January 31, 2011

The Paradox of Choice

So much of the “consumer” oriented literature tries to convince us that more choice is better.  However, if you’ve ever been overwhelmed by choice at the grocery store or in other arenas of life, this book is for you.  How many types of shampoo, cookies, or soda pop do we really need? Of course the operational word in not “need,” nor, often enough is it “want.”  I recall my first visit to a US grocery store after returning from Nepal; the overwhelming abundance of consumer products seemed so ridiculous and unnecessary.  The experienced reinforced the incredible inequities in the world. So it was refreshing to read Prof. Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less. Backed by extensive research (presented in easily digested stories), Schwartz provides perspective on the topic of whether more choice is what we need.  With respect to the health care debate, more choice is NOT what consumers want when they don’t have the tools or information to sort through the options.
Find out whether you are a satisficer or a maximizer and what that means for your role as a consumer of services and goods, and the implications for your mental health and perspective on life. Which are you and what about your partner or spouse? True confessions: I’m a satisficer and I no longer feel any guilt when settling for “good enough.”
Although research-based, the book was written for the general public and sure helps put some perspective on our complicated world. Check it out at your local library.

January 26, 2011

Free Books from Nolo Press

Nolo Press is a wonderful source of information for personal finance, retirement planning, and legal issues of all sorts from divorce to living together to starting a small business and much, much more. Check them out at http://www.nolo.com. In addition to selling books on legal topics, they offer a vast amount of information for free on their website. Read a chapter from a book to see if it's what you really want before purchasing. In addition to traditional books, they sell e-versions of most of their publications. And now they are offering some of their books for free on their website; check it out at: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/
Free titles include: 8 Ways to Avoid Probate, Renter's Rights, The Foreclosure Survival Guide, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court, and more. What a fabulous resource! Bookmark the Nolo website.

January 12, 2011

Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth

Wondering where our economy is going with the prolonged high unemployment? Business as usual is NOT the answer. For a refreshing and challenging perspective, and for support if you are changing your lifestyle to a less consumption-oriented way of life, read Juliet Schor's book.

"In Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, economist and bestselling author Juliet B. Schor offers a groundbreaking intellectual statement about the economics and sociology of ecological decline, suggesting a radical change in how we think about consumer goods, value, and ways to live.

Humans are degrading the planet far faster than they are regenerating it. As we travel along this shutdown path, food, energy, transport and consumer goods are becoming increasingly expensive. The economic downturn that has accompanied the ecological crisis has led to another type of scarcity: incomes, jobs, and credit are also in short supply. Our usual way back to growth — a debt-financed consumer boom — is no longer an option our households, or planet, can afford.

Responding to our current moment, Plenitude puts sustainability at its core, but it is not a paradigm of sacrifice. Instead it’s an argument that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure.

And as Schor observes, Plenitude is already emerging. In pockets around the country and the world, people are busy creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle. These pioneers’ lives are scarce in conventional consumer goods and rich in the newly abundant resources of time, information, creativity and community. Urban farmers, D.I.Y renovators, Craig’s List users, cob builders — all are spreading their risk and establishing novel sources of income and outlets for procuring consumer goods.
Taken together, these trends represent a movement away from the conventional market and offer a way toward an efficient, rewarding life in an era of high prices and traditional resource scarcity.

Based on recent developments in economic theory, social analysis, and ecological design, as well as evidence from the cutting edge people and places putting these ideas into practice, Plenitude is a road map for the next two decades. In encouraging us to value our gifts — nature, community, intelligence, and time — Schor offers the opportunity to participate in creating a world of wealth and well-being."

Handling Disputes with Your Health Plan

A Consumer Guide to Handling Disputes with Your Private or Employer Health Plan
This guide, developed by Consumers Union and the Kaiser Family Foundation, will “help consumers through the process of resolving disputes with their health plans. The resource, A Consumer Guide to Handling Disputes with Your Employer or Private Health Plan, 2005 Update, includes information about how consumers can take advantage of their health plans' internal processes to resolve disputes, as well as external review processes as allowed under state laws.”

Estate Planning

Nolo Press is a reliable, consumer-oriented source of estate planning and other legal info. They offer lots of free information on their website plus excellent books and other resources.  Too few people plan to protect their survivors; it's so easy to delay. By buying the tools you commit the money.  the next step is to learn and apply.

"It's a new year, so it's an optimum time to review and update your estate plan, or take the first steps toward protecting your family by creating your very first one. Nolo invites you to join us at our Estate Planning Sale, where all of our estate planning products, including Nolo's Online Living Trust and the fully updated Quicken WillMaker Plus 2011, are at least 40% off until February 3, 2011. And the savings don't stop there -- use coupon code T1300 to get an additional 25% off your total order from Nolo's Online Store. But hurry! The coupon expires on January 28th, 2011. Go to NOLO.com to learn more about estate planning and their books and CDs."

Emergency Financial First Aid Kit

The devastating flooding in Queensland, Australia is continents away but a reminder of the need to prepare for unexpected emergencies. The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (designed by FEMA) is a great resource.
“The EFFAK is a simple tool designed to assist you and your family in maintaining financial stability in the event of an emergency. The EFFAK helps you to identify and organize key financial records and provides a quick reference file for your most important financial documents. You can complete the EFFAK as an individual or as a household, but be sure to include information on all accounts for which you have a legal responsibility or obligation, including all joint and separate accounts and liabilities.”
Start filling it out today.

January 11, 2011

Divorce and Money

Too many women wait until after the divorce is final to come to grips with the long term financial ramifications. If you or someone you care about is contemplating or in the process of divorce, they need to read the book Divorce and Money: How to make the best financial decisions during divorce by: Violet Woodhouse, CFP, Attorney , & Dale Fetherling. Read more at: http://www.nolo.com/products/divorce-and-money-DIMO.html

January 3, 2011

Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Online Challenge Begins January 16

Just in time to rescue failed New Year’s resolutions to improve health and personal finances, the Cooperative Extension system is launching an online Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) Challenge called “Winter 2011 SSHW Challenge.”  This free six-week program, open to anyone who enrolls online, will be held from Sunday, January 16, through Saturday, February 26.  Prizes will be awarded for participants who report the highest point totals.  
To sign up for the SSHW Challenge, follow the “Challenges” link on the Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Web site at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/.  Set up a user name and password and download a simple one-page user’s guide with instructions about how to proceed. Enroll in the Challenge titled “Winter 2011 SSHW Challenge.” It has been well documented that, when people monitor their behavior and measure their how they’re doing, they are often inspired to do better and achieve positive results.  Doing even one of the ten recommended daily practices is a great way to get started on the path to better health and improved financial security. 
“The Challenge is a great way to convert ambitious New Year’s resolutions, like losing weight and saving money, into daily action steps,” notes Dr. Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

11 tips for 2011

The following comes from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). http://www.sec.gov/
"It’s that time of year -- the time to ring out the old and ring in the new, to ditch bad habits and replace them with good ones. We can’t guarantee you’ll lose weight, or become a better human being, but we can give you some suggestions to help you whip your finances into shape." 

Read our top 11 tips for 2011 at http://www.sec.gov/investor/2011investortips.pdf

Happy New Year!
Financial Planning for Women does not sell, rent, loan, lease or otherwise provide any personal information collected at our site to any third parties.