Dear Readers,
Here are the final 11 recipients who will receive a copy of "A Step-by-Step Guide to Financial Bliss" by Ken Marinace.

As I said, it was extremely difficult to narrow down this list. Frankly, virtually everyone made a great case for why they ought to receive the book. I'd love to hear how some of you are using the advice in "Bliss" in your own lives and what, if any, change this has meant.

I wish there were a way to wave a magic wand and -- poof! -- give everyone financial bliss. But until I figure that out, I'll keep trying to answer your questions here.

My thanks to all who submitted entries,

Gail

P.S.: The book is available in bookstores and at Amazon.com.

 

Dear Gail-

My husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to money. I don't save as good as I should and I would rather buy a couple of expensive outfits than five cheap ones. My husband hates to list deposits in the checkbook so he can think he has no money to spend. He really resents spending any, and I really mean any, money.

We have recently come into some extra money but it just sits in a savings account because we really don't have a clue what to do with it. I don't work and have no retirement account for myself. (My husband has a 401(k) and state retirement account at work.) I would like to take some of that money and plan for my future, you know, just in case he decides to run off with his secretary or something.

Thanks,

Lisa

North Carolina

 

Dear Lisa;

If you still want to be able to splurge on "expensive outfits" when you're retired, you've got to get a handle on how much money is coming into your household now and where it's going. As tedious as this sounds (don't worry about accounting for every single cent), this is where financial planning starts. At the very least, commit to funding an IRA for yourself every year. The type of IRA you can have depends upon your joint taxable income, but as a non-working spouse married, you are eligible to contribute the maximum amount to either a traditional IRA or Roth. This year, that amounts to $3,000, plus an additional $500 if you are over age 50.

Your IRA priority should probably be in this order: Contribute the max to a traditional IRA if your adjusted gross income this year will be $60,000 or less. (If you think you might be close, you can make a tax deductible contribution and correct it before you file your 2003 income tax return.)

If your AGI exceeds $60,000, but is less than $150,000, contribute to a Roth IRA. If your income is higher than $160,000, your only option is a non-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA.

Every mutual fund family and every financial advisor should be able to help you chose the right IRA for your situation. For your own peace of mind, use some of that "extra money" and just DO it for yourself. Next year, make another contribution to your IRA.

Because you are just starting out as an investor, take a conservative route. Depending upon your age, consider using either a large capitalization stock fund with a "value" bias or a "balanced" mutual fund if you are age 50 or older.

Let's hope your husband doesn't run off with his secretary. But if he does, you should know that you may have a right to a portion of his retirement account and, depending upon how long you've been married, you're also entitled to Social Security based on his work experience.

It's never too late to start!

Gail

 

Hi Gail,

In the past 24 months I've been through divorce and bankruptcy, both very much precipitated by poor financial management. I lost everything except my truck.

Now I'm putting things back together, trying to rebuild everything from savings to credit rating. I have a son who will be going to college in 5 years. It's tough, with alimony and child support, but not as bad as it used to be. I'll take any help I can get.

Thanks a bunch.

Rob,

Delaware

 

Dear Rob-

I'm sorry you've been through such a painful time. It sounds as if you're on your way to making a better life and I applaud your commitment to keeping your obligations to your ex-wife and child. I hope Financial Bliss is helpful.

Take care,

Gail

 

Dear Gail,

My husband and I comprise a two-person commercial sign company. We've always been self-employed. I love my work, however it seems that our hard work and long hours do not translate into more money in our pockets at the end of the day. We are both 40-ish, and with no 401(k) to take advantage of, it is quite evident we are behind the eight ball when it comes to retirement planning.

I'm anxious to get control of my financial life and set a good example for my children. We have done some things right (eliminated credit card debt, only buy what we can afford to pay for with cash), but I feel woefully ignorant when it comes to achieving financial independence. I look forward to your columns on Foxnews.com, they are quite enjoyable to read and easy to understand.

Sometimes when I read financial columns I feel like I'm eavesdropping on a conversation that's intended for "the other guy" - the guy who's already in the position to take advantage of the advice given. Maybe if I understood "financial concepts" I could be "that guy".

Thank you for your time.

Rebecca

Michigan

 

Dear Rebecca-

There are several types of retirement plans geared for small businesses such as yours. They are inexpensive to set up and have a minimal amount of red tape. They range from a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) plan to what's called a "micro-k"-- a 401(k) tailor-made for companies like yours.

I strongly recommend you talk with a financial advisor about the plan best-suited for your firm. Before you know it, you'll be "that guy!"

Enjoy the book,

Gail

 

Hi, Gail-

We're on the road back to financial recovery after being downsized out of a job and this book sounds like the next tool to assist us on our climb upward.

When our employment status changed drastically we were not prepared for the reality of little savings and the continuation of all of our household exprenses. We simply did not know how to manage our money nor did we know how to make our money grow for us.

Both my wife and I need to become wise as to these and other financial concerns, and it sounds like the book could help us to that end. Even the summary was instructive.

Thank you,

Richard

Michigan

 

Dear Richard-

It may not be much comfort, but you are not alone. Thousands of people were jolted by layoffs in recent years. I hope this helps you and your wife build a more stable financial foundation for the future.

