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The Index Card

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The Index Card

Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Seeking great financial advice? How about advice so simple you could write it on an “index card”?

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Applicable
  • Well Structured


Financial columnist Helaine Olen and professor Harold Pollack boil down personal financial planning to a set of 10 clear rules that would fit on an index card. They illustrate these rules with personal stories, explanations and definitions. Their examples blend research with common sense and direct experience. The result is extremely useful, though some of the book’s advice is specific to the United States. While never giving investment advice, getAbstract recommends this dandy little manual to anyone seeking sound financial management tools.


Personal Finance Made Simple

Most people don’t handle their finances well. Money management often causes stress. One third of those in relationships argue with their partners about money. About 69% of people don’t balance their checkbooks; many fear outliving their retirement funds. They become passive and let experts handle their money, even when it isn’t in their best interest, but those aren’t your best – or only – choices.

You can condense the core financial rules most people should follow into 10 simple statements that fit on a small card. If you follow these rules, you will be in better financial shape than most people, with less money-related stress and a better future outlook. The 10 “index card” rules are:

1. Save “10% to 20% of Your Gross Income”

Saving is hard. New expenses always crop up. The median US income dropped $3,000 between 1998 and 2013. Costs keep rising in basic categories, like education, housing and medical care. Most income increases went to wealthy people whose spending distorts the economy, creates markets for luxury items and raises expectations. America doesn’t encourage living moderately. Saving takes discipline and demands...

About the Authors

Author of Pound Foolish Helaine Olen writes The Bills column for Slate. Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and a nonresident fellow at the Century Foundation.

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