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Save Wisely, Spend Happily: Real Stories About Money and How to Thrive From Trusted Advisors


As a CPA, you know that understanding personal finances can seem like an overwhelming task to your clients. Yet it doesn’t have to be--especially if they have the guidance of a trusted advisor.

Published in honor of the AICPA’s 125th Anniversary and edited by best-selling financial author and CPA Sharon Lechter, this collection of CPAs’ advice gives your clients the information and tools they need to make managing their money less intimidating and helps them thrive at any stage of life.

Developed as a complement to the AICPA’s successful 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program, this practical guide makes a great gift for your clients or prospective clients and reminds them that you are their best resource for navigating the tricky money issues that can arise throughout all of life’s phases.

The book discusses how to:

  • Build a basic budget, plus tricks for sticking to it
  • Understand good debt versus bad debt
  • Tackle credit card debt and use credit strategically
  • Plan for a major purchase, such as a car or a house
  • Give to your favorite charity--and make it work with your budget
  • Combine your finances with your spouse or partner
  • Teach kids about money at an early age, and then reinforce those lessons throughout the teen years
  • Save for your children’s college and your retirement
  • Prepare for life’s ups and downs, from planning for a wedding or dream vacation to dealing with unexpected household repairs, identity theft, or an unforeseen disaster
  • Ensure your loved ones are secure by having critical documents in order, such as a will, power of attorney, or trust, as well as adequate insurance coverage
  • Choose the best financial advisor for your needs

Filled with detailed information, money saving strategies, and expert advice, each chapter is reinforced with personal stories--many from the contributors’ own life experiences--that bring home the book’s lessons.

These tales of financial setbacks, recoveries, and eventual successes demonstrate that with persistent planning, and a little guidance, it is truly possible to save wisely and spend happily.

Sharon L. Lechter, CPA, CGMA, Founder/CEO of Pay Your Family First, is creator of the award-winning ThriveTime for Teens board game, coauthor of Think and Grow Rich-Three Feet from Gold, and Rich Dad Poor Dad, and annotator of Outwitting the Devil with the Napoleon Hill Foundation. She served as a member of the first President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, and is a member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. For more information visit

