If you spend any time in our rich and vast Fool Community of discussion boards (and you should -- we've got boards on gobs of topics, all full of interesting, helpful denizens), you'll routinely find yourself inspired by the folks you run across. One way to zero in on the posts that have resonated with people is to look for those with the most recommendations.
I did just that recently on our Living Below Your Means board, and I found the following post by community member bookaholic:
My husband and I never been all that bad about money compared to some of the stories I have heard on the Fool, but we did resolve about five years ago to get really serious about paying off our debts and to start saving more. We paid off our credit cards entirely about three years ago, for example, and have never run them up again. After that we paid off the dregs of our student loans, and our last car loan (ever, hopefully!).
We're now on a serious, organized savings plan for college and retirement, and we are much more disciplined than we were before the decision to really get serious about our finances. We've maxed out on the 401(k), set up an IRA for me, and set up 529s for the kids with regular contributions.
This year, I set up designated savings accounts at ING for the first time, an idea I read about here on the Fool. [Learn all about how to make the most of your short-term money in our Savings Center.]
I just downloaded my accounts from ING this morning, and realized that we have saved up almost $900 in our Christmas and birthdays fund, almost $700 in our summer camp fund for the kids. almost $400 in an account for a little mid-winter getaway in February, and nearly $2,000 in our general freedom fund.
This may not sound like much money to many of you, but it is to us. For the first time in my life I know that Christmas and my family's three winter birthdays are completely paid for already! For the first time, I don't have to be "surprised" by summer camp expenses in March. And, when we get around to making some needed upgrades to our tiny bathroom this spring, the money will already be there waiting for us!
The best part is that saving this money didn't hurt a bit. I just put everything on autopilot and forgot about it. This is definitely working for us, and I just wanted to say THANKS to Fooldom to getting me started on this savings plan!
This is a great example of what we can achieve when we decide to finally take action in our financial lives. I know that I spent many years renting apartments, wondering occasionally whether I should buy my own home. I finally bought one three years ago and have spent the time since then kicking myself for not having jumped into the homeowner pool much earlier. Even investing is something I came to later than I should have. It can be a little scary to actually do some of the things we know we should do -- like opening a brokerage account or starting to save in earnest for a college education -- but it's usually well worth it.
But bookaholic is not alone in finding great value and inspiration in Fooldom. There are money-saving tips peppered all over our site, such as in this article featuring 50 of them, and in our brand-new newsletter, GreenLight.
Meanwhile, if you'd just like to do one thing today to position yourself for a much brighter retirement, tend to your IRA. Open one if you don't already have it, or contribute to one you already have. You can learn a lot about them, and which kind is best for you, in our friendly IRA Center. The following articles may also be of interest:
- "Save $165,000 With Your IRA." In this article, I explain how you might have been able to save big bundles, had you loaded your IRA with some top-performing stocks -- such as Hansen Natural
(NASDAQ:HANS)or Chico's (NYSE:CHS)-- a decade ago. With Hansen, "a $5,000 investment would have turned into about $1.1 million. Your gain, taxed at 15%, would amount to a whopping $165,000! But if the investment were in a Roth IRA, you'd save that $165,000. Similarly, a $5,000 investment in apparel retailer Chico's (NYSE:CHS)would have turned into $865,000, and having it in your Roth IRA would save you a tax bill of perhaps $130,000."
- "Put Your IRA on Autopilot." In this article, Tim Hanson explains how he's enjoying automated investing, and explains how he built his portfolio. When he wanted exposure to emerging markets, his "low-cost, long-term solution was Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock VIPERs
(AMEX:VWO). With an expense ratio of just 0.30%, this ETF tracks the performance of the Select Emerging Markets Index. Major holdings include Sasol (NYSE:SSL), Infosys (NASDAQ:INFY), and PetroChina (NYSE:PTR)." Since inception in March of 2005, this ETF is up more than 22%, which sounds like easy money in the bank at a low cost to me. Foolish contributor Dan Caplinger also nominated Vanguard's Emerging Markets for best ETF of 2007.