Almost none of us knows what to do with our money, despite the overwhelming number of personal finance books, investment newsletters, websites and financial networks, said Gail MarksJarvis, syndicated financial columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

"We're either listening to the wrong people or we don't trust ourselves," she said.

In the new edition of "Saving for Retirement Without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery" (FT Press, $24), she updates the 2007 edition with advice about handling financial crises.

The book is a step-by-step guide to achieving financial security for the average investor.

MarksJarvis includes lots of stories from people who have contacted her over the years in search of personal advice. She can be reached via her website at, although she does not guarantee a response to all questions.

She sat down earlier this month to discuss her new book.

QHow is your book different from other personal finance books?

AIt's more readable. There's no investing jargon. It's one of the few books that can help someone who doesn't have a lot of money. What makes this new edition different from the 2007 edition is that it helps people deal with their gut after a financial crisis.

QA lot of Americans aren't joking when they say they're playing the lottery to fund their retirement. Why is saving so hard?

AWe look at big numbers like $100,000 or $1 million and think we can never get there. But saving $20 a week for 30 years at an 8 percent return adds up to more than $100,000.

QHow should a person read your book to get the most out of it?

ADon't read it cover to cover like a novel. Pick out the sections that are affecting you now. Pull it out at another time to visit a new issue.

QWhat about the people who say 8 percent is an unreasonable rate of return?

AIt is if you're only investing in money markets and CDs. People can't expect to get larger returns without exposure to the stock market. A lot of people may not realize that the stock market is up more than 15 percent year to date.

QHow would you advise the person or couple who can't save a dime and is clueless about where to start?

AWhat's interesting is that I hear from people of modest means to millionaires. We all think we're maxed out. Even people who are rich are worried.

People who are stretched thin should look at where they're spending their money. A lot of experts suggest cutting out movies or expensive coffees. But if you get a lot of pleasure from those things, don't cut them out.

Look through your past spending for things that cost you money but gave you very little pleasure -- maybe it's a magazine that you're not reading or duplicative Internet service on your phone, in the home and in the office.

There's a list in my book of things to consider cutting out.

QWhat mistake are people making post-financial crisis?

APeople are taking billions out of the stock market and putting it into bond funds. Forty percent of Americans in their 20s say that they will never trust the stock market. Too many people don't realize that you can lose money in bond funds, too.

QWhat are three important points people can find in your book?

AKnowing how much you're going to need for the future and how to get there without a lot of hardship. That it's not good enough to be a good saver. You have to be a good investor, too.

People can survive a recession and come out of it in a few years and still retire in relative comfort.


QMany people refuse to spend an hour figuring out their finances, let alone read a personal finance book. What advice do you have for the person who's paralyzed by the subject but needs to act?

AIf you're five years or less away from retirement, everyone should go to a certified financial planner. If you're 10 years or longer away from retirement, go with what's known as a "balanced" fund of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds with expense ratios of 1 percent or less.

Ask a discount broker or Vanguard to find one if you don't know where to begin. The 60:40 mix is a good start in learning asset allocation and a fallback position if you are ever confused.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or