Save Wisely, Spend Happily: Real Stories About Money & How to Thrive from Trusted Advisors

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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.

Praise for Save Wisely, Spend Happily: Real Stories About Money & How to Thrive from Trusted Advisors

“Everyone needs to read this book…and take action.” — Sidney Kess, CPA, mentor and teacher to over 700,000 advisors in tax, financial and estate planning


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System Requirements

Table of Contents

Section 1: The Basics
Chapter 1: Goal Setting

Smart Goals
Smart Goal Application
Smarter Goals
So Why Don’t People Set Goals?
In Summary

Chapter 2: Taking Control—Budgeting 101

Examine Your Financial Goals
Identify Your Current Monthly Income and Expenses
Evaluate Your Budget
How Do You Compare?
How to Get on Track
Easy for Her to Say
From Paycheck to Paycheck to Savings
Creating Structure
Importance of Keeping Records
In Summary

Chapter 3: Budgeting Strategies

The Importance of Paying Yourself First
The Real Differences between “Wants” and “Needs”
The Ripple Effect
Walk The Talk
Where’s The Cash Going?
Back To The Envelopes
Have An Emergency Fund
Don’t Forget The Obvious
Increase Your Means
The Benefit of Asking For Help
In Summary

Chapter 4: Penny Wise and Savvy Investor

Small Savings Add Up to Big Money
Delayed Gratification
Garage Sale Treasures
Bulk Buying Benefits
Be Mindful of Receipts
Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity
Reducing Your Income Taxes
The Savvy Investor
In Summary

Chapter 5: Good Debt, Bad Debt

Credit Cards—Good Or Bad?
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Credit Cards and Emotion
Debt Counselors
But It’s Interest Free Debt!
They Chose Me!
What is My Credit Score and Credit History?
So How Do I Get From A Bad Credit Scoreto A Good Credit Score?
In Summary

Section 2: Money and Relationships

Chapter 6: Money and Marriage

The Money Talk
The Dream and Plan Talk
The Putting Into Practice Talk
The Credit and Debt Talk
The Reality Check Talk
In Summary

Chapter 7: The Dreaded Divorce

Divorce and Personal Financial Planning
Planning For Your Advisors
Mediated or Traditional Divorce?
Hidden Costs of Parenting Post Divorce
In Summary

Section 3: Raising Financially Savvy Children

Chapter 8: Kids and Money

Setting Goals
The Power of The Bank Book
Making It Fun
Making It a Game
The Family Vacation
The Family Budget
My Own Budget
The Entitled Generation
The Power of Earning It
From Earning to Investing
Investing In Stock
In Summary

Chapter 9: Allowance

Spend Less Than You Earn
Where Does My Money Go?
Budgeting Basics
Write It Down
In Summary

Chapter 10: Teens and Money

Value of Money
Lesson 1: Developing A Budget
Lesson 2: Getting Creative—Earning More and Stretching More
            Stretching the Budget
            Igniting Creativity
Lesson 3: Saving For The Future
            Having Savings Creates Options
            Utilize and Maximize Your Savings Opportunities
Lesson 4: Using Credit Wisely
            College—Out of Sight But Still In Your Pocket
            College, Pizza, and Bouncing Checks
Lesson 5: Parents As Bankers
Support Not Dependence
In Summary

Chapter 11: Paying for College

Systematic Savings From Birth
Systematic Savings Vehicles
            Traditional Savings Accounts
            Education Specific Savings Accounts
“Outside the Box” Innovative Systematic Savings Ideas
Scholarships and Grants
When You Still Need A Loan
            Federal Education Loans
            Private Borrowing
In Summary

Chapter 12: A First for Everything

First Cell Phone
First Checking Account
First Car
Moving Out
First Home
Your Wedding
In Summary

Chapter 13: Importance of Charity

Experience is the Best Teacher
Gratitude is the First Step
Closer To Home
Learning From The Younger Generation
It Is Never Too Late to Teach Your Children
In Summary

Section 4: Plan for the Future

Chapter 14: Life’s Unexpecteds

Do You Feel Lucky Today? The Concept of Risk
Loss of A Loved One
Financial Safety Net
Special Finances For Special Needs
Identity Theft
In Summary

Chapter 15: Retirement Planning

Start Saving Early—and Often
How Early is Too Early?
            How Much Will I Need to Save?
Retirement Planning Strategy
Roller Coaster Markets, Roller Coaster Emotions
Importance of Trusted Advisors
In Summary

