STARTING OUT


Soundtrack to Riches

Erin Burt

Here's my financial mix tape, chock-full of timeless wisdom and inspiration.



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'll 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 ten of my favorites.


1. "The Gambler"
Kenny Rogers (1978)


This country classic should be every investor's mantra:

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.

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Need help knowing what investments to throw away and what to keep? See Should You Dump Your Mutual Fund? and Sell Your Stock If... for guidance.


2. "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. Okay, 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? See How to Make a Million and Making it Big on a Paycheck for strategies to amass your wealth. Then read Young, Prosperous and Frugal to meet millionaires with the right mind-set.


3. "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.) To find a place to stash your cash that'll "raise your interest," look for a high-yielding online savings account. See Savings With a Kick to get started.


4. "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. See 10 Questions to Ask Before Saying 'I Do' to make sure your union is on the right financial track.


5. "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. See Five Steps for Negotiating a Raise for tips. And if you're ready to trade up to more responsibility -- and better pay -- see Moving on Up for advice on whether to hold out for an opportunity with your current employer or hunt for a new job.

If you have to simply bide your time (especially in this lackluster economy), see Six Ways to Make the Most of Your Job for tips to use a menial job as a springboard to the position of your dreams.


6. "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'.

Take our quiz to learn more about what goes into your credit score, and how to give it a boost.

And 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. See Don't Let Debt Get You Down to get on top of the problem and How I Kicked the Credit Card Habit for firsthand advice.


7. "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.

For more tips on teaching your children about money, see our Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids. And if you know a kid looking to make a few bucks this summer, see Land the Perfect Summer Job and Beyond Burgers.


8. "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. See Save Money on Practically Everything and Fabulous Freebies for dozens of ideas that'll help you cut your spending and stretch your own low budget.


9. "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 illustrates a financial truth that is too good to pass up: 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.

Financial independence should be the goal of all women -- and men. When you lean on a spouse, friend, parent, or even a credit card, you are not in control. The key to your freedom is to think single, advises Janet Bodnar, author of Money Smart Women and editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Adopt a state of mind in which you feel comfortable handling money and confident that you can manage your finances and support yourself.

See Cutting the Financial Umbilical Cord for help separating your finances from well-meaning parents. If you're in a relationship, it's important to work together. See Money: Women Vs. Men to learn about the strengths you can each bring to the table.


10. "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. (See Lessons I've Learned From Being Broke for more.) And if you're just starting out in a relationship, avoid these Six Money Mistakes of Newlyweds to help you keep the proper perspective.

Share your favorite songs about money in the Reader Comments box below.



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