Thursday, August 4, 2011

'The Financial Physician' - just what the doctor ordered

It's a clever metaphor: If your finances are sick, you need to find a "doctor" to put them on the road to recovery.

Louis G. Scatigna's not a medical doctor, he just plays one (of sorts) on the website for his book "The Financial Physician: How to Cure Your Money Problems and Boost Your Financial Health" (Career Press, 2010, 214 pp., $14.99) and on the airwaves for his top-rated radio show of the same name.

Scatigna, who can be seen wearing scrubs and sporting an ID badge on the homepage, is a certified financial planner, and now, author. Since 1983 he has been a financial advisor and a licensed investment broker, and since 1987 a tax accountant. In 1987, Scatigna founded AFM Investments Inc., a full-service financial planning, tax preparation and investment firm in Howell, N.J., where he serves as president and CEO.

Scatigna says he learned early on in his career that money talk can be confusing. "So I decided to try a different technique. I became the Financial Physician and began explaining finance by using analogies to physical health. Suddenly, they understood," Scatigna writes.

For more than a decade, Scatigna has hosted the radio program "The Financial Physician," in which he answers listeners' telephone questions on their financial concerns.

In his slim and easily understandable book, Scatigna looks at the 20 most common financial mistakes - with 20 short chapters devoted to topics ranging from "Lack of Spousal Teamwork" to "Failing to Plan for College Early Enough."

Each easy-to-read chapter includes the headings ailment, or problem, a diagnosis, vital signs, or argument, treatment and Scatigna's Rx (prescription).

Chapter 13: Buying Too Much House sort of struck home with me, pun intended. Scatigna says "When you become a homeowner, all sorts of new expenses crop up; before long, they all increase. In addition to mortgage payments, you have property taxes, insurance, utilities, upkeep, maintenance, and perhaps assessments. Add on the costs of furnishings, repairs, renovations, remodeling, and a stream of other expenses. It all mounts up."

I became a homeowner six years ago ... just before the housing market tanked. My "investment" is not a money pit, by any means, but the expenses go nowhere but up. However, according to Scatigna, I did one thing right: I didn't buy above my means.

He advises putting off purchasing a home until you can put down 20 percent.

"If you put down 20 percent, it gives you a cushion. If the market goes down, you still have equity in your home. And, in time, the value of your home will probably appreciate, and your 20 percent will become 30 percent, or 40 percent, and so on," Scatigna writes.

He also encourages homebuyers to adopt a more modest and calculated approach and to have a thorough understanding of the mortgage agreement before you sign.

"Buy a home that you can afford and that will still leave you with money to save, invest, and let you enjoy your life. Scale down your present wants and build for tomorrow," Scatigna writes.

The chapters are succinct and to the point and the advice seems sound. In any case, it's a good little read ... And there's no copay!

A native of Howell, N.J., Scatigna is a graduate of Rutgers University. He and his wife, Susan, his high-school sweetheart, and their two children reside at the Jersey shore.

**If you would like to win a copy of "The Financial Physician," courtesy of Career Press, e-mail me with your contact information at**

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