educate myself on how I relate to money, what realistic goals I can set, how to minimize costs and how to plan for my future and hopefully retire. Not to mention never, ever landing in the place I am now.

Yours Sincerely,

Dianne

Colorado

 

Dear Gail,

I'd like a copy of "Financial Bliss" because I serve as a minister for a congregation of 200 in a small, impoverished town in Oklahoma. Many local residents have extreme financial discomfort due to a depressed economy, poor life decisions and few opportunities. Our church is continually asked to help with basics like food and clothing, but what many of these people need is training in basic life skills. If you can grant me one of your "Financial Bliss" copies, I promise to make use of it in trying to coach some people out of their habitual dependence on others. God bless!

Chris

Oklahoma

 

Dear Gail,

My wife and I both turn 55 this month and I can't help but feel totally adrift in today's financial arena. We both know we're running out of time to make a difference in how we will lead our lives now and especially in retirement. You can be assured the book will be both read and referred to often. Thanks for helping a very grateful couple of boomers make a difference in our lives.

Tom & Sue

Arizona

 

Gail,

I am a junior officer in the U.S. military and work with 100 people in my section. It's amazing how little many of us know about simple investment/saving techniques. Because we are stationed overseas, we receive a hefty cost-of-living allowance to offset living expenses here. Many are spending all the money. If they saved some of this money they would be better off when they move on to another assignment.

I feel it's partially my responsibility to help provide materials for them, to give them some options and starting points on planning their savings. I plan to read the book to enhance my understanding about how to be financially successfully, then pass on what I learned to the folks in my section.

Thanks,

Tony

APO AP

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The views expressed in this article are those of Ms. Buckner or the individual commentator, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Putnam Investments Inc. or any of its affiliates. You should consult your own financial adviser for advice regarding your particular financial circumstances. This article is for information only and is not an offer of the sale of any mutual fund or other investment.