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ETF's vs. index funds: fight!

Though the financial media buzz has faded somewhat in recent years, ETF’s (exchange-traded funds) exploded in popularity in the mid-2000’s as an alternative to index funds. What are they, and should you invest in them? An exchange-traded fund is exactly what it says: a fund (mix of securities) that sells on a stock exchange. A regular mutual fund has its price re-computed at the end of the day by looking at the value of all of the securities that are in it; shares of an ETF, on the other hand, are actually bought and sold themselves. This seemingly small change can make all the difference in the world: ETF’s often (but not always) have lower expense ratios than their corresponding indexes. W

but it's on sale: how not to save yourself broke

Getting a bargain is a great feeling, isn’t it? In fact, I know some people who flat out refuse to buy anything at retail price. (And that’s not a bad goal, as far as it goes.) But there’s a danger — I think the cartoon says it better than I ever could: Madison Avenue knows how we think, doesn’t it? We’re so wrapped up in how much we’re saving, we forget how much we’re spending in the first place. And it’s not just retail: Discover is fond of sending offers for e.g. $500 cash back if you spend $3000 on their card every month for six months. American Express Blue Cash used to have a little gauge on their site that would show you how close you were — and how much more you would need to spend!

a challenge to rich non-budgeters

Last week, we talked about prescriptive and descriptive budgeting — “I Will” versus “It Is.” I did this because they’re useful concepts, but mostly, because I have a challenge for those I call “100% descriptives”. First, though: descriptive budgeting can be a wonderful goal to strive for. For many people, financial success is defined as freedom — the ability to spend what they want, without worry. By working to increase discretionary income — in large part by paying off old debt and avoiding new debt — this can become a hard-won dream-come-true. And you’ll know that you got there when all of your nearly spending categories become descriptive — they are what they are, and you don’t need to cu

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