Section 1: The Basics 1

Chapter 1: Goal Setting 3

Smart Goals 4

Specific 4

Measurable 5

Attainable 5

Relevant 5

Time-bound 5

Smart Goal Application 6

Smarter Goals 8

So Why Don’t People Set Goals? 13

In Summary 15

Chapter 2: Taking Control--Budgeting 101 17

Examine Your Financial Goals 19

Identify Your Current Monthly Income and Expenses 20

Evaluate Your Budget 25

How Do You Compare? 25

How To Get On Track 27

Easy For Her to Say 29

From Paycheck to Paycheck to Savings 31

Creating Structure 33

Importance of Keeping Records 35

In Summary 36

Chapter 3: Budgeting Strategies 37

The Importance of Paying Yourself First 38

The Real Difference Between “Wants” and “Needs” 40

The Ripple Effect 42

Walk The Talk 44

Where’s The Cash Going? 46

Back To The Envelopes 47

Have An Emergency Fund 49

Don’t Forget The Obvious 51

Increase Your Means 52

The Benefit of Asking For Help 55

In Summary 55

Chapter 4: Penny Wise and Savvy Investor 57

Small Savings Add Up to Big Money 58

Delayed Gratification 61

Garage Sale Treasures 62

Bulk Buying Benefits 63

Be Mindful of Receipts 65

Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity 66

Reducing Your Income Taxes 68

The Savvy Investor 70

In Summary 73

Chapter 5: Good Debt, Bad Debt 75

Credit Cards--Good Or Bad? 81

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 83

Credit Cards and Emotion 85

Debt Counselors 87

But It’s Interest Free Debt! 89

They Chose Me! 91

What is My Credit Score and Credit History? 93

So How Do I Get From A Bad Credit Score to A Good Credit Score? 95

In Summary 96

Section 2: Money and Relationships 97

Chapter 6: Money and Marriage 99

The Money Talk 101

Prenuptuals 102

Postnuptials 104

The Dream and Plan Talk 104

The Putting Into Practice Talk 105

The Credit and Debt Talk 108

The Reality Check Talk 110

In Summary 111

Chapter 7: The Dreaded Divorce 113

Divorce and Personal Financial Planning 114

Planning For Your Advisors 116

Mediated Or Traditional Divorce? 117

Hidden Costs of Parenting Post Divorce 122

In Summary 124

Section 3: Raising Financially Savvy Children 125

Chapter 8: Kids and Money 127

Setting Goals 129

The Power of The Bank Book 131

Making It Fun 134

Making It A Game 135

The Family Vacation 136

The Family Budget 138

My Own Budget 142

The Entitled Generation 143

The Power of Earning It 144

From Earning to Investing 146

Investing In Stock 147

In Summary 148

Chapter 9: Allowance 149

Spend Less Than You Earn 154

Where Does My Money Go? 156

Budgeting Basics 157

Write It Down 159

In Summary 162

Chapter 10: Teens and Money 163

Value of Money 164

Lesson 1: Developing A Budget 165

Lesson 2: Getting Creative--Earning More and Stretching More 169

Stretching the Budget 171

Igniting Creativity 173

Lesson 3: Saving For The Future 174

Having Savings Creates Options 175

Utilize and Maximize Your Savings

Opportunities 177

Lesson 4: Using Credit Wisely 178

College--Out of Sight But Still In Your Pocket 181

College, Pizza, and Bouncing Checks 183

Lesson 5: Parents As Bankers 184

Support Not Dependence 184

In Summary 186

Chapter 11: Paying for College 187

Systematic Savings From Birth 189

Systematic Savings Vehicles 191

Traditional Savings Accounts 191

Education Specific Savings Accounts 192

“Outside The Box” Innovative Systematic Savings Ideas 193

Scholarships and Grants 197

Scholarships 197

Grants 198

When You Still Need A Loan 199

Federal Education Loans 199

Private Borrowing 200

In Summary 202

Chapter 12: A First for Everything 205

First Cell Phone 206

First Checking Account 207

First Car 209

Moving Out 213

First Home 218

Your Wedding 224

In Summary 226

Chapter 13: Importance of Charity 227

Experience is The Best Teacher 228

Gratitude is The First Step 230

Closer To Home 231

Learning From The Younger Generation 233

It Is Never Too Late to Teach Your Children 234

In Summary 236

Section 4: Plan for the Future 237

Chapter 14: Life’s Unexpecteds 239

Do You Feel Lucky Today? The Concept of Risk 240

Loss of A Loved One 245

Financial Safety Net 247

Special Finances For Special Needs 248

Identity Theft 253

In Summary 257

Chapter 15: Retirement Planning 259

Start Saving Early--and often 261

How Early is Too Early? 262

How Much Will I Need to Save? 264

Retirement Planning Strategy 264

Roller Coaster Markets, Roller Coaster Emotions 266

Importance of Trusted Advisors 269

In Summary 272

Chapter 16: Retirement Saving 273

What Pension Plan Do I Choose? 274

Take Advantage of Your Employer Plans 274

Not So Early In Life? It Is Never Too Late! 278

Other Retirement Plans 281

How Can I Plan For Retirement If My Employer Doesn’t Offer Retirement Benefits? 281

The Roth Ira--A Plan With Tax-Free Earnings 283

Options For Small Business Owners 285

403(b) and 457 Plans 287

Retirement Planning Using Annuities 287

Retirement Planning With

Traditional Investments 287

So Many Options…How Do I Choose? 288

In Summary 289

Chapter 17: Estate, or End of Life Planning 291

Isn’t Estate Planning Only For The Rich? 292

So Where Do You Start? 293

Estate Planning For All Ages 294

Over 18 294

Young and Single 295

Unmarried Couples 295

Married Couples 295

Married with Children 296

Comfortable and Looking Forward to Retirement 297

Wealthy and Worried 297

Elderly or Ill 298

Will Your Estate Be Taxed? 299

Exemptions and Maximum Tax Rates 299

Choose Your Executor Wisely 300

Share Your Plans With Your Loved Ones 302

Protecting Your Parents 304

In Summary 306

Section 5: You Are Not Alone 309

Chapter 18: Value of Great Advisors 311

Sudden Wealth Syndrome 320

Through The Eyes of The Advisor 325

In Summary 327

Chapter 19: The Next Steps 329

Afterword 335

Appendix: Financial Education Programs and Resources in Your State 337

Contributors 341