Financial Security: How Much Money Is Enough?

How do you recognize financial security? Are you financially secure? Find out whether your finances are in good enough standing.

By Anne Stockwell

Ross says she’s still figuring out what’s next. For now, their retirement plans have been shelved and financial expectations downsized. "My mother gets her biggest thrill out of a 99-cent cinnamon roll, not a cashmere sweater anymore. These days, ‘enough’ means having money for healthcare, theater and books."

The Bottom Line: Healthcare crises are the financial-planning wild card. Invest in insurance that will last as long as you do.

Financial Testimonies, continued


Back-To-Basics Guru

For Robin, who coauthored 1992’s Your Money or Your Life, a bible of the back-to-basics movement, money is the great distraction from our limited time on the planet. What inspired the book, she says, was "seeing how many people were suffering from the culture of ‘more is better,’ and there’s never enough."

When people figure out how much money they’re making, Robin says, they usually leave out the real expense: the time, trouble and stress of making it. "You trade your hours for money," she says. "When you buy a latte, that might be a half-hour of your life."

Robin also lived frugally, cutting her own hair and maintaining her car, even rebuilding her engine, calling that "very empowering."

She cheerfully concedes that now that she’s 60, her need for creature comforts "has probably doubled. I actually have a comfortable bed now, and I go to the gym. I even have a cell phone!" Robin says her sense of spiritual fulfillment is what leads her to feel she has "enough."

The Bottom Line: If that latte takes up a half-hour of your life, make sure you really enjoy it. Stay connected to the things that make you happy.


Financial Adviser

As president of Charter Financial Group in Washington, D.C., Stewart finds herself working to convince high net worth clients that they have more financial freedom than they think. In each case, she says, there’s a number that’s "enough," even if clients are afraid to look at it.

"I think a lot of people jumped on their career paths years ago, and they’re being driven by things other than just money—achievement, success," says Stewart. "It’s not that they don’t have money, they don’t have time. I tell them, ‘Take a deep breath.’"

Stewart has wanted to help people achieve financial peace since she was a 25-year-old law student, when she was named executor of her father’s estate. "I had to go in and run his company," she remembers. "I got to understand the value of projections and goals."

Stewart became a retail stockbroker, thinking she would learn how to manage money. In fact, she was given a phone book and told to talk investors into buying whatever stock the company was pushing that day. She still fumes at the memory. "The industry is driven by sales, yet consumed as expertise. It’s appalling that people don’t understand that."

Determined to call her own shots, Stewart founded Charter Financial in 1995. "I’m a big-picture person," she says. "‘Enough’ for me is being able to retire at 55 with my current standard of living."

The Bottom Line: When you’re looking at the future, there is a number. Don’t be afraid to look at it: It can set you free.


Store Manager, Home Depot

"My mother was on welfare," says Rowe. "I don’t think I knew I was poor, but there was always scrambling, and I knew I didn’t want to be like that." So Rowe started saving as a kid: "If I made $100, I’d save $10." By the time she was 46, she’d spent a dozen years moving up in the grocery business. Rowe was managing a Vons grocery store when a headhunter called. Would she be interested in a position as manager of a Home Depot?

"I wanted the grocery business to be my last career; change isn’t easy on anyone," she says. "But you have to be willing sometimes." Her willingness paid off: "I made almost twice as much last year as I did the previous year, because the bonus structure’s so much better."

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