Chapter 16: Retirement Saving

What Pension Plan Do I Choose?
Take Advantage of Your Employer Plans
Not So Early In Life? It Is Never Too Late!
Other Retirement Plans
How Can I Plan For Retirement If My Employer Doesn’t Offer Retirement Benefits?
The Roth IRA—A Plan With Tax-Free Earnings
Options For Small Business Owners
            403(b) and 457 Plans
Retirement Planning Using Annuities
Retirement Planning With Traditional Investments
So Many Options…How Do I Choose?
In Summary

Chapter 17: Estate, or End of Life Planning

Isn’t Estate Planning Only For The Rich?
So Where Do You Start?
Estate Planning For All Ages
            Over 18
            Young and Single
            Unmarried Couples
            Married Couples
            Married with Children
            Comfortable and Looking Forward to Retirement
            Wealthy and Worried
            Elderly or Ill
Will Your Estate Be Taxed?
            Exemptions and Maximum Tax Rates
Choose Your Executor Wisely
Share Your Plans With Your Loved Ones
Protecting Your Parents
In Summary

Section 5: You Are Not Alone

Chapter 18: Value of Great Advisors

Sudden Wealth Syndrome
Through The Eyes of The Advisor
In Summary

Chapter 19: The Next Steps


Appendix: Financial Education Programs and Resources in Your State



There is definitely a long-term payoff from understanding the difference between wants and needs and making a choice to understand the future cost of spending money today on wants. That being said, there is nothing wrong with buying a “want” if you have properly budgeted for it. There is another long-term benefit of being aware of the difference between wants and needs and that is the impact you will have on others. As you get your financial house in order, you will most likely see a positive ripple effect on those around you. Laura Lee Laundre, a CPA from Mesa, Arizona, shares a fabulous story that shows the generational impact you can have as well.

I Just Closed My Right Eye
“I just closed my right eye.” That was my daughter’s response after asking her how she managed to walk past the barbeque grills. She wanted one. They were on sale. How could she pass them up?

Closing an eye to temptation is just one of the techniques she uses. And that’s what I wanted to learn. After all, she is in great financial shape. I was curious how she had achieved that. She’s 26 years old, she just closed on her first home, her bills for the upcoming month are paid, she has $10,000 socked away in emergency funds, an additional $2,000 in the bank for expenses, one vehicle paid for, another she’s making payments on, and a house full of new furniture. She’s living comfortably. And her income is not outrageous. She earns about $36,000 a year,
before tax.

How does she do it? “Mom, I just do the things you taught me.” Wow! I think back. She saw me set aside funds for monthly expenses. Their alloowances were to be split between pocket money, long-term goals, and charity. Did some of this actually sink in? Apparently it did. But I’ve fallen from those habits, and I’m ready to learn again.

What are her secrets? They emerge as we speak. “It’s all about control,” she says.

“It’s as simple as finding out what bills you have, how much is coming in, and how much is going out. I just got this house. I just had a baby. I’m not sure what my expenses are going to be. So I’m tracking them to see what they are. After things settle down a little, I’ll have my new budget.”

That’s great. How about some specific practices? “I have $30 cash to put in my pocket to last the week. My credit card stays home. It’s only for emergencies.” Yes, that’s right, she said credit card, as in one card. “I only use my debit card for gas, groceries, and bills. What I don’t need for monthly bills I put into savings. I don’t go shopping. And I don’t buy it if I don’t need it.”

Hmm, that comment raises the question, what is a need? “Well, I’d love to watch Sunday night football at home. But it’s not something that if I don’t have it, I’m going to die. Needs are a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food. Wants are a sofa, a bed, and the latest video game console.” Right now, she does not have cable and internet connections in her home. She may add these after she gets comfortable with her budget.

And while she does get urges to buy something she wants rather than needs, she pulls out her phone, checks her bank account balance, and then tells herself, “Some other time.”

Or she just closes her right eye.

Laura Lee Laundre, CPA
Mesa, AZ

About the Authors

Sharon L. Lechter, CPA with 125 contributing CPAs

About the Publisher


About the AICPA The American Institute of CPAs is the world’s largest member association representing the accounting profession, with more than 412,000 members in 144 countries, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, and offers specialty credentials for CPAs who concentrate on personal financial planning; forensic accounting; business valuation; and information management and technology assurance. Through a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, it has established the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which sets a new standard for global recognition of management accounting.

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