Guides for a personal finance novice

Question: I am 50 years old, and unfortunately, a bit of a financial novice. I have never invested, never budgeted and never really had my money work for me. I am a professional, in my own private practice and earn close to or more than  $100,000 a year. I am looking for some good source(s) that may, by reading or watching videos, make me a more informed steward of my money. Ed, Cardiff, CA

Answer: When you think about it, much of personal finance is really about developing a handful of good habits. You have a good grounding already as a professional with your own practice and good income. Among them: Fund your own automatic savings program that regularly takes money out of your banking account and puts it into savings accounts. Open up a SEP-IRA or a sole 401(k). (The former is much easier.). Stay out of debt. 

However, what's most important in thinking about long-term finances is planning on working for a long time. It's probably something you can do -- even if you downshift to fewer clients or hours -- well into the traditional retirement years. Earning a paycheck -- even a slim, part-time one -- will allow you to defer tapping into retirement savings. A paycheck makes it practical to delay filing for Social Security, which is a savvy financial move since the benefit goes up for every year you wait after age 62 and until age 70. Work also keeps us active -- physically, mentally and socially.  

I have a couple of personal finance book recommendations. You might want to look at Jane Bryant Quinn's Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People; my book, The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better; The Random Walk Guide to Investing, by Burton Malkiel; and Risk Less and Prosper: Your Guide to Safer Investing, by Zvi Bodie and Rachelle Taqqu. I'd go to the library or bookstore and look at these books and see which you think might be most useful for you. Good luck.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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