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Sheldon Jacobs photo By Sheldon Jacobs
Jacobs is a former editor and publisher,
The No-Load Fund Investor newsletter. He is also the author of The Handbook for No-Load Fund Investors, and other books on no-load fund investing.

This awful recession we’re having, with millions of people facing financial emergencies, brings to mind what may be the most useful advice I’ve given as a financial author, publisher, and investment manager – advice I still give in my forthcoming book, Lifetime Money Lessons:

Save.

The greatest investment strategy the world has ever seen is useless unless you have money to invest, and the only way most people will have that money is to save. Always important, it is now vital, not just for your future, but also to protect yourself in case you become unemployed.

 If you don’t already have savings, START SAVING! If you have some, SAVE MORE! Not “when you make more money,” or “when the recession is over,” but NOW, while you still have a job (if you’re lucky).

Most people don’t realize it, but how long you save can be more important than how much. I took this example from Mr. Evans’s book, The Index Fund Solution: Two people of the same age contribute to a company plan and earn the same rate of return. Over the years, Mr. Short contributes a total of $25,000; Ms. Long, only $10,000, but she started 10 years earlier. After 35 years, when both are ready to retire, we see the power of time: Mr. Short has $67,000, while Ms. Long walks off with $80,200.

But saving, as we all know, is hard, especially in times like these. Are their ways to make it easier? Yes. The main idea is to save automatically, so you don’t have to suffer the agony of a financial Hamlet: “To spend? Or not to spend?” Here are four ways to save with minimal pain:

No one is going to do all these things. But if you do even one of them, you’ll be that much closer to spending smart and sleeping well.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Evans and Andrew Bromberg