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The popular television financial planner and broker shares the secrets of making one's long-term financial goals come true, explains how to set financial goals, and offers helpful advice on how to get the most out of one's mutual funds and 401(k) plans.
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Julie Stav, a financial planner and broker, was born in Cuba and came to the United States as a teenager. A former teacher, she is the founder/owner of Retirement Benefits Systems, a financial planning firm in California, and also runs a network of investment clubs. Known for her speaking engagements and investment guide videotapes, she has been profiled in the Los Angeles Times and other papers, and has appeared on Lifetime's "New Attitudes," ABC's "Eyewitness News," and appeared numerous times on ABC's "The View." She is also the author of Get Your Share.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Introduction Have you ever thought about your financial goals and how much money you would need to accomplish your dreams? What are those dreams, anyway? Is it to send your children to college, to buy a house, to help your parents financially, to be able to stop working for a living?
Are you putting away enough money for the future? How is your 401(k) performing? How do you choose among the investment choices you are given? Is it better to buy individual stocks or mutual funds? Or should you invest in an IRA or in a two-year CD? And by the way, what the heck is an IRA or a mutual fund, anyway? Confusing? You bet!
I used to think about my financial future and get so overwhelmed that I would end up fantasizing that I won the lottery. With the jackpot in mind, I would let my mind drift, and I would list the many ways that I would spend the money: a new house, a trip around the world, a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. I'd bargain with my fairy godmother, promising to donate half my winnings to her favorite charity if she would just be so kind as to give me that lottery. Then, when the inevitable happened and some other (clearly less worthy) soul got the winning ticket, I would be back to where I started, wondering how in the heck I was going to manage to fund my future. Can you relate?
What's the difference between people with no money worries and you? What's the difference between you and people who can afford to send their kids to college, pay for their lavish weddings, and still live out their own retirement dreams? Okay, maybe some of them inherited millions from Great-Grandpa Moneypenny, but the majority were probably once like you. They worked hard for their money, too, putting in all the hours, attending all the meetings, dealing with all the crazy demands, and working all those weekends. And they also probably walked around with that nagging little voice in their head questioning the stability of their financial future.
The real difference between them and you is only this: They set financial goals and committed themselves to an investment course that would enable them to reach those goals. Bottom line: They took control of their financial future. And you can, too. You don't need to hire some expensive, big-shot financial planner. The truth is, there is no one who has as much vested in the outcome of your financial planning as you do. So it makes sense that you should be in control of your money. Who else knows what is important to you, how much money you need, and how much risk you're willing to take to reach your goals?
If you're like a lot of people who blindly follow the recommendations of a financial advisor or flashy money guru without taking the time to learn the basics and keep abreast of your investment choices, at some point or another, you're bound to find yourself up the proverbial creek, paddling madly to get a grasp on your finances. But as long as you have taken the time to learn where you want to go with your money, you should have no trouble funding your future and living out your dreams. It's simply a matter of evaluating your personal circumstances, figuring out your goals, assessing your investment temperament, and choosing the right investment options.
After that scary-sounding list of to-dos, some of you might be getting a little intimidated right about now. Numbers were never your "thing," and the thought of burying yourself in a sea of numbers or investment terms feels as exciting as a visit to the dentist. Why can't these experts just speak English? Why can't they lighten up with all those secret agent spy codes-401(k), 403(b), W-4, IRA? Why does it have to be so confusing?
I used to be intimidated by financial and stock market lingo, too. Fancy terms and big numbers made my head spin. Following the unwritten rule that "girls are good with words, boys are good with numbers," I took pride in my flowery essays while my brother got As in algebra. Well, guess what? Money is green; it's neither blue nor pink.
When I really buckled down and tackled the stock market and mutual funds, I realized that we really don't have much use for all those fancy terms and numbers anyway. A calculator, a magnifying glass (why they make those numbers so small is probably part of the plot to intimidate us), and a solid determination to turn gibberish into serious cash is all we need to begin to see our money multiply, even while we sleep. Talk about being financially powerful! In my first book, Get Your Share, I tried to educate and motivate anyone who wished to participate in the stock market but who didn't know where to begin. We started with the very basic principles of what a stock is and why and how a company issues shares in order to raise money to expand its business. Through humor, analogies, and just plain talk, we studied the state of the market in general to determine the most advantageous moment to invest in a stock. We looked for a hot sector, a hot industry, and the hottest companies within that industry that potentially have what it takes to be the biggest and most profitable companies of tomorrow.