Best wishes-

Gail

 

 

Dear Gail-

I am a member of America's Finest - a United States Army Soldier. I am at a point, with nineteen years of service, whereby I have to make some tough decisions regarding my career. Next year I am eligible to retire, but I do have the option of staying longer.

I have been contributing into IRAs for a number of years and I have also been participating in the new Army "401(k)" plan called the Thrift Savings Program.

I have two children, a ten-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. As a father I must ensure that I have a nest egg that will not only provide for their schooling, but also for my wife and I during our 'golden years".

I would use the concepts discussed in this book to shape my financial planning decisions or at least help me ask the right questions.

Lastly I want to say I enjoy reading Ms. Buckner's column and the wide variety of financial topics she discusses. Please take a moment to think and pray for the many brave men and women in our Armed Forces that currently serve in Iraq and Kuwait that allow the American people the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits associated with being a free country.

Troy

 

Dear Troy

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all our armed forces personnel. I hope you all know how very much we appreciate your sacrifice. Come home safely so you can put the advice of Financial Bliss into practice!

God bless,

Gail

 

Gail-

As a young man, I never gave too much attention to retirement issues. However, the last couple of years, I have been spending time seeking advice, such as reading your columns which I really enjoy.

As a law enforcement veteran of 32 years (Highway Patrol), I will be retiring from state service in less than two years. I have been trying to compensate for poor planning in my early years by becoming more informed on retirement issues.

Brad

Kansas

 

Dear Brad-

I'm sure the good folks in Kansas appreciate your years of dedication to making their highways safer. Hope this book leads you down the road to a more secure retirement.

All the best,

Gail

 

 

Hi Gail,

I am self-taught when it comes to financial matters. It is people like you whom I read every chance I can that helps to fill in the blanks. I would love to get a copy of a good financial book to make sure that I'm not skipping something that I really need to know. Normally as a high-tech programmer I would just run out and buy my own copy, but since I've been out of work for over 7 months, I'd really appreciate a free copy.

Jacqueline

California

 

Dear Jacqueline,

In my opinion, developing a sensible financial plan is WAY easier than programming code! You should breeze through this book.

Go, girl!

Gail

 

Hi, Gail

I am tired of working to pay the credit companies. I have gotten rid of all credit cards but need to make my financial situation stronger. Also, I do not want to experience first-hand all the hard lessons of working with my money.

Vincent

Florida

 

Dear Vincent-

Getting rid of your credit cards was a brave move! You're right: it's a lot smarter to learn from the financial mistakes of others and avoid the pain of first-hand experience.

Good luck to you,

Gail

 

Gail;

We are currently $47,000 in debit to credit cards. This debit was run up in the last two years when my wife was 'minding' the books while I was building a business.

I have the skills to get out from and prevent bad debt but my wife however fights me and I do not have the communication skills to teach her. We were in a simular situation four years ago in which I payed off $35,000 in 18 months.

I look forward to reading and learning from A Step by Step Guide to Financial Bliss.

James

North Carolina

 

Dear James-

Wow! The debt you've already paid off would have been one heck of a contribution to a retirement nest egg! Consider reading this book WITH your wife so you're both (literally) on the same page, financially-speaking, from now on.

Best wishes,

Gail

 

Hi, Gail-

As a 55-year-old single mom I know I'm nowhere near a comfortable retirement. I am debt free except for my townhouse and a new student loan for my college kid. I make okay money, have a couple of very small private retirement accounts, contribute to my company sponsered 401(k), very little in actual cash savings and NEVER seem to have enough to sock it away big time. I don't like to shop. My only weakness is yarn for knitting, which I use for my personal entertainment and gifts for others. So why am I so far behind in my retirement planning???

I worry about how to put it all together and this book sounds like it might actually make good sense out of financial jargon to me. Most financial help books seem to only speak to those who have plenty to work with and I don't. I need a better plan and some confidence to do it right. I need something that is in plain English, not Wall St talk.

Like many women in my position, I need help.

Thank you

Jacqueline

California

 

Dear Jacqueline-

I appreciate your situation. It sounds as if, like a lot of folks, you've got a few "leaks" in your budget that are not showing up on your radar screen. Maybe this book can help you pinpoint where those dollars are going so you can fund a more secure retirement. I know it might sound a bit cold-hearted, but you need to balance your own retirement need against funding your child's college education. Given your situation, he/she should qualify for financial aid.

As I've said before, while your student can take out a loan to pay for college, there's no loan available to you to fund your later years. One of the biggest gifts you can give your child is the peace of mind that mom is able to take care of herself financially.

Take care of yourself,

Gail

 

Hi Gail,

Like many Hispanic families, mine did not put a big emphasis on education. Hard and honest work is what my folks did, and what they wanted to make sure I did. Naturally, we didn't have money in the house. (We actually lost our house at one point.) Hence, there was no type of money management lessons for me to learn. I am not blaming anyone but me for the decisions I made in my late teens and late 20's, but I do regret not having better fiscal perspective.

I am now 35, slowly improving my credit rating, have a good paying job, have a great wife and family, and am following a college plan to get my degree in 6 years. The book would not be wasted if I was chosen.

Thanks.

Mario

California

 

Dear Mario,

I appreciate how tough it can be to earn your degree while you are holding down a full-time job, but I'm sure it's going to be worth it. Think of the role model you are for others in your family! I'm sure they are very proud of you.

All the best,

Gail

 

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