A few years ago, a University of Chicago professor interviewed a financial columnist via online video chat. After their conversation, the professor wrote on a three-by-five index card what he thought was the best advice he could offer his children.

The professor took a photo of the card and shared it. One thing led to another, and the picture went viral.

Every few months a picture of the card or a story about the card pops up on my computer. I always re-read the card. There are a few useful items on his card, but some of them, I don’t like.

Rather than stew over the few things on the card I don’t like I’ve decided to make my own. The original index card listed nine items; I will follow suit.

1. Avoid credit card and other high-interest rate debt.

Credit cards, payday loans, and consumer debt is a rigged game. Don’t play it.

2. Live within your means.

This may require some sacrifice, but there is no quicker way to ruin finances than to spend more than you make.

3. Save and invest at least 10 percent of your income.

Once you are living within your means, you must save and invest the leftover cash. Ten percent should be the goal. If you can do more, do it.

4. Have sufficient insurance coverage.

Health, auto, home, life, and liability are a few of the insurance that you must have. Bad things happen to the best of people, and a single event can destroy your finances for life. Insurance is not optional.

5. Fight for good credit.

People with good credit will save thousands of dollars over a lifetime paying smaller interest rates. Pay your bills on time and run credit checks to make sure your identity hasn’t been stolen.

6. Ensure valuable employment by gaining skills people are willing to pay for.

These skills should be something that can’t be easily replaced. Learning marketable skills might mean a formal education and it might not.

Either way, you need to learn to do something that few others can. You will need to continue to learn and progress over the course of your working career.

7. Avoid high-cost investments.

Many investments are designed to make the creator of the investment wealthy, leaving the leftovers to the investors. Consider using index funds.

8. Use qualified retirement accounts when you are young.

You will get a tax deduction for contributions, and they will grow tax-deferred. The tax savings will drastically increase your long-term performance.

9. Buy a home.

Buying is superior to rent in almost every aspect. Building equity, paying off a mortgage and getting a tax deduction are three benefits renting cannot offer.

Well, there it is. Of course, personal finance is more complicated, but if I were constrained by a three-by-five card, this would be it.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, MillsWealth.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.

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