We were like race car drivers: We knew where we wanted to go and made sure we had high-performance individual stocks to get us there. We looked under the hood to confirm that our car had the horsepower to outperform the tough competition. We made sure all systems were go, and when the time was right, we stepped on the gas at full throttle, fueled by the anticipation of success and the thrill of the race. Sure, there was some risk involved, but that was part of the excitement-and the potential gains made it all worth it.
But some of us don't want to be race car drivers, especially when the track suddenly veers off a cliff. It's a lot of work to stay on the road. You must always be ready for the unexpected. Decisions need to be made quickly, and if you make a mistake, you can get hurt-as anyone who spun out of control in the high-tech crash of 2000 will recall. High performance comes with high maintenance.
Car racing is not for the faint of heart and neither is playing the stock market. It takes discipline and hard work to choose the best stock, buy at the right time, and know when to cut losses or cash in profits.
Many investors enjoy the daily work and get a rush watching their stocks perform. And the stock market is not just for the affluent or high-powered money brokers. Nor do you need a degree in economics. In Get Your Share, I showed readers that we all can benefit from the stock market-even so far as to invest on-line with no minimum outlay. With as little as twenty dollars, we can open a brokerage account and begin trading, applying the same sound principles the bigwigs in fancy offices and designer suits use with billions of dollars. Or we can form investment clubs, where fun and finance mix as well as chocolate and peanut butter.
But I know that many of you still feel left out in the cold. You wish you could have access to the potential gains that individual stock ownership can provide, but careers, family commitments, busy lifestyles, aversion to risk, or perhaps just lack of interest have kept you from getting involved in the stock market. You want to go places, but you don't want the high-speed race.
Well, let me put your mind at ease. In Fund Your Future, I will show you how you can arrive, refreshed and relaxed, at your financial destination by letting others do the driving for you in a car built for comfort, endurance, and fuel efficiency. I will show you how to profit by investing in the stock market through the use of mutual funds. Mutual funds constitute a powerful basket of money collected from regular people like us and invested by the mutual fund company, which then buys and sells individual stocks on our behalf. With mutual funds, we get to be the passengers. Mutual fund managers do what we don't want to do. They watch our money on a daily basis and make the necessary adjustments to our accounts to stay on course. We just need to know how to pick the mutual fund that is going our way, taking the route we want to take, and going at the speed we want to go.
And speaking of choices, many employers offer 401(k) plans. A 401(k) is a company-sponsored, pretax retirement plan. Lots of us have access to incredible returns through mutual funds in the retirement programs our employers offer, and yet we don't have a clue as to how to profit from them. In this book, I am going to teach you how to work that money hard by making the right choices within your 401(k) plan as well.
But before we fasten our seat belts, we have to take a look at your starting point. We have to evaluate your current financial position in order to chart the best course. After all, there are several lanes on the road to success. Then we need to make sure we know what your destination is, so we can set specific financial goals. Whether you are planning for retirement, looking to buy a new home, seeking to resolve credit card debt, or starting a college fund for your kids, we need to determine how much money you are going to need. Once we know where you are going, using your time frame and tolerance for risk as the starting point, I will help you make the best investment choices. If you don't know a stock from a bond and get baffled when you try to balance your checkbook, don't worry. What I'm about to teach you is not complicated. And it is never too late to learn.
I used to be like many of you. I thought I could largely ignore my financial situation until tomorrow, or next weekend, or whenever I could manage to sit down and figure it all out. But then I drove into a pothole. The pothole came in the form of a divorce that left me a single mom. Money was tight. I felt completely responsible for my young son's future, and I didn't want to rely on someone else's resources for our financial well-being. For the first time in my life, I began to balance my checkbook. Every penny counted.
One day, my sister-in-law told me about a book about money, written by a woman who explained investments in a way everyone could understand. Out of sheer necessit...
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