Here's the First FREE On-Line Issue of:
The Pocket Change Investor
The Secrets to Getting Ahead -- Even if You Have
A Pile of Credit Card Bills, Hefty Mortgage Payments, Loans Out on a Clunker or Two,
And a Bad Case of the "I'm Tired of Living Payday to Payday" Blues

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Welcome to Our First On-Line Issue!

Our format has changed but our goals have not. We want to help you save money, get out of debt, and live better on less. You can read the whole issue below, or click on these links for specific articles:

  • Stop Debt Collectors Cold. Bankruptcy attorney John Ventura explains what your rights are if you've fallen behind on your bills, and debt collectors are calling you at home and work.
  • Cutting the Cost of College. It's easy to get college credits by simply taking a test. Compared to the cost of tuition, these tests are cheap -- only $50 each.
  • The Times They Are A-Chargin' (not a typo). Thinking about giving The New York Times Book Review or a magazine subscription as a gift? Read this article if you don't want to be billed forever, or forced to fight with bill collectors.
  • A Money Saving Tip for Movie Buffs. How'd you like to rent videos and DVDs for FREE?
  • Curing the Patient Without Bleeding the Family. Here's a unique way to take a scalpel to health costs.
  • Emergency Preparedness Upstairs. You may not be able to use the staircase to get your family out in case of a fire. Here's how to get them downstairs safely, and in a hurry.
  • Book Corner. This issue's picks include two great books on starting a business of your own, one on how hormone replacement therapy became the cure-all for menopausal women (hint: think drug industry), as well as our own book, Invest in Yourself.
  • Good Advice for a Price. In the same way that you might hire a trainer at the gym, we can give you the individualized attention you need to solve a personal finance, business, lifestyle, or health problem.
One of the things I like to do in my letters is to give you a slice or two from our lives ... in the hope that it inspires or at least entertains you. For example, as I type, Marc is in the kitchen, not 30 feet away, processing home-grown peppers and shiitake mushrooms for our freezer. We cook them together, quick freeze them in ice cube trays, stuff them into plastic bags, and then pop as many as we'd like into whatever we're cooking during the long winter months.

The room where I'm sitting used to be our dining room, but I got tired of taking all our work stuff off the table when we wanted to eat. So the world headquarters of Good Advice Press now resides near the refrigerator, and we moved the dining room down the hall and past the staircase.

We recently tucked a dining room table into a corner of the living room, because we needed dining room #2 for, our newest Web site. We had 10,000 or so comics left from "Marc and Nancy Comics," our early 1980's adventure in retail, which we took out of storage and priced. Now, we're ready to sell them. Please tell every comic fan you know about our site!

While you may not have a pile of comics in the attic, it's well worth your time and energy to create what we call an "Ace in the Hole" -- a teeny, tiny business -- to provide for your family, should the you-know-what hit the you-know-where. (Click for our advice and book picks on being in your own business.)

We hope you enjoy our FREE e-letter, and that you'll forward it to everyone you think might benefit from our ideas.

Many thanks from Marc Eisenson and me!
Nancy Castleman

Our garden produces bumper crops of vegetables interspersed with flowers and the more than occasional weed (many of which are quite edible). Among the bounty are bushels of bird houses ... actually bird house gourds, which when dried, drilled, and hung, are frequently put to good use by birds.

This summer, one of our gourds was home to a pair of wrens. When their young 'uns were nearly fully feathered, and for reasons we can only guess, the parents disappeared. After long hours of waiting fruitlessly for them to return, we took the babies inside.

For the next 11 days, we were on almost continuous nursing duty, feeding them a concoction we came up with, along with aphids and assorted other bugs. When they outgrew the small box we had first kept them in, we built a cage, and furnished it with twigs, which they loved. When that closed in on them, tree branches and moths filled our guest room as the babies learned to fly and feed themselves.

Our hearts broke over the few who didn't make it, but the day came when the guest room was too small, they could eat on their own, and the greater world beckoned the four who remained. So we opened the window and watched as one by one, they flew off.

Baby Wren

We sure fell in love with those little wrens, as did the six of our nine grandkids who got to meet them -- Andrew, Stephen, Josh, Caity, Alison, and Lucy. It was a wonderful, grueling experience. We miss them terribly, and have great compassion for every parent who is now dealing with the empty nest syndrome.

Next time we rescue orphaned birds, which we hope won't be for a good long time, we'll raise them to be more neurotic. They never stop by, call, or write.

By John Ventura      
Editor's Note: Consumer lawyer John Ventura is a board certified bankruptcy attorney and the author of twelve books, including the new ebook, Stop Debt Collectors Cold.

