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 You want Liz Weston on your money management team. In the past 15 years, Weston, author of The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy, has steadily built a following as a personal finance journalist who solves problems.

Weston is an educated reporter in the true sense of the word — she graduated from the Certified Financial Planning training program. That coursework honed her advice on a range of topics — including budgeting, saving, paying off debt and more — for readers of her twice-weekly MSN Money Internet column and weekly “Money Talk” column syndicated in newspapers.

In her book, she has excerpted portions of her MSN Money columns to bring her good word to a broader audience. The conceit: Each chapter is a holy commandment of how to live a good financial life. First Commandment: Create a Budget That Works in The Real World; Fifth Commandment: Your Home is Not a Piggy Bank — Preserve its Equity; Sixth Commandment: Saving for Retirement Must Come First; and so on.
Each of the 10 chapters has dictionary entries to define such concepts as 401(k), inflation and long-term care. Sure it’s primer stuff, but it’s all good, particularly for people who are fearful of finance and illiterate to the terminology. Straightforward action steps end each chapter and leave you with the core advice proffered. For example, in the retirement savings chapter:
•Start where you can, even if the amount you’re contributing is small.
•Leave retirement money alone. Don’t raid it to pay bills or debts.
•Don’t cash out your accounts when you leave a job — roll it into your next employer’s plan or an IRA.
Inside each chapter, though, she squeezes in as much guidance as it can bear. There are a trove of resources from books to websites, case studies and charts to educate and send you on your way for more help from the pros.
Weston’s instruction: There are no simple answers. “Do your research, investigate your options, reflect on your own situation and use your common sense.” In other words, “take what you like and leave the rest,” she writes.
Since this is a dense soup-to-nuts book, for lack of a better phrase, it means you’ll probably find it useful for different issues as they arise over time. Clear a space on your bookshelf — one that’s easy to reach.
Here’s a sample: In her Second Commandment: Create a Survival Plan with Cash and Credit, she writes that one of the biggest gambles people take in their financial life isn’t related to how they invest, or how much insurance they have.
“The biggest risk is having all your income from a single source,” Weston writes. Few of us stay with a single employer for more than a few years, and if you lose a job, it can take a half a year or more to land another. This isn’t just sage advice for individuals, but for business owners who are too dependent on one or two major clients.
Her ninth commandment: Treat Your Marriage Like a Business should be required reading for all couples married or pondering marriage. Weston admits to having some tense moments in her own marriage of more than a dozen years before she and her husband hit on a system that works for them.
Her premise is that marriage makes people richer. “Not all marriages, of course, and ‘richer’ is relative. But overall, people who get married and stay married build significantly more wealth than those who are single,” Weston writes.
You can’t ignore the business aspects of marriage. If you do, do so at your own peril, she writes. “Love really does not conquer all.”
Her marriage counseling advice: You need to operate as a team. “Successfully merging your finances in marriage requires honesty, communication, flexibility and trust.” Here are a few of her action steps to avoid financial infidelity and more.
•Work out a budget together.
•Set a “talk to me” limit for purchases above a certain amount.
•Designate a family CEO to handle bill-paying and other day-to-day financial chores.
•Have regular meetings at least once a month.
•Be honest. Don’t hide purchases or lie about your spending. Little lies tend to lead to bigger ones.
•When conflict arises, remember to attack the problem, not each other.
As the traditional wedding vow goes … in sickness and in wealth … err … health. Retirement Must Come First; and so on
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