To kick off the New Year, here are Jean Chatzky's Top 5 Money Rules for 2013:
1. If You Don't Ask For More Money, The Answer Will Always Be No -- Here's a shocker: In 2011, newly-trained female doctors earned salaries that averaged $17,000 less than newly-trained male doctors. It's not that women were picking less-lucrative specialties or that they were asking for more flexible work schedules. That used to be the case, but not this time. The difference this time was a problem that's existed for years. Women don't ask. Whether you're a woman or a man, you have to ask for the money you want. The answer may not be the one you're looking for. But if you don't ask, the answer will always be "no."
2. Count Dollars Like Calories -- Research has shown that keeping a food diary, writing down what you put into your mouth, habitually and without fail, keeps even the most troubled dieters honest. The same is true of tracking your spending. Most people have absolutely no idea where their money goes, particularly their cash. Tracking, whether you do it using pencil and paper or a Web or smartphone application, works. I know because I've done it. I know others who've done it. It will transform your financial life.
3. Just Because Someone Will Lend It To You Doesn't Mean You Should Borrow It -- This is the lesson of every unfurnished McMansion from Maine to California.
4. If You're "Just Looking" Don't Try It On -- You're in the department store or your favorite boutique and you see a pair of pants that looks interesting. Unless you're in that store to buy pants, don't try them on. Why? Because behavioral economists have found that when you put those pants on and see yourself in them, your mind actually takes possession of them. At that point, not buying the pants feels like a loss.
5. More Money Won't Always Make You More Happy -- The next time you're considering taking a job "just for the money" remember this: Money only buys happiness to a point. Beyond that, more money makes no difference in how happy you feel. According to some Nobel laureates, $75,000 buys happiness. That's an average that varies regionally; happiness is more expensive in Manhattan, N.Y., than in Manhattan, Kan. But the message is this: As long as you earn enough to pay your mortgage or rent, put gas in a car that's not a clunker, eat what you want when you want to, and take the occasional vacation and, oh yes, save a decent chunk of whatever you're bringing in, more money will not make you more happy. Coming up short on any of those basic wants and needs, however, will make you miserable.