"Young and old, rich and poor, people who knew a lot about business and people who knew nothing.... They all had very similar questions, and I noticed they were all, basically, shooting themselves in the foot, (undermining) opportunities…to grow their money."
In Gail MarksJarvis’ experience, questions about personal finance are the great leveler.
The multi-award-winning Chicago Tribune personal finance columnist, author of “Saving for Retirement (without living like a pauper or winning the lottery),” just out in an updated and revised edition, has for more than a decade fielded personal finance questions from, seemingly, everyone. “And I mean everyone,” she told Millionaire Corner, “Young and old, rich and poor, people who knew a lot about business and people who knew nothing. But they all had very similar questions, and I noticed they were all, basically, shooting themselves in the foot, (undermining) opportunities…to grow their money. They were sometimes saving a lot, but doing an awful job with their investments.”
This inspired her to write “Saving for Retirement,” which Bankrate.com called, “A great guide for greenhorn investors and those looking to get a good return on their retirement savings with minimum hassle.” Kiplinger named it one of the of the five “Great Money Books for Young Investors.”
MarksJarvis, named Best Financial Columnist" by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and who has been a frequent guest and analyst for NPR, public television and ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates, endeavored to write a book for individuals who are “at the point where they think, ‘I have to do something, but I don’t know what,’” and guide them through the retirement saving and investing process.
The book’s subtitle, she said, was inspired by a Financial Planning Association study that was conducted in the 1990s. “They asked Americans if they thought they could save $200,000, and only 26 percent said they could. Twenty-one percent thought they would be more likely to win the lottery. I’m taking this bad thought pattern and showing people why this is so wrong,”
One very basic mistake people make about saving for retirement, MarksJarvis offers, is that people make it more complicated than it needs to be. “They could achieve their retirement savings goals quite easily but it’s because they don’t (take action by) saving tiny bits of money and investing it simply that they don’t know it’s possible,” she said. “If you start saving and investing $25 a week at your first job and then you add a little bit more as you get raises, you’re likely to end up with close to $1 million,” she said. “Most people don’t realize that.”
“Saving for Retirement” offers an accessible step-by-step approach for building a retirement nest egg. Its chapters address such topics as determining how much money one will need in retirement, harnessing “the magical power” of compounding, retirement plans such as a 401(k) and IRA, how to “survive and thrive” in the stock market, mutual funds, “no-brainer investing,” and working with a financial advisor.
MarksJarvis had been a business writer before she started to write her personal finance column at the end of the 1990s. In that time, she said, she has seen individuals get caught up in market bubbles, get “scared to death” when they burst,” get excited again as the market emerged, and then “get crushed in 2008.”
Her approach in her columns and book, she said, is to demystify personal finance and saving for retirement. “I take people through the whole process so they can feel comfortable with investing, and have the basics they need to grow 401(k)s and IRAs adequately for their future. But if they don’t feel competent, or reach a more complex stage in life, I tell them how to find a competent financial advisor,” she said.
For those daunted by the prospect of saving for retirement, or who believe they could never save enough, you are not alone. “No one feels like they have enough to spend and save, no one,” MarksJarvis emphasized. “I hear from people with millions and I hear from those with little.”
One piece of advice above all else that MarksJarvis offers is for people not to put off saving for retirement. Among Affluent investors surveyed by Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner, not saving enough for retirement is the biggest financial regret.
“It’s not that we have enough money,” she said. “It’s procrastination. Don’t procrastinate.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.