Ways to scrimp and save

Fred Sirianni was helping to develop a personal finance course at his church when he got some good counsel from his pastor.

“He suggested that we ask people three questions: What was the wisest financial decision you’ve made over the years? What was the most foolish? And what one piece of financial advice would you give to a young person who asked you?”

Sirianni, who makes his living giving financial advice as an assistant vice president for Piper Jaffray &Co. in Everett, has been asking the questions for several months now. He says it’s been both educational and fun.

“I think just having a conversation about money is interesting,” he said. “It’s something that people don’t like to talk about. Sometimes they don’t get that kind of advice from their parents.”

Sirianni has specifically asked many people he respects, hoping to share their wisdom with people who need it. After hearing about Sirianni’s project, The Herald decided to try it, too. We asked members of The Herald’s reader network to share the best financial advice they had ever received and to tell us where it came from.

Here’s a healthy sampling of the results from the network and from Sirianni’s files:

Spending

Marilyn Matthews, Marysville: “I grew up knowing that purchases had to pass the needs test and might have to wait for the next paycheck.”

Tom Jones, Everett: “There is one prevailing attitude about spending my parents instilled in me. It is a simple phrase. When looking at an ad, sales flier, infomercial or impulse buy display, you simply ask yourself, ‘Is this something I can live without?’ If the answer is yes, then you just move along and leave it.”

Adam Farnham, Snohomish: “My father told me not to spend more than I make. This advice has helped me live within my means for the last 30 years. It is easy to be tempted to want more than you need. Keeping your wants to a minimum helps weather the bad times and makes the good times better.”

Anita Rutherford, Stanwood: “My mom grew up and lived through World War II. This was during the rationing period where certain items were scarce. As a result we were taught to conserve and reuse. Conserve electricity, fuel and heat. Combine your trips to conserve gasoline. Close off doors. She also found uses for just about everything. Reuse bags for trash, pass along items you no longer need, buy at the Goodwill or at garage sales.”

Bob Webb, Lake Stevens: “The best financial advice I ever received was, ‘If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it.’ Today’s business model of get an idea, borrow lots of money to pursue it and then when it does not work out, just file bankruptcy and walk away scot-free is immoral and, I believe, unethical.”

Clifford Gray, Everett: “In 1936, living in poverty in Las Vegas, New Mexico (not Nevada), I was hired by a man to do general labor and clean up around his home. Salary: 5 cents an hour. The first payday, he helped me open a bank account with $1. Since then, I have tried to save 5 percent of my salary each month. There have been setbacks, but I have a comfortable living now thanks to that gentleman.”

Pat Cudinski, Everett: “My kids told me that the most valuable financial advice I gave them was the opportunity to pay the bills for a few months when they were in high school. I gave them the checkbook and the bills and told them how much to pay on each. They learned what monthly bills we actually paid and how much money came in and what was left over at the end of each month. They were better prepared because of it.”

April Colburn, Everett: “Being thrifty has meant my family always had more good food and nicer things – also less debt – than had I needed to buy everything retail. I learned about thrift stores when I had my second child and was too far from family for hand-me-downs. It was amazing to go to Goodwill and find nearly new baby clothes for one-tenth the retail price.”

Retirement

Bob Huson, Marysville: “If at all possible, retire early as recommended by fellow workers. If you factor in the reduced benefits and the added total benefits received, it does not take all that long to come out ahead. For me, four years early was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Chuck Wright, Mill Creek: “Pay yourself first. Take 10 percent of your income and put the money towards retirement. Then, every time you get a raise, take 20 percent of that money and put it towards your retirement.”

Money management

Bill Wald, Everett: “Don’t loan money. Don’t borrow money to buy toys.”

Investing

Paul Ecklund, Everett: “The best financial advice I’ve ever received has to be invest while you’re young and use the time you have to watch it grow. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money when I was young, so I’m forced to play catch-up in my middle years. Of course the best investment you can make is in your own education. No other investment will yield as high a return, as quickly, then spending $50,000 on an education and making at least that much back the next year you get a high paying job.”

Margaret Bright, Lake Stevens: “Buy real estate.”

Dean Nichols, Everett: “Buy a house as soon as you possibly can do it. From my Dad in 1965.”

Good advisers

Nichole Berkenhoff, Marysville: “When (my husband) and I were dating, the first summer I went home to South Dakota, we wrote love letters furiously, of course, but Brian’s almost always included some kind of financial advice. …I’d be as deeply in debt as all of the statistics say a 26-year-old should be if it weren’t for him.”

Joe and Sandy Cloud, Marysville: “By far the best financial advice we ever got was from a friend who told us to go to a professional financial adviser. They obviously don’t work for free, but our adviser took our money and we went from being afraid we’d never have enough to retire on to retiring comfortably two years early. Money well spent, we’d say.”

Sheri Croft, Everett: “The best piece of financial advice I ever received was from my boyfriend (now my husband). Back when I was young, I would charge all sorts of stuff on my credit cards and then make the minimum payment when the bill came. I was having a field day. He told me I should never charge anything that I knew I couldn’t pay for when the bill came. … Twenty years later, we have been married for 18 years and have been virtually debt- free for the entire time.”

Don Purvis, Everett: “My grandfather told me to go in the Army and stay in. His reasoning was that after 20 years in the Army, I would qualify for a pension I would have for the rest of my life. That was some 60 years ago. I did stay in the Army, retiring at the age of 38. I do still draw a comfortable pension.”

Cathy Reese, Mukilteo: “The best financial advice I ever received was from my grandfather, who said, “Do what you love and don’t worry about the money. It’ll come. Like all the other advice he gave me, it was right on.”

Saving

Kathy Hoff, Lynnwood: “My father would always encourage us to save. I’ve always had piggy banks. Any extra change I have or find, I put into them. I have different banks for each denomination of coin. Now, when one is full, it is exciting to see how much I have saved. We have gone on many trips with my piggy bank money. My children have picked up on saving also.”

Rebecca Boyd, Marysville: “I encourage young people to save for their future. It’s really an investment. When they graduate from college with student loans, they spend the first few years trying to get out of the financial hole they are in. If Mom and Dad are willing to help out with some of their college costs and they work their way through school to avoid that hole altogether, they come out ahead in the end and can focus on their future.”

Sharon Quintoa, Arlington: “My dad, Bill Corcoran, told me while I was still in junior high to save 10 percent of everything I ever earned, even if it was only $1. I can’t say I used it all my life, but my husband and I now use that advice while saving for his retirement that will come at the end of this year. Although we are using a higher percentage, we have found it an easy way to save.”

Bob Hoverter: “From an ‘uncle’: save 10 percent of every paycheck. Put it in the bank and forget about it. He now has $5 million.”

Ramona Fletcher: “I came up with my own best advice about the time I graduated from high school. I decided to save enough money to be able to pay my bills for six months ahead, just in case of an emergency.”

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