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Jack Otter

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6 Decisions That Will Save You Money

Posted: 05/09/2012 11:30 am

It took me more than a decade of financial reporting to uncover a surprising fact: The vast majority of financial decisions you face in life are very simple. Yes, that sounds nuts given the economic train wreck we are still struggling to clean up. And I'm not suggesting it's easy to get ahead financially. What I am telling you is that there are right and wrong answers to most of the financial decisions life throws at you, and given the necessary information it's fairly simple to figure out which is the right call.

Most money decisions seem complicated only because someone has a financial interest in confusing you. Just try figuring out how much interest you're paying on a car lease, or how whole life insurance works. Ever read a credit card agreement?

That's why I wrote Worth It...Not Worth It: Simple & Profitable Answers to Life's Tough Financial Questions [Grand Central Publishing, $19.99]. My goal in the book is to help you make the right choice in all these situations. And I wrote it to reflect the way you actually face these decisions in life. You don't want to read a novel on personal finance: You're in the checkout line at Target when you wonder whether to pull out the Visa card and charge it, or use the debit card and pay straight from your bank account.

So I set up the book as a series of real-world choices--Is it better to buy a house or rent? Should you give the kids an allowance just for being your kids, or make 'em work for it? Should you hire a real estate agent or sell the house on your own?

Read on for a few answers.

Lease vs. Buy
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Notice how car salesmen push leasing over buying? That should tell you who's getting the better deal. If you buy a car and pay off an auto loan, the car is essentially "free," and the longer you keep it in the garage, the more you save. If, on the other hand, you lease a car your whole life, well, you'll be making car payments your whole life. That great deal the salesman is pitching -- only $299 a month! -- sounds like less of a great deal when you multiply it times 40 years.

Leasing a car is like never, ever, buying an item on sale. When you lease, you are essentially paying for the vehicle's loss of value as it ages, what's known as depreciation. And since the biggest depreciation occurs in the first few years, you are always paying top dollar. Plus, your insurance rates will always be at their peak because the car is at its most valuable point in its life.
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