personal finance

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April is National Financial Literacy Month, sometimes referred to as National Financial Capability Month. Social service agencies, financial institutions and educational groups use the month to raise public awareness about the importance of financial literacy and the need for financial education, for both adults and children.

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Jeannine Glista is co-creator of Biz Kid$, a national financial educational initiative based on the Emmy Award-winning TV series of the same name. She and co-authors James McKenna and Matt Fontaine recently published a guide about money for kids, How To Turn $100 Into $1,000,000: Earn! Invest! Save!.

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When it comes to retirement, the picture for many Americans is a bleak one. In today's do-it-yourself world of the 401k plan, most have less than $30,000 saved. A third have nothing at all.

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Are you confident you will have enough money saved to live comfortably throughout your retirement years? Recent surveys show most American workers would answer “no.” More disheartening, most workers have no real idea of how much money they would need by the time they retire.

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Many investors received an unpleasant surprise when they read their January IRA or 401k account statements. The month was one of the worst starts to a new year in recent history for the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 5.5 percent and the NASDAQ suffering an almost 8 percent drop.

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Personal finance is something that leaves a lot of us scratching our heads as we ponder questions like how to save, what to invest, and how to do all this while reducing debt. University of Chicago professor Dr. Harold Pollack and his co-author, financial journalist Helaine Olen, say it really isn't as difficult as some would have you believe. 

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January is a good time to think about your financial goals for the year, come up with targets, and a plan to meet them. Whether you hope to reduce your credit card debt, increase your retirement savings, or put away enough money for the family vacation, your chances of success will improve dramatically if you think about and write down your goals now.

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As you enjoy the holidays, it’'s a good idea to remember to set aside some time to review your finances and see what options you have before January 1 to reduce your taxes.

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Where you live can have a dramatic impact on how far your money will go and what type of lifestyle you lead. According to one online cost-of-living calculator, someone earning an annual salary of $50,000 in Cincinnati would need to make $80,000 to maintain the same standard of living in Boston. But just $47,000 in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Current U.S. economic statistics seem to point to an improving economy: unemployment is down and home prices are up. Yet many Americans scratch their heads, wondering why their financial situation is not getting any better. Marketplace has partnered with Edison Research to examine this disconnect between the official numbers and how people really feel  about their economic prospects. Marketplace's Washington Bureau Chief Dave Shaw spoke with Mark Heyne about this latest poll’'s findings.

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