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60 Minutes

I love the Sunday night news program known as 60 Minutes. It is great television, ever since its debut in 1968. Originally, it was a bi-weekly show hosted by the late Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace. The first edition of the show contained the following segments (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/60_Minutes):

  1. A look inside the headquarters of presidential candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey during their parties’ national conventions;
  2. Commentary by European writers Malcolm Muggeridge, Peter von Zahn, and Luigi Barzini, Jr. on the American electoral system;
  3. A commentary by political columnist Art Buchwald;
  4. An interview with then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark about police brutality;
  5. An abbreviated version of an Academy Award-winning short film by Saul Bass, Why Man Creates; and
  6. An oral essay by Wallace and Reasoner on the relation between perception and reality. Wallace said that the show aimed to “reflect reality”.

I don’t remember if I saw this show. I do know that the above is quite a bit of television news packed into a short time period with, likely, an Alka Seltzer commercial, or two, tucked between segments. (Watch a classic Alka Seltzer commercial here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQhwNtY3N2k.) Yet, sixty-minutes can be a very productive span of time. For example, if you were to spend sixty-minutes to jump-start your financial life, it could provide important first-steps toward the fulfillment of your life’s dreams and goals. Consider the following:

5 minutes: Increase your savings to your retirement plan, or other goal, by 1-2% of your paycheck. Certainly, you can reduce your spending by taking some of your net pay and depositing it into a long-term savings vehicle. Please, pay yourself instead of someone else, by contacting your bank or payroll department to have the funds automatically transferred to your choice of investment account.

5 minutes: If you’ve some extra cash and don’t have a pre-payment penalty on your mortgage, pay a second mortgage payment this month or increase the amount you are paying toward your never-never plan credit contract. It takes almost no time to write a check and slip it in the mail or hand it to the teller. If you do this once a year, you’ll pay off your mortgage (credit card) years sooner and save money. Of course, if you can earn a greater return by investing in your retirement plan than you are paying in interest on your debt, it is financially best to invest. For some, however, getting out of debt has heavenly rewards and it is doubtful that you can earn more than you are paying on your credit cards.

20 minutes: Rebalance your portfolio. Maintaining a diversified portfolio is the best way to reduce investment risk, while keeping you calm in turbulent markets. Occasionally, however, one needs to rebalance their portfolio to assure that the allocations they planned to have at the beginning of the plan continue to exist. Yes, this will cause you to sell some assets which have risen in price and buy some which have gone down in price, but that is akin to “buying low and selling high”. Don’t do this too often, however, as the sales are likely to be taxable events.

15 minutes: Check your credit report at http://annualcreditreport.com and receive all three credit reports from the major credit bureaus. You may, and should, do this once per year.

15 minutes: Ask for a better deal. Call one, or more, of the following: your cable company, your land-line telephone company, your wireless company, your health club, your auto insurer, or other firm to explore options for a better deal than your current contract. Once you have called one, call another, another, and another. Do not stop, even if you feel like you are being cheap and they try to resist your best efforts to bargain. These companies have the ability to “make a deal”. This is like dancing. They won’t dance with you, unless you ask them to dance. No one is looking. Go ahead and dance.

These are just suggestions of little things you can do to increase your control of your successful financial life. We can think of more things for you to do. On the other hand, you might be kind enough to offer your own ideas. If so, add them on our blog. Each of us can be overcome by inaction and, if we just keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting. For me…I’ve not used my land-line to make a phone call in the 16 months since my divorce! I think I’ll call ExpensiTel and break-up with them!

Robert O. Weagley, Ph.D., CFP®
Chair, Personal Financial Planning

The 3 C’s of life
Choices, chances, changes.
You must make a choice, to take a chance or your life will never change.