Plain Money ideas

Summary of smart moves (or maybe just less stupid)

Smart things I did (or maybe just less stupid) in the personal finances of myself and my family (see footnotes):

  • Abandoned the default 50-50 split between stocks and bonds in my long-term saving, going instead for the Stupid Financial Plan’s* default of my age in bonds — for example, 40 percent bonds when I turned 40, leaving 60 percent in stocks.
  • Got to manage my 401(k)-403(b) plans. I think I’m hundreds or thousands of dollars ahead by now, just from this.
  • Put just enough money into my matching plan at work to get the match (as in your 403b plans), and stopped putting any more there. Instead I diverted the money to index funds at Vanguard.
  • Got a local independent insurance agency to look for quotes for my auto, home and umbrella insurance, saving lots (!) compared with staying with my then-current insurer, a leading nationally advertised company.
  • Dropped my extra life insurance (group insurance through work and one whole-life policy) after replacing it with term life insurance through
  • Stopped buying new cars (bad habit!) and instead went used with Carmax, where there’s no bargaining. I’m a bad bargainer.
  • Cut the cable, replacing cable TV with an over-the-air antenna and streaming services.
  • Dropped expensive cellphone, replacing it with a Moto X4 on the Fi wireless service. I use wifi wherever possible and my bill is now about $28 per month. The Moto cost me $149 to purchase after service credits. (Others have reported good results from prepaid carriers ranging from Cricket to TracFone.)


  1. I’m not endorsing any financial provider or service, just telling you what worked for me.
  2. In many cases, doing something is way better than doing nothing. So, if the only way you’ll save for your future is through your bad 403(b) plan at work, that’s better than not saving at all. Don’t cancel your 403(b) contributions until you have your new plan in place.
  3. I’ve heard that Fidelity and Schwab are just as good as Vanguard, maybe better for some customers. I’ve just always had good luck with Vanguard.
  4. SelectQuote and other services will get you life insurance quotes just the same way that Zander Insurance will. Do a search and you’ll find many possibilities. I had good luck with Zander. And, absolutely do not cancel your old life insurance until the new coverage is in place.
  5. I have since upgraded to a Pixel 4a that was $349. It has great performance and battery life, and a really nice camera. But if I were saving money big-time I’d get a refurbished Moto X4. My old one is still in the family and it’s a very capable phone.

*The Stupid Financial Plan is something I use with some adult groups, showing very basic steps toward financial security.