Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Smart Gift Ideas from WISER

WISER's most recent quarterly newsletter, "Understanding Your Money and the Financial Markets," also includes reviews of our favorite financial books. Keep these in mind for the holidays. If you are like many Americans, your New Years' resolution (along with losing weight) is to save more money, and these books have some great advice on how to succeed.

Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce
Violet Woodhouse with Dale Fetherling
In a divorce, money is one of those unavoidable and scary topics, often complicated by emotions. This guide from the legal experts at Nolo can be a level-headed friend when confronting the unfamiliar territory of divorce. Although lawyers themselves, its authors assume their readers want to know as much as they can before approaching an attorney, and presents the facts in a straightforward, practical manner. For trustworthy advice on “the house,” joint accounts, tax issues, alimony, dividing debts, and managing—not ignoring—your emotions, check out Divorce & Money first.

Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People
Jane Bryant Quinn

Jane Bryant Quinn’s success as the informative and charming Newsweek contributor continues with her latest book. She covers all the bases, but perhaps most helpful is her advice on “Putting Your Whole Financial Life on Cruise Control”— the idea being that money saved automatically is less likely to be spent frivolously (on decorating your basement with the latest exercise equipment, for example). Shifting to “automatic” can save time and money. Quinn’s personal stories of struggling with debt make this an enjoyable and worthwhile read.

The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need
Andrew Tobias

Tobias’s guide is (still) packed with sound advice for the new or average investor, and for most people, the book should live up to its name. His suggestions—from buying in bulk to avoiding corporate bonds—are sensible and honest, and as personal finance books go, this one’s a page-turner (you will actually read it). Newly revised, each chapter offers specific, up-to-date answers to almost all finance and investment questions, and where Tobias doesn’t go into depth—he points to the Web page or other resource that does.

Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties
Beth Kobliner

This book is a smart choice for any young person managing her finances for the first time—or for the first time responsibly. Get a Financial Life is exceptionally thorough but never dull or overwhelming. For the busiest readers, chapters include “Financial Cramming” sections that summarize the most important ideas from each. Chapter three, “Debt and the Material World,” is crucial reading for anyone struggling to get out of debt, and alone worth the price of the book. Look out for the new edition next year.

Protecting Your Pension For Dummies
Robert D. Gary and Jori Bloom Naegele

The technical and ever-changing nature of pension law can confuse even the savviest employees, but choosing to stay uninformed could lead to a loss in retirement income. This how-to from the “Dummies” series contains comprehensive information on pensions and, more importantly, how to protect yours. The chapters are thoughtfully organized, so it is easy to skip around without feeling lost. Includes an index and glossary of terms.

The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life
Lee Eisenberg

The Number is less a retirement guide than a reflection on issues facing an aging population. Eisenberg is a journalist, not a financial planner, but his experience writing on the topic is evident. According to Eisenberg, everyone should be thinking about his or her “Number”—the amount of money required to meet an individual’s expectations for life in retirement—and everyone’s Number is different.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Smart Giving: Inflation-adjusted Savings Bonds

The holidays are here which means the interest rate on I Savings Bonds has changed. I Bonds are currently earning 4.28% through April 2008.

I Savings Bonds are government-issued bonds that earn interest each month, and the interest is compounded every six months. The I Bond is currently providing a higher return than the EE Bond (which is earning 3.00% through April 2008). Part of the interest rate on these bonds is tied to the inflation rate, which is adjusted every six months. Since becoming available, the I Bond has been very popular; sales of over $3.2 billion were reported in the first year.

What you should know about the I Bond:

* You can buy I Bonds at face value; for example, you would pay $50 for a $50 bond.
* Earnings from your I Bonds are exempt from state and local income taxes.
* Federal income taxes can be deferred for up to 30 years, or until you cash your bonds in, whichever comes first.
* You can earn interest on them for up to 30 years, and can cash them out after five years, without losing interest. You will lost three months' interest if you cash them in sooner.)
* You can now buy savings bonds on the Internet at

I Bonds are a great gift for kids; show them how to check the interest rate and calculate the value of their savings bonds twice a year.

For more information on I Bonds, go to, or call 1-800-487-2663.

Happy Holidays from WISER!

I Bonds feature prominent Americans such as Helen Keller ($50 I Bond), Dr. Hector Garcia ($75 I Bond), and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., here on the $100 I Bond.