Many people are falling behind on their bills because of too much debt, a slowed economy, and job layoffs, among other reasons. Eventually, some of these consumers will hear from a debt collector.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that it receives more consumer complaints about debt collection agencies than about any other industry, and as a consumer law attorney who counsels people with debt problems, I've heard my share of horror stories about people who have been abused by debt collectors. For example, a college student was threatened with arrest if she didn't pay a credit card debt, and another client was called 12 times in one day at work -- about a debt that was 14 years old.

Then there was the elderly client who tried to commit suicide because a debt collector told her that if she didn't pay a debt she owed by noon that day, she would lose her home. In each instance, these people could have avoided the emotional stress they experienced at the hands of aggressive debt collectors if they had been informed about their debt collection legal rights.

This article provides an overview of those rights so that you don't have to suffer like my clients did. It's bad enough to worry about how you are going to pay your bills. You don't need the additional stress of living in fear over what a debt collector will do to you if you can't pay them all!

The most important thing you need to know about debt collectors is that if they harass you or are verbally abusive, you don't have to put up with that behavior. Although many debt collectors are polite, some bad apples may use extremely aggressive tactics to pressure you into paying what they say you owe. However, despite what they may tell you, debt collectors cannot put you in jail, cannot make you lose your job, nor can they ruin your credit forever if you don't pay a debt. Furthermore, there's a federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which sets very strict limits on what debt collectors can and cannot do. Those limits include when they can call you, what they can say and what they can do to collect a debt.

The FDCPA in a Nutshell

The FDCPA applies to outside debt collection agencies -- agencies that are hired by creditors to collect debts from consumers -- but it does not apply to creditors who are collecting their own debts. However, your state may have a law that applies to in-house debt collectors. Call your state attorney general's office to find out. (Visit the National Association of Attorneys General for contact information.)

Among other things, the FDCPA says that debt collectors cannot:

  • Lie to you, use racial slurs or insults, or threaten you with violence.
  • Call you repeatedly, or call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Call you at work if you've told them you can't accept their calls on the job.
  • Contact your employer about a debt unless the debt collector is trying to collect past due child support payments from you.
  • Tell others about your debt.
  • Garnish your wages without taking you to court first. (If your wages are garnished, your employer will be legally obligated to take a certain amount of money out of your paychecks to pay off a debt that you owe. Some states limit the amount that can be garnished, while others do not allow wage garnishment at all.)
  • Make false statements, such as telling you they will ruin your credit "forever." (They can't. Collection accounts can be reported to credit bureaus for just seven and a half years from the date you first fell behind on that debt.)

Debt collectors can use the telephone or the mail when they first contact you about a debt they want to collect. However, they cannot send you a postcard about your debt, nor can they mail their correspondence in an envelope that indicates it's from a debt collector. Also, within five days of contacting you for the first time, the debt collector must send you a formal written notice about the debt and must include certain information in that notice.

You have the right, within 60 days of first being contacted by a collector, to ask for written proof of the debt. The FDCPA requires that the debt collector provide you with that proof. Be sure to ask for written proof if there is any question that you owe a debt or if you need time to figure out how to pay a debt that you know you owe.

Keep careful notes regarding each conversation you have with a debt collector and keep copies of all correspondence both to and from the collector. You may need this information if the debt collector violates your legal rights and you decide to sue.

You Can STOP Debt Collectors

If you don't want a debt collector to continue contacting you about a debt, you can write to tell that collector not to contact you anymore. After they receive your letter, the FDCPA requires that debt collectors cease all contact with you other than to let you know about a specific action they're going to take to collect your debt -- sue you for example.

You need to be aware, however, that there's a drawback to telling a debt collector to stop contacting you. Namely, you eliminate the option of trying to negotiate a payment arrangement with the debt collector or of settling the debt for less than its full amount. However, if you believe that you really don't owe a debt or if you truly can't afford to pay it, telling a debt collector to stop contacting you may make sense.

Time and again, I've seen collectors try to pressure consumers into paying up immediately by threatening to: tell others about their debt, seize their assets, take money out of their bank accounts, or garnish their wages. However, a debt collector cannot do any of these things without getting the court's permission first. Furthermore, you will have plenty of notice from the court about what a debt collector wants to do so you can hire an attorney.

What to Do If a Collector Violates the Law

If you believe that a debt collector has threatened you or otherwise violated your rights, contact a consumer attorney immediately. (Visit the National Association of Consumer Advocates for a referral to an attorney who has specific experience handling FDCPA cases.) Do not try to deal with such threats on your own.

Also, be sure to register a complaint against the debt collector with the Federal Trade Commission. And for much more information about dealing with debt collectors, visit my Web site, StopDebtCollectorsCold.

Did you know that it's easy to get college credits for what you already know by simply taking a test? Called the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), tests are offered in composition and literature, foreign languages, history, social sciences, math, science and business -- and are accepted at some 2,900 colleges.

Whether you've mastered the material via a high school course, life experience, independent study, or on-the-job training, for a mere $50, you can get the same