Written by Jimmy Becker

Financially Speaking Newsletter

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Debit or Credit?

A correspondent asked:

Which is better for my financial health — using my debit or credit card?

Spender in Spokane

The College Financial Aid Process

If you’re navigating the complex and maddening college financial aid journey, here are my updated tips to remain financially solvent and reasonably sane through the process.

Mixing Love and Money

Valentine’s Day is upon us and that’s a good time to revisit the challenge of mixing love and money. When romance merges with finance, there can be a lot to discuss.

You wanna bet?

You probably know that the Super Bowl is today. But, you may be shocked to learn that there will be gambling on the game.

If you’re reading this Sunday morning, you still have time to get in on the action, so here’s a primer on how to bet on football.

Thanks, Bogle

You may have heard that John Bogle died this past week. Or, you may have no idea who he was.

Invest well; do good

A correspondent asked:

I’d like to invest my funds in an ethical manner; should I consider socially responsible investing?

Mindful in Minnesota

A Stocking Stuffer

Are you looking for a last minute gift idea for a loved one who has almost everything? I offer a financial tune-up to organize your personal finances and ensure you’re on-track to meet your 2019 financial goals.

Repaying Your Student Loans

You’ve finished college — congratulations — and now it is time to repay your student loans. Here are ten tips to help you navigate the repayment process.

Which bank to use?

A correspondent asked:

I am planning to switch my bank and am wondering if there’s one you recommend?

Checking in Chelsea

Bonds have more fun

You may have some sense of what a bond is, but if you’re curious about the specifics, this note is for you. It is all about bonds.


Have you been thinking, “Jeez, I really wish I knew what an ETF was.” Probably not. But if you did, this note is for you.

To begin, the acronym stands for Exchange-Traded Fund. It’s an apt name because ETFs are a hybrid of a stock and a mutual fund.

Divorce and Money

Divorce can be emotionally and financially unsettling. During this nerve-racking process, financial decisions are made with far-reaching repercussions. Your financial security depends on being well-informed both while negotiating a settlement, and afterward when adjusting to a new financial reality.

Freezing Your Credit Report

A correspondent asked:

I heard there is a way for you to protect your credit information from being stolen. Is that true? Should I do it?

Frozen in Frisco

Longevity Insurance

Many of us have heard of annuities but few understand how they work and if they should be part of your retirement plan. I’ll explain.

Fidelity goes to zero

There was news last week in the personal finance world:

Fidelity announced that they’re offering two new mutual funds that have no fees — one is for the total US stock market and one is for the total non-US stock market.

Saving Grace

Knowing how much you should save for retirement and whether you are on-track, are questions for everyone. Let’s focus on how much you need to save per paycheck, and your target savings at various ages.

What’s your financial IQ?

And now for something a bit different from the topic du jour... This is the Financially Speaking Quiz — your opportunity to self-assess your financial IQ.

No calculators required and take all the time you need. You’ll find a link to the answers at the bottom of this page. Good luck.

Go on a target date

When investing your retirement savings, you should aim to:

  1. optimize risk/return trade-off
  2. minimize effort
  3. minimize cost

Helicopter Grandparents

Are you ready to retire? Before you rent the RV, take bridge lessons, and become helicopter grandparents, complete this checklist:

Vanguard and the Buffet Bet

Vanguard is the largest firm in the mutual fund industry. They manage $5 trillion (yes, with a “t”) of investor assets and are roughly the same size as the number 2, 3, and 4 firms combined.

Automatic Pilot

What is the best strategy to save more and spend less? When it comes to saving money, passive is the new active.

Follow the Money

A budget measures your actual spending over a period of time (typically, monthly) and compares that to your intended level of spending.

70 is the new 62

Social Security is the cornerstone of retirement security for most Americans. Regardless of your current age, be aware of these key features:

Buck the Tradition

Roth or Traditional? For most people in most situations, a Roth is better.

Let’s first recap the different tax treatments:

Car Talk

For a typical consumer, leasing a car does not make financial sense compared to buying one. A car lease is designed to befuddle you with complexity and hidden fees that obscure the full ownership cost.

Teach your children well

Saving money is an unnatural act for most kids. How should you encourage them to develop good financial hygiene? Your kids may not appreciate your guidance now, but years later they may look back fondly on your wise counsel. We can only hope.

Risky Business

It can be turbulent for anyone investing in the stock market. We’re all re-learning that our investments can go down as well as up and it’s unsettling.

As you watch your 401K balance swing to and fro, it’s a good time to think about risk. It’s an abstract concept but we certainly know when we feel it.

Rent or buy your home?

Deciding whether to rent or buy your home is one of the eternal personal finance questions. My two cents on this topic may be counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom you may have heard.