Big Payoff: 8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money--and Live Richly Ever After

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Middle-class couples are working harder than ever. So why are they finding it more difficult to finance their homes, send their kids to college, and save toward retirement?

Couples who are strapped for time and weighed down by costly fixed expenses need more than a personal finance pep talk: They need a plan. In The Big Payoff, CNBC correspondent Sharon Epperson lays out a nuts-and-bolts program that couples of all ages can use to realize their financial dreams. From stretching ...

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The Big Payoff: Financial Fitness for Couples

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Overview

Middle-class couples are working harder than ever. So why are they finding it more difficult to finance their homes, send their kids to college, and save toward retirement?

Couples who are strapped for time and weighed down by costly fixed expenses need more than a personal finance pep talk: They need a plan. In The Big Payoff, CNBC correspondent Sharon Epperson lays out a nuts-and-bolts program that couples of all ages can use to realize their financial dreams. From stretching your budget and investing wisely in your home to protecting your family's money and building wealth over the years, The Big Payoff offers a concise bounty of precious information and practical steps toward financial wellness.

Epperson begins by showing couples how to communicate better about money. She helps them realize that the same qualities needed to create a lasting relationship—understanding, compromise, and patience—are vital when it comes to building a secure financial future. Every important decision couples make, whether it's buying a home, having kids, changing jobs, or preparing for retirement, will inevitably involve a discussion about money, and Epperson teaches them how to handle finances with a cool hand while keeping the marriage vibrant and healthy. In addition, she empowers couples to take money matters into their own hands and shows them that by taking control of their finances, they can stop fretting about cash and start focusing on the important things in life.

Each of the following chapters is designed to get partners talking and thinking about their financial life together. In eight easy-to-understand steps, Epperson unpacks the various options for saving money; creating emergency, retirement, and college savings plans; investing in a home; choosing the right life and health insurance; and drafting an estate plan. A wife and mother of two herself, Epperson knows a thing or two about the pitfalls of financial planning and doses her advice with plenty of humorous anecdotes, hard-earned experience, and down-to-earth language. Additionally, through helpful worksheets and exercises, The Big Payoff helps readers customize a plan that will work best for them and reap the most payback.

It's never too late or too early to start, and now is the best time to start planning. Whether you are newlyweds or fast-approaching retirement, just starting a family or soon to be empty-nesters, this book is for you. After working hard to provide for your family, the reward of discovering your financial strength will be the peace of mind to enjoy your marriage, your family, and the rest of your lives together.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060744885
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/8/2007
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Epperson is the personal finance correspondent for CNBC. She has written for numerous publications, including USA Today, Time, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Essence, and Self. Her reports also appear on NBC's Nightly News, the Today show, Early Today, MSNBC, and various NBC affiliates nationwide. She has won a variety of awards, including the Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Radio and Television, the Vanguard Award from the National Urban League, and the New York Black Journalists First Place Award for Business Reporting. She and her husband, Christopher John Farley, live in Westchester County, New York with their two children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Big Payoff
8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money--and Live Richly Ever After

Chapter One

Energizer Bunny Money

Stretch Your Budget and Make Your
Money Last and Last and Last.

It's a conversation that most couples put off as long as they can. Most of them never get up the nerve to have it. Each person may have an imaginary version of the discussion—at many different times, in many different versions—in their head over the course of the years and the relationship. But it's devilishly difficult to find the right time, if there ever is a right time, to have the talk.

It's the love handles talk.

Most women have asked their mates, at one time or another, "Do I look fat in this?" The correct answer, of course, is always "No—you look great!" no matter what the truth actually is. The fact of the matter is that almost everyone gains weight over the years. And many people notice their partner packing on the pounds as time goes by. One or both of you may have a health club membership. More than likely neither of you is religiously using it. Perhaps you were devout about working out at first. But now, with kids, work and more, when it comes to working out, you're an agnostic at best. And neither you nor your significant other ever talks about it. You just keep on keeping on, leaving the top button of your pants undone and hanging your blouse over your waistline, or buying new outfits when you can spare a moment, which is never.

Personal finance is like personal fitness. We let ourselves go because we seem never to have the time, and it's too difficult to bring up the subjectanyway. Getting in financial shape is tough. It requires focus, planning, and lots of sweat. But the end result will be a happier, more fulfilling life. Starting today, you need to make a commitment to manage your money and not let it manage you—the earlier you start, the better, although it's never too late to begin. You need to have a talk with your spouse about the love handles that your finances have been developing.

If you haven't exercised in a while, your muscles can be tight and later you may notice the muscles you haven't used in so long are a little sore. As you begin "stretching your budget," you may find this exercise is also a little painful at first as you come to terms with what you can and cannot afford. But in the long run, some discomfort in the beginning can lead to a significant financial gain down the road. Like any serious workout, constructing and maintaining a budget requires a high degree of discipline. A budget is perceived as a limiting factor rather than a plan that leads to financial success. Since many couples are not good at managing their money, they simply want to avoid the issue. Most people will say they don't have time to create and follow a budget. Some just aren't sure how to go about it.

This chapter will show you that creating a budget is actually pretty simple. You just need to figure out how much money is coming in every month (your income) and how much is going out (your expenses). That's a basic budget. But the key for couples is to keep that budget somewhat flexible, based on your wants and needs and your spouse's (and kids', too!). You need to talk about your budget—not just put it on paper. That may be the hardest part. Even couples that communicate well about other topics are not great at talking (calmly) about money. This chapter has some strategies that should help.

When it comes to working out your finances as a couple, you have to keep those financial muscles flexible. You may have your own dreams and goals, but the more rigid you are, the tougher it will be to work together to realize those financial objectives. The key to staying limber is to communicate. Talk it out with one another. Identify your dreams and goals. Share them with your partner. Discuss why they are important to you.

