The Favorites Game: Smart Money Management

By: Kristin Clarke

Bestselling author Jean Chatzky on her favorite financial habit, bargain website, and more.

Anyone, even people living paycheck to paycheck or consistently accumulating debt, can learn good money habits and strategies that can secure their financial futures, according to bestselling author Jean Chatzky.

Indeed, her joint study of 5,000 people for her book, The Difference, reveals that paycheck-to-paycheck workers—which at 54 percent made up the largest set of respondents—can progress to "financially comfortable" (27 percent) in an average of seven years.

"You just have to give it a little bit of time and a little bit of effort," says Chatzky, a speaker at this month's ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo. "And somebody has to be watching the money. It's not enough to hand it off to a financial advisor. … [You] have to be involved."

Development of a "good-enough mindset" counters the common paralysis that occurs when people are afraid they're missing the "best" advice or investments. "The people who find the option that is good enough and are satisfied with that are much, much happier … because the effort it takes to keep searching for beyond the ‘good enough' is really overwhelming," Chatzky says. Also, "the more you search, it seems the more you're never convinced you've found it."

Other differentiators she found between the moneyed and indebted? A clear plan, optimism, resilience, habitual saving, and appropriate investing. She shares money favorites here:

Favorite exercise in The Difference: Write down three good things that happen every day.

Favorite financial application: Mint.com.

Favorite financial habit: Saving.

Favorite ray of hope for "further-in-debtors": The Bradleys, the family I put through my Debt Diet on the Oprah [Winfrey] Show.

Favorite financial tip for employers: Automate.

Favorite first step to regaining financial control: Track your spending.

Favorite financial goal: A beach house on the bay in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Favorite bargain website: www.onekingslane.com. It's furnishing my beach house.

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer and researcher for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.