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Get a Grip: How to Beat Stress and Take Control of Your Life

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Goal #2: Build Up My Bank Account

As someone who's self-employed, I never know how much money I'll make in any given month. Factor in that (1) I have to pay for my own health insurance, (2) I'm not contributing to a retirement fund, (3) I spend big bucks on rent every month, and (4) the nation's financial system is a mess right now, and it's no wonder I'm nervous.

Figuring out how much it would take to buy an apartment seemed smart, especially because there were deals to be had, so I called my bank. When I mentioned my annual income, however, the financial advisor literally laughed at me. "You'll never get a mortgage," he said.

Determined to prove him wrong, I spoke to Chellie Campbell, a Los Angeles financial coach and the author of Zero to Zillionaire: 8 Foolproof Steps to Financial Peace of Mind, who immediately made me feel better. "Buying is not always smarter," she said. "Look at how many people are losing their homes right now. They've trashed their credit ratings, on top of it. And since your income is unpredictable, locking yourself into a huge monthly mortgage just isn't a good idea."

Campbell congratulated me on being able to save anything, especially when so many other people can't. (The consumer debt in the U.S. is currently more than $2 trillion.) "Having dollars in the bank makes you more confident in general," she said.

The one thing I should do pronto, Campbell added, was contribute at least $50 a month to the IRA I have from my old job. I've started socking the money away, and I feel richer already.

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