This 4×6 index card has all the financial advice you’ll ever need

September 16, 2013
Harold Pollack's index card.
Harold Pollack's index card.

Think managing your finances has to be complicated? Wonkblog contributor (and UC Chicago social scientist) Harold Pollack doesn't. After a talk with personal finance expert Helaine Olen, Pollack managed to write down pretty much everything you need to know on a 4x6 index card. And it would probably fit on a 3x5 index card if you really crammed (that last point, for instance, is probably not strictly necessary for managing your money). He explains:

The card came out of an RBC chat I had with Helaine Olen regarding what I view as the financial industry’s basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter, Alex M, asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history. (Here's the picture and post.)

Pollack's right. Follow these principles and you'll be in much, much, much better shape than most Americans — or most anyone. And all it will cost you is $2.20 for a pack of index cards — and you'll have 99 of them left over.

It's really hard to be poor (see Pollack's amazing interview on how being poor changes the way people think for more on that). But the lesson here is that once you have an income that you can live off of and save a little bit besides, managing your finances shouldn't be all that hard. The people making it complicated are often trying to make money off of you.

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Neil Irwin · September 16, 2013