Michelle Singletary's '7 Money Mantras'

Finance Columnist's Lessons for Living Well with What You've Got

Cover for 7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life : How to Live Well with the Money You Have

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NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates talks with syndicated financial columnist Michelle Singletary about her latest book, 7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life: How to Live Well with the Money You Have. Here, a thumbnail view of the advice from the book:

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1.) "If it's on your ass, it's not an asset."

There are four types of assets that make up your net worth — they are called appreciating assets. How do you begin to accumulate appreciating assets? Reduce the amount of your personal property. And that begins with curtailing your love to consume.

2.) "Is it a need, or is it a want?"

You wouldn't forget a mechanic's bill to fix your car — but can you remember all the dinners, movies, clothes and miscellaneous items that you just casually put on your credit card? If you can't remember what you charged, that's a huge indication that you are overspending on stuff to fulfill wants.

3.) "Sweat the small stuff."

Many people are nickel-and-diming themselves into debt. If you want to create wealth, you have to sweat the small stuff. When your co-workers say "Let's do lunch," your response should be, "Let's not." As Big Mama used to say, "You can't have a dollar without a penny."

4.) "Cash is better than credit."

Having a credit card will make us act like we have no good sense. Correct me if I'm wrong, but when you use a credit card, whose money are you using? We keep up with the Joneses by borrowing. But if you were to get a glimpse of the Joneses' finances, you'd find they were deep in debt themselves.

5.) "Keep it simple."

Keeping it simple can be the most sophisticated thing to do with your money. Con artists are masters at talking over your head. They dazzle you with details. Complication is their friend. The moment your head starts spinning, take your money and run.

6.) "Priorities lead to prosperity."

I truly believe that if you put your values first, you will get in life what you value the most. However, you must have a set of priorities, because that sets the stage for how you spend your money. This is about making choices. You don't have to live like a pauper, but you can't have it all, either.

7.) "Enough is enough."

I think all of us need to be reminded to put money — and the pursuit of it — in perspective. Try as we may, most of us are not going to be millionaires. So, decide what you value the most and spend your energy and money trying to achieve those goals. I promise you, if you set priorities for your time and money, you will have a prosperous future — and you will have enough.

Singletary writes the syndicated financial advice column The Color of Money for The Washington Post.

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