Hey, we goofed, OK? When we cut out Harry Gross' column last July but insisted "remaining true to our populist roots as the People's Paper," most of you begged to differ. One reader asked, "Have you people lost your mind?" while another asked, "How is a horoscope column more important to readers than Mr. Gross' column?"
The good news is that some mistakes can be corrected. So we're thrilled to announce the return of our personal-finance columnist.
IT'S GREAT to be back!
Through many years of teaching, writing and lecturing, I have come across or invented many aphorisms that apply to financial situations. Here's an abbreviated list. Enjoy.
• The only way to get ahead financially is to live beneath your means.
• If it sounds too good too be true, IT IS too good to be true.
• Don't put all your money in one basket, no matter how good the basket.
• The man who passes on without life insurance does not die. He absconds.
• Disability insurance is the most undersold product in the insurance industry.
• Never use a credit card unless you can pay the balance in full during the grace period.
• If the whole world goes to pot, gold will open doors.
• Don't give it all away during your lifetime.
• When a parent gives money to a child, both smile. When a child gives money to a parent, both cry.
• You cannot die without a will. If you don't prepare one, the state does it for you.
• Never name a child as trustee for your spouse.
• Why does anyone need more than two credit cards?
• Tax-protester seminars are good for only the presenter.
• Watch out for the guy who has an ax to grind.
• When acting as trustees, banks have their own agenda.
• NEVER buy from someone you don't know.
• Never buy on the telephone unless you initiated the call.
• There is no evidence that load funds perform better than no load funds.
• Is he trying to sell you that because it's good for him or good for you?
• Leave a letter of instructions for your heirs.
• The education of your children is the world's best investment.
• Don't rust out; wear out.
• Cities and authorities may go down the tubes, but nothing will happen to any state.
• A flat income tax will only benefit the very rich
• Renting is often a better option than buying a home.
• Most market-timers perform poorly.
• An oral agreement is not worth the paper it's not written on.
• Failure to return telephone calls is the most frequent complaint about lawyers.
• Very often, people buy a school district, not a home.
• The only person who can cheat you is a person you trust.
Q. A friend shared with me an article that purports to show people how to enter contests, drawings, etc. and win on a regular basis. It suggested that a little research pays off. The article said that you should enter contests with more than just one prize, that have short open times and that have restrictions on who can enter. I always thought that some people just had better luck than others. I have never entered any of these contests, because I thought the odds of winning were so microscopically small. My job hours were recently cut, so I thought a system for winning contests might be a good idea. What's your take on this?
A. The author of the article is trying to increase the odds of winning. Usually, the contests with big payoffs have so many entries that even increasing the odds still leaves you that microscopically small chance of winning. For example, if there is one prize in a contest with a million entries, you double your chance of winning if there are two prizes. However, the odds against you are still pretty stiff at 1 in 500,000. In many of the larger contests, the odds of winning are less than the odds at the slot machines. However, you now have the time, so why not enter? Just be very careful not to enter any that require you to put in money up front.