Tag Archives: Michele Cagan

Book lets pictures, not words, tell the story about personal finance

Years ago, a colleague opened our eyes to the idea of “infographics,” nice, visual little charts and graphics that take far less time and space to tell a story than simple words alone.

Nowadays, you see many long reports, like corporate annual reports or white papers, that are packed with visuals. This thinking is precisely what authors Michele Cagan, CPA, and Elisabeth LaRiviere had in mind when they produced The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance.

The results are impressive. The book navigates just about every financial situation there is via 50 different infographics. The authors point out that “personal finance is one of the most important life skills to master, yet it’s one of the few topics rarely covered in school.” Their very educational book helps address that knowledge gap.

The overview of budgeting, for instance, suggests a plan based on “50 per cent needs, 30 per cent wants, and 20 per cent savings and investments.” As well, the book suggests, you need to set goals, know your income, and total your monthly expenses “to create a realistic budget” that you should revisit frequently. Got to know what’s coming in, what’s going out, and what’s left, the images show us.

An infographic dedicated to saving shows the earlier you start, the better, the book says.

“Let’s say you contribute $2,000 a year” to your retirement savings fund, at six per cent interest, the book notes. “If you start at age 25, by the time you’re 65 you will have $328,101. But if you wait until you are 45 to start contributing that $2,000 a year, you’ll end up with $77,986 – less than a quarter of what you’d have if you started at 25.”  The book stresses the importance of an emergency fund “to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.” Such funds are best tucked away in no-fee, high interest savings accounts that aren’t easily accessible.

While the book is intended for U.S. readers, its advice on what to do with a tax refund is helpful. First, the book recommends, “beef up your retirement accounts.” Next, target credit card debt. Build up your emergency fund or save for the future, consider buying some stocks, and finally “invest in yourself” and improve your education and skill sets through training.

If you’re reading all this and thinking, yeah, but who has extra money for saving, the book has anticipated your thought with a two-page chart on how to cut expenses. Turn your thermostat down or up, the book suggests. Check out the books and videos that you can get free at the local library. Get a water filter and give up on expensive bottled water. Other tips include cutting the cable cord, switching to LED light bulbs, buying things via online auctions, thrift stores and garage sales, and buying produce in season – frozen when it’s not.

The book’s thoughts on retirement savings are also worth sharing. If your employer offers a retirement savings program with an employer match, be sure not to leave money on the table – take the match. Contribute as much as you can to any employer-sponsored retirement program. Start as soon as you can, and be sure to diversify the investment options you are given – don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

If there’s no workplace pension program for you to access, don’t despair – the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be the answer. You can contribute up to $6,300 each year, and can transfer in a further $10,000 a year from any other registered savings accounts you may have. SPP will grow your money – since the plan’s inception, the growth rate has averaged an impressive eight per cent – and when you retire, you’ll have the option to receive a monthly lifetime pension. That’s making the most of your savings, so check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.