Whether you are recently divorced or widowed, have declared bankruptcy or lost your home to foreclosure, or simply want to start with a clean slate, you can make a fresh financial start
WSJ Personal Finance Columnist Karen Blumenthal’s guide to starting fresh is the
must-have handbook for anyone in a stark new financial situation
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL GUIDE TO STARTING FRESH
How to Leave Financial Hardships Behind and Take Control of Your Financial Life
By Karen Blumenthal
Three years after the economic meltdown began, many are still reeling from its devastating effects. Millions of homeowners fell behind on their mortgages, and millions more lost their homes to foreclosure. A crushing number lost jobs and struggled to find new ones, while others are still looking. Roughly 1.5 million Americans are filing each year for bankruptcy.
Equally traumatized are those reeling from divorce, the death of a spouse, or an unexpected health crisis. Each has the capacity to shift our financial paradigm and place us in a stark new financial reality. But as tough as these situations are, Wall Street Journal Personal Finance Columnist Karen Blumenthal shows they aren’t hopeless.
In The Wall Street Journal Guide to Starting Fresh (Crown Business Paperback; December 20, 2011), Blumenthal offers an accessible, empathetic, and easy-to-understand approach to regaining control of your financial life. Covering housing, insurance, healthcare, investing, debt, taxes, wills, and more, Blumenthal shows readers at all life stages and income levels how to adapt and adjust their finances to their new circumstances and get on the path to a better financial life.
Starting over is never easy, but Blumenthal walks through everything needed to leave the past behind and get back on track financially, including how to:
- Build a trusted team of professionals to help navigate a new financial landscape
- Repair a credit record— the support beam of your financial scaffoldingDetermine whether current housing is affordable
- Recalibrate a budget, especially weighing big ticket expenses
- Adjust debts to the new situation
- Assess health coverage plans and other necessary insurance
- Invest for future retirement and other needs
- Craft a sustainable plan for long-term financial health
In the style The Wall Street Journal guidebook series is known for, Blumenthal offers a slow-and-steady approach that will allow readers to move forward by first getting a handle on what they can control: their financial life. We rarely choose the cureveballs that life throws or predict the grief or emtional roller coaster that may follow. The fact that by their very nature, divorce, the death of a spouse, and the loss of a job create financial hardship is beyond control. But step-by-step, making smart decisions about spending and debt can help put anyone back in control and on the way to building a new, comfortable, and stable financial life. The Wall Street Journal Guide to Starting Fresh is the handbook for taking control of a new financial situation.
KAREN BLUMENTHAL writes the “Getting Going” personal finance column for The Wall Street Journal and has been a financial journalist for more than 25 years. She has written about a wide range of financial and corporate subjects and is the author of The Wall Street Journal Guide to Starting Your Financial Life and Grande Expectations: A Year in the Life of Starbucks’ Stock. She has also written four nonfiction books for young people. As an author, she has appeared on The Today Show, CNBC, ABC’s World News Tonight, and the PBS Nightly Business Report. She lives in Dallas, Texas.
On-sale: December 20, 2011 | Crown Business Paperback | 208 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-58873-9 | Price: $15.00 | © 2011 by Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Also available as an eBook
from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL GUIDE TO STARTING FRESH
Before you can make smart financial moves or decisions, you have to know where you stand financially. That means digging through the files, the stacked-up mail, and the old memory bank to figure out what you really have. Yes, it can be painful and scary, and you may want to ease into it slowly. But only when you have real insight into your financial situation will you be in a position to make important decisions to put yourself back in control of your finances. The essential inventory questions you need to answer before getting started are:
- Where are your saving accounts and checking accounts and how much is in them? Are there accounts at your company credit union? Any old accounts that you never actually closed?
- Do you have certificates of deposit? Money market funds? Savings bonds?
- Where are your retirement accounts, 401(k)s or 403(b)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs or Roth IRAs)? How much is in them?
- Do you have any other brokerage accounts? Do you own any mutual funds, stocks, or bonds?
- Do you (or your spouse) have a safe-deposit box with any valuables in it? If so, where is it?
- Are there any insurance policies with a cash value? If you lost a spouse, is there life insurance that can be collected? Don’t forget to check with the most recent employer: some firms include life-insurance policies in an employee’s benefits plan or allow employees to buy policies with paycheck deductions.
- If you own your house, what’s it worth? This isn’t a hard and fast number, but you can look at your tax assessment or try an online service like www.Zillow.com, just to get an idea of what the current market value might be.
- Do you own any other property, like a rental home, vacation house, office condo, or another real estate investment? If so, can you estimate its value?
- What is your car worth? You can get a pretty good idea of the market value at Kelley Blue Book (www.KBB.com), www.cars.com, or other car sites.
- What other assets do you have? Do you have expensive jewelry? Fine art? A collection with some market value? A family business?
- What do you owe on your house mortgage? Do you owe money on any other real estate investments or properties? What do you owe each year in property taxes? Do you have any unpaid taxes?
- Do you have a car loan or loans? How much do you owe? And is it more or less than the car is worth?
- What do you owe on each of your credit cards? Do you have education loans? What’s the balance?
- Do you owe on medical bills? Funeral expenses?
- Do you have any other debts or major obligations?