Happiness is `Star Wars,' an education

Your Money


An ever-growing Star Wars memorabilia collection. A Suzuki GS500 motorcycle. Buying high-quality used furniture instead of new. Investing in one's education. Faithfully putting away the bulk of each raise into a savings fund. An engagement ring.

All these things make the list of the best (or is it worst for some?) spending or saving decisions readers say they have made.

The point is that there is no universal "best" or "worst." What matters is that you spend your money for what makes you happy and that you compensate for any personality trait that might lead you astray (for example, if you want to spend more money than you have).

Let's hear from readers, beginning with Mary Kay Zappia of Dayton, Ohio: "While I can afford to buy new furnishings from quality retail establishments, I choose to shop for quality furniture advertised in the newspaper under `used merchandise.' I have found great savings on designer and quality items from people who merely want to redecorate, and dispose of their furnishings for a fraction of what they paid."

From Bob Pillsbury, of Tucson, Ariz.: "I graduated from college in 1957 and went to work as a bridge engineer with what is now the Federal Highway Administration. The first year, we got a cost-of-living adjustment of about $20 a paycheck. My wife and I decided we really didn't need the additional $20, so I signed up to put most of the raise into U.S. savings bonds. This practice was continued until I retired some 33 years later. These funds became the seed money for a successful investment program that continues today."

From Grace McIlvain, also of Tucson: "The best spending decision I ever made was to go to law school. I was 34 years old, and my husband and I had very little income and few assets. I had no help from scholarships or any other source. The next three years were definitely a struggle. I wouldn't want to go through them again. But believe it or not, I got through law school without borrowing a dime! I worked part time during my second and third years and full time during the summers.

"Thirty years later, I am semi-retired and have substantial savings. I have traveled to many exciting parts of the world. I live in a modest townhouse and have enough money to meet all my needs. And I had an extremely interesting career and can now pick and choose the part-time work I do."

From Ben Chavez, of San Antonio: "I am 20 years old and am planning to go to nursing school full time next semester. I am what you would consider a natural saver. I have splurged once. It all happened about four months ago - I fell in love. When I met her, she was all I could think about. Well, it's not a woman; it is a 2005 Suzuki GS500 motorcycle. It cost $5,000 brand new. I had the money saved up and I just decided to lay it all down. I often think I could have invested the money, saved it for college or other things, but for the amount of enjoyment it is bringing, I can say it was worth it."

From Dave Garthoff, of Akron, Ohio: "Best decision was buying an engagement ring in 1954. Dorothy said `Yes' and we've been happily married for over 50 years now. Cost? I don't remember now, but who cares? Value? Priceless!"

Finally, from a reader in Yorba Linda, Calif., who shall remain anonymous: "I collect Star Wars memorabilia. It really is a sickness because I spend about $400 a month. Do I think my collection will go up in value? It's irrelevant because I don't plan on selling it, ever. I now value my collection at more than $125,000. I've been collecting seriously for about 10 years now. Just imagine how much I'd have if I'd invested that money elsewhere?

"Now, I love collecting. It's something to be passionate about, which makes me happy. My goal is someday to afford a larger home, much larger, so that I can display my collection. This love of my collection and my goal to display it properly have helped me focus on the importance of my family. As men, we all get tempted by other women. When temptation calls, I remind myself that I don't want to lose my family or my collection. We all know how disastrous a divorce can be financially. So I consider the amount I spend on my collection a small investment in ensuring my continued financial well-being."

Humberto Cruz is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.

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