Tune in to some financial wisdom

May 31, 2009 

I'll admit it: Managing money isn't always fun. So for a little motivation and inspiration, I've culled a playlist of music that will lighten the mood while teaching listeners something valuable about their finances.

There is certainly no shortage of songs from which to choose. Next to love and lust, money is a chief topic on the minds of songwriters, no matter their genre or decade. Here are 10 of my favorites.

"The Gambler"

Kenny Rogers (1978)

This country classic should be every investor's mantra. Knowing what investments to throw away and what to keep is crucial for any investor:

You gotta know when to hold 'em

Know when to fold 'em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run.

You never count your money

When you're sittin' at the table

There'll be time enough for counting

When the dealing's done.

"If I Had $1,000,000"

Barenaked Ladies (1992)

Think of it as a modern version of Fiddler on the Roof's "If I Were a Rich Man." Indeed, whether a devout Jewish farmer or an inaptly named Canadian band, people love to dream about the things they'd buy if they were wealthy, from large houses to fine clothes to squawking turkeys. OK, so the Barenaked Ladies' version leaves out the turkeys, but you get the gist. Here's one part in particular that stands out in their pontification:

If I had a million dollars,

We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner

But we would eat Kraft Dinner.

Unless they're heirs to a family fortune, most millionaires get and keep their money by making smart choices -- and that includes living within their means. Just because you've got it doesn't mean you have to flaunt it. There was nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned bowl of macaroni and cheese for dinner before, so why give it up now?

"Material Girl"

Madonna (1985)

Madonna is no Ben Franklin, but she understands that a penny saved is a penny earned. And while I don't believe in rooting your value in material things, this tune offers up an ode to good saving habits (not to mention it's impossible not to dance to):

Some boys romance, some boys slow dance. That's all right with me.

If they can't raise my interest, then I have to let them be.

Some boys try and some boys lie but I don't let them play

Only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day.

Yes, saving is sexy! I, for one, am glad my husband is a saver.

Not because I'm a "material girl" interested in getting my hands on the cash -- I'm a saver, too.

Rather, his habits help ensure we have enough money for our material needs -- and a few wants. (And the fact that we share similar financial values decreases the stress in our marriage.)

"Marry for Money"

Trace Adkins (2008)

This country song makes my list, not because I would ever advocate marrying someone for his or her money, but because this tongue-in-cheek tale illustrates an important principle that most people in love don't think about: The person you marry is crucial to your financial well-being.

Adkins sings that when he married for love, it ended in a costly divorce and he lost his house and half his possessions. So he resolves that the next time around, he'll be keenly interested in the financial side:

I'm gonna marry for money

I'll be so damn rich it ain't funny

I'm gonna have me a trust fund, yacht club, hot tub, piece of the pie.

Find me a sweet sugar mama

With a whole lot of zeros and commas

Don't really care if she loves me, she can even be ugly

I'm gonna marry for money.

Please don't take it to this extreme, but choose your companion wisely. Divorce can derail even the best-laid financial plans. Marry someone who shares your values, with whom you can communicate well and avoid keeping money secrets from.

"9 to 5"

Dolly Parton (1980)

What a way to make a living. This is the anthem for working women (and men) everywhere. Among the bones Parton has to pick with her boss is how difficult it is for her to move up the career ladder:

9 to 5, for service and devotion

You would think that I would deserve a fair promotion

Want to move ahead but the boss won't seem to let me.

If you feel you deserve a raise, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about asking for it.

"Bills Bills Bills"

Destiny's Child (1999)

A moocher for a boyfriend? It's more than an annoyance -- it'll ruin your credit score!

Now you've been maxing out my cards

Giving me bad credit, buying me gifts with my own ends.

Haven't paid the first bill

But you're steady heading to the mall

Going on shopping sprees, perpetrating to your friends that you be ballin'.

If you -- or anyone you love -- is relying on credit to maintain appearances, that's a warning sign that your debt has reached critical mass.

"Summertime Blues"

Eddie Cochran (1958)

We can all commiserate with this teen about "working all summer just to try and earn a dollar." And in the process, he learns some crucial financial lessons that'll follow him into adulthood. For example, you can't shirk your responsibilities and still reap rewards.

Well my mom and pop told me, "Son you gotta make some money,

If you want to use the car to go ridin' next Sunday."

Well I didn't go to work, told the boss I was sick.

"Well you can't use the car 'cause you didn't work a lick."

Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do

But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues.

"Low Budget"

The Kinks (1979)

The Kinks lamented tough financial times 30 years ago, but this rocking song is just as relevant today:

Circumstance has forced my hand

To be a cut-price person in a low-budget land.

Times are hard but we'll all survive

I just got to learn to economize...

I'm shopping at Woolworth's and low discount stores

I'm dropping my standards so that I can buy more.

Living on a budget may not be as fun as a free-spending rock-star lifestyle, but it's much more practical. Living within your means is the basis of sound financial management. Learning to economize and make small sacrifices pays off not only now, but also in the future.

"Independent Woman"

Destiny's Child (2000)

I know, including two songs by a single group breaks a cardinal rule of mix-taping, but this one presents a financial truth that is too good not to include: Whoever controls your money controls your life.

Try to control me boy you get dismissed

Pay my own fun, oh I pay my own bills

Always 50-50 in relationships.

The shoes on my feet, I've bought it

The clothes I'm wearing, I've bought it

The rock I'm rockin, I've bought it

'Cause I depend on me.

Woman or man, it's important to think single -- a concept that has nothing to do with the state of matrimony, says Janet Bodnar, author of Money Smart Women and editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

Rather, it's a state of mind in which you feel comfortable handling money and confident that you can manage your finances and support yourself. Don't rely on a spouse or parent to take care of you. Build and maintain your financial independence.

If you're in a relationship, it's important to work together. "Each of you contributes different strengths and a unique financial perspective," Bodnar says.

"Can't Buy Me Love"

The Beatles (1964)

The sentiment of this song is right on the money: There are more important things in life than the size of your bank account.

I'll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too.

I may not have a lot to give but what I got I'll give to you.

I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.

Money comes and goes, but your relationships with family and friends are lasting -- and much more fulfilling. I feel that my husband and I have grown closer as we've struggled together to make ends meet. We've been forced to depend on each other, perhaps more so than if we'd lived in the lap of luxury.

Erin Burt is a contributing editor to Kiplinger.com. Reach her at moneypower@kiplinger.com.

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