Readers share their own financial tips

You the readers make personal the topics we write about, and that much more meaningful.

Take Angela Fox, commenting on our column about the need for couples to communicate about retirement planning, including money matters.

“So true,” she said, and we appreciate her willingness to share her story so others can benefit.

“My husband of 26 years passed away in June 2006,” Fox said. “Even though he had been retired for six years, he handled all our financial affairs because he enjoyed it so much. The few times I asked him to share the information with me, he would laugh and say, ‘Don’t worry about it, I have it all taken care of.’

“Because I knew nothing about our finances, I am suffering deep depression today because I have been completely thrown by all the facts I should have known, and I’m so afraid to make a decision about our finances because I feel so uninformed and just plain ‘stupid.’ Thank goodness, I have a daughter who is pretty adept at understanding financial matters. It’s so important couples share this information while they are both living.”

We are withholding Fox’s city of residence because we don’t want unscrupulous, self-proclaimed “financial advisers” preying on her, as they often do with seniors, particularly widows. To Fox and others in a similar situation, we suggest checking the Web site, which has numerous tips for seniors on investing and preventing fraud.

In another column, we wrote about a study showing many adult daughters do not follow their retired mother’s good advice to save money. Reader Missy VanWinkle of St. Louis did, and she is glad.

“My mom has taught me, since I was a little girl, just common sense like, ‘Always have a little saved for an emergency,’ ” VanWinkle said.

Other bits of common sense are to keep some money “hidden” from yourself (you can’t spend what you don’t see) and the realization you can always earn more money. “My mother chooses to still work full-time at 75 years old, and while she remains very frugal, she also doesn’t believe one should be miserly, with others or self,” VanWinkle said.

Let’s hear her tips, in her own words:

  • First, use your mind. Seriously, sometimes people just don’t think. Remember: The only way to save money is to spend less than you earn.
  • Separate some money in your wallet and tuck it away in a hidden compartment. If it’s not in front of your eyes, you’re a lot less likely to fritter it away.
  • Start a savings account, no matter how small and keep it for absolutely critical things only. “Mom started us kids with a passbook account when we were about 5 or 6, and I was horrified when she wouldn’t let me withdraw the money for a doll,” VanWinkle said. “But I learned.”
  • When you get a raise, use it to bump up your 401(k) if you haven’t been able to fully fund it before. If you can’t talk yourself into using the entire raise for your 401(k), add 1 percent. Then do it each raise until you reach the limit.
  • When you pay off an obligation like a car loan, your budget is used to that amount going out each month so just funnel it into a savings account, an IRA, kids’ college fund, vacation fund or anything. But save it. You were living just fine with it flying out of your pocket - use it to your advantage now.
  • “This one everyone knows: Save your pocket change,” VanWinkle said. “I was able to buy my Waterford crystal collection one stem at a time with rolled change when my husband and I were poor as church mice. A foolish indulgence? Maybe, but I wanted it and found a painless way to do it.”

Humberto and Georgina Cruz are a husband-and-wife writing team who work together in this column and communicate about their retirement plans. Send questions and comments to or