You've learned your lesson.
In the past four years, you've learned that you can't spend frivolously. You can't use credit unwisely, there's no "wiggle room" on bill-paying, and the only way to face your future is to put money back into your own pocket with savings and investments.
Easier said than done? Not really, according to author Ryan C. Mack. In his book "Living in the Village" (c.2010, St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99 / $16.99 Canada, 302 pages, includes worksheets) he explains how money can work for you and for your community.
So you've come through the Great Recession and you're rebuilding your financial life, but you've come to realize that you want to do more with what you've got. Mack says that there's no time like the present to educate yourself about managing the money you earn.
To begin, track your spending and see where your money goes. Be truthful with yourself when looking at your spending habits, then learn how to make a budget you can stick with. It helps to set goals and to understand how millionaires shop. Learn the pitfalls of spending, why you shouldn't use an ATM, and why those rent-to-own places will put a serious hole in your wallet.
Become knowledgeable about insurance, and make sure you have enough of the right kind. This should lead you into planning an estate for those you leave behind someday--including family members, charities, and any pay-it-forward groups you want to bequeath.
Though you shouldn't be using credit cards indiscriminately, the wise use of credit is important for your financial future. Your FICO is key, and Mack explains how you can raise that number. He also explains how to get rid of high-risk debt by negotiating with creditors and knowing your rights.
Boost your workplace retirement fund, then set up an IRA for your retirement. Get rid of low-risk debt, and learn the smart way to purchase a car or house. Select the right advisor, someone who shares your vision for your future. Learn how to invest your money for the best return. Give yourself a good emergency fund for just-in-case situations.
Tired of being broke, or close to it? "Living in the Village" can set you on a path away from poverty, but--as you've probably guessed--it won't be easy.
Author and financial expert Ryan C. Mack writes with clarity and his step-by-step explanations are doable for anyone who wants to get their house in order, money-wise. He's thorough, too, and covers all bases in this book, although that may be overwhelming for anyone who's starting from financial scratch.
Still, Mack does some hand-holding and offers enough personal support to keep his readers from becoming discouraged. It's also helpful that he targets specific groups (religious leaders, parents, the formerly incarcerated, and so on) with specialized tips most useful for them.
Overall, if you're ready to put your money where your future is, or if you want to set a good example for your children, "Living in the Village" may inspire you. Then get ready to be prosperous. Haven't you earned that?