The desire to start a family is what got my husband and me to start working on our finances. I'm a planner by nature. I wanted to feel financially secure before I had a baby. I wanted us to have wills, set up separate retirement accounts outside of our jobs, and also create a "rainy day, one day we'll get a house, then eventually we'll send our kids to college" fund. We didn't have a lot of money, but we put a plan in place so that, we hoped some day, some way, we might. We didn't get these ideas from our parents. Neither of us grew up in households where personal finances were discussed very often. But both sets of parents—all educators—taught us the importance of caring for your family, because that's what they did for us growing up.

As in my own experience, issues that get couples to start discussing money matters and deciding that they need a plan of action are often life-changing events: the birth of a child, death of a parent, divorce of a friend, approach of retirement, beginning a new job or loss of employment. It can also be a relatively small thing. A husband buys a high-end remote-controlled car (price: about $350) and his wife is offended. She thinks his spending is getting out of hand and starts a discussion about their finances. Or a wife may buy a new Dolce & Gabbana dress and silver necklace and the husband decides she's spending too much money. So he suggests they need to start adhering to a budget. Another couple finally agrees they need a new SUV (they want a $42,000 Acura MDX, not another $28,000 Ford Explorer), so they decide to write down all of their expenses to figure out how long it will take before . . .

The Big Payoff
8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money--and Live Richly Ever After
. Copyright © by Sharon Epperson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

The Big Payoff
8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money--and Live Richly Ever After

Chapter One

Energizer Bunny Money

Stretch Your Budget and Make Your
Money Last and Last and Last.

It's a conversation that most couples put off as long as they can. Most of them never get up the nerve to have it. Each person may have an imaginary version of the discussion—at many different times, in many different versions—in their head over the course of the years and the relationship. But it's devilishly difficult to find the right time, if there ever is a right time, to have the talk.

It's the love handles talk.

Most women have asked their mates, at one time or another, "Do I look fat in this?" The correct answer, of course, is always "No—you look great!" no matter what the truth actually is. The fact of the matter is that almost everyone gains weight over the years. And many people notice their partner packing on the pounds as time goes by. One or both of you may have a health club membership. More than likely neither of you is religiously using it. Perhaps you were devout about working out at first. But now, with kids, work and more, when it comes to working out, you're an agnostic at best. And neither you nor your significant other ever talks about it. You just keep on keeping on, leaving the top button of your pants undone and hanging your blouse over your waistline, or buying new outfits when you can spare a moment, which is never.

Personal finance is like personal fitness. We let ourselves go because we seem never to have the time, and it's too difficult to bring up thesubject anyway. Getting in financial shape is tough. It requires focus, planning, and lots of sweat. But the end result will be a happier, more fulfilling life. Starting today, you need to make a commitment to manage your money and not let it manage you—the earlier you start, the better, although it's never too late to begin. You need to have a talk with your spouse about the love handles that your finances have been developing.

If you haven't exercised in a while, your muscles can be tight and later you may notice the muscles you haven't used in so long are a little sore. As you begin "stretching your budget," you may find this exercise is also a little painful at first as you come to terms with what you can and cannot afford. But in the long run, some discomfort in the beginning can lead to a significant financial gain down the road. Like any serious workout, constructing and maintaining a budget requires a high degree of discipline. A budget is perceived as a limiting factor rather than a plan that leads to financial success. Since many couples are not good at managing their money, they simply want to avoid the issue. Most people will say they don't have time to create and follow a budget. Some just aren't sure how to go about it.

This chapter will show you that creating a budget is actually pretty simple. You just need to figure out how much money is coming in every month (your income) and how much is going out (your expenses). That's a basic budget. But the key for couples is to keep that budget somewhat flexible, based on your wants and needs and your spouse's (and kids', too!). You need to talk about your budget—not just put it on paper. That may be the hardest part. Even couples that communicate well about other topics are not great at talking (calmly) about money. This chapter has some strategies that should help.

When it comes to working out your finances as a couple, you have to keep those financial muscles flexible. You may have your own dreams and goals, but the more rigid you are, the tougher it will be to work together to realize those financial objectives. The key to staying limber is to communicate. Talk it out with one another. Identify your dreams and goals. Share them with your partner. Discuss why they are important to you.

The desire to start a family is what got my husband and me to start working on our finances. I'm a planner by nature. I wanted to feel financially secure before I had a baby. I wanted us to have wills, set up separate retirement accounts outside of our jobs, and also create a "rainy day, one day we'll get a house, then eventually we'll send our kids to college" fund. We didn't have a lot of money, but we put a plan in place so that, we hoped some day, some way, we might. We didn't get these ideas from our parents. Neither of us grew up in households where personal finances were discussed very often. But both sets of parents—all educators—taught us the importance of caring for your family, because that's what they did for us growing up.

As in my own experience, issues that get couples to start discussing money matters and deciding that they need a plan of action are often life-changing events: the birth of a child, death of a parent, divorce of a friend, approach of retirement, beginning a new job or loss of employment. It can also be a relatively small thing. A husband buys a high-end remote-controlled car (price: about $350) and his wife is offended. She thinks his spending is getting out of hand and starts a discussion about their finances. Or a wife may buy a new Dolce & Gabbana dress and silver necklace and the husband decides she's spending too much money. So he suggests they need to start adhering to a budget. Another couple finally agrees they need a new SUV (they want a $42,000 Acura MDX, not another $28,000 Ford Explorer), so they decide to write down all of their expenses to figure out how long it will take before . . .

The Big Payoff
8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money--and Live Richly Ever After
. Copyright © by Sharon Epperson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

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