Boring is Better: 8 Rules of Family Finances

Boring is Better: 8 Rules of Family Finances
Photo by Master Sgt. C.T. Michael/Oklahoma Air National Guard

Unlike a “hot stock tip” or the latest investment craze, the core messages of financial planning don’t change. So when I put together a list of eight “boring financial rules to live by” in 2014, it’s not surprising that they hold up seven years later.


Here’s a new, streamlined version of these tenets for new readers. Have more financial questions? Visit for the latest financial news and links to MOAA resources, including member-only publications and financial calculators.


Live within your means. Credit is not a valid method for supporting a family. Avoid it with a common-sense budget, cutting luxury expenses until you’ve downsized your debt and built up savings and investment amounts.


Make a plan. Don’t overthink this part: Simple, small goals will get you to your destination. Start by mapping out your “financial footprint” – a small footprint means less income needed in retirement … or more flexibility with the extra funds.


Protect your family. It’s not a welcome topic, but it’s a requirement for sound planning and peace of mind. What happens to your loved ones if you die? What if your spouse dies? How much is needed, for how long, and in whose control? This isn’t a one-and-done setup – your needs will change depending on your age, family and marital status, and many other factors. And while you’re talking insurance, don’t forget about home, auto, disability, long term care, and other needs. 


[RELATED: MOAA’s Long Term Care Resources]


Invest. Much like your insurance needs, your investment strategy will vary based on your individual situation. Still, keep these points in mind:

  • You should be contributing to your employer plan (401k, Thrift Savings Plan) or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or both.
  • Keep your investment expenses cheap.
  • Contribute every paycheck.
  • Have the right allocation of funds in your account.
  • Rebalance to your original allocation of funds annually.


Familiarize yourself with key concepts – risk, for instance – but don’t follow trendy investments or seek short-term wealth.


[RELATED: 8 Things Savvy Investors Understand]


Have a savings account. This is your emergency access to quick, stable cash reserves. It could cover anything from a surprise repair to a large purchase to a luxury vacation – splurge responsibly – and it should prevent buying on credit (and the accompanying charges). 


Consolidate (and eliminate where possible) accounts. This step becomes more important as accounts become easier to create (and forget) in the digital age. Ditch unused credit cards, close out loans, combine retirement and investment accounts – anything to simplify your situation and remove the chances of overlooking or forgetting portions of your portfolio. 


Pay your bills on time. It’s a simple step to improve your credit rating and keep future financial options open. Plus, it encourages financial responsibility.


Get on the same page with your spouse. The above guidance only works if everyone’s on board. Be sure your family is pulling in the same direction.


Need more detailed financial advice? Consider The MOAA Investor’s Manual, free to Premium and Life members. Learn more about membership options and upgrades at this link.


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About the Author

Lt. Col. Shane Ostrom, USAF (Ret), CFP®
Lt. Col. Shane Ostrom, USAF (Ret), CFP®

Ostrom retired from the Air Force in 2000 and joined the MOAA team in 2006. His responsibilities include researching and answering member inquiries regarding military benefits, health care, survivor issues, and financial concerns.