Financial Tune-Up At New York Times Center

Last night I attended a wonderfully informative and free event at the New York Times. Sponsored by Ally Bank and Lufthansa, the Financial Tune-Up discussion was moderated by Ron Lieber  the “Your Money” columnist for the New York Times. The panelists were personal finance rock stars, Jean Chatzky, Ben Popken, and Burt Malkiel.

The idea for Financial Tune-Up  is to take some time and unlock some cash. Here’s the checklist which includes both immediate and long-term benefits, from cashing gift cards to reallocating investments.

Jean Chatzky is an author of several books including Make Money, Not Excuses and financial editor for The Today Show and a contributing editor to More magazine. She said that debt was the number one question she gets asked about. Jean’s best shopping advice is to do a “purchasing pause” before buying something at a store.

Princeton professor Burt Malkiel is the author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street . It’s a book I read while at college, so I was excited to meet him. When it comes to investing, Malkiel advises to diversify your investments and to rebalance annually. Rebalance is to reset the mix of  bonds and stocks in your portfolio.  He also advises to invest in a stock index fund and a bond fund. Both of the instruments should have low expense ratios -rock bottom low.

Ben Popken is the co-managing editor of The Consumerist.  One is his to-dos is to the early termination charge from AT&T removed from his bill when upgraded iPhone.  He also advises to use an “EECB” when having a customer service issue with a company. An EECB  is an “executive email carpet bomb” which is a classic tactic for getting attention to make sure your complaint gets shoved under the nose of someone with decision-making powers.

All three of the panelists agree: Don’t take on any credit card debt.  Spend less than what you earn.

If you have kids, consider opening a 529 account, and do research on Saving For College to review the best one for you.

By the way, the New York Times has a Buck Blog filled with news about how to make the most out of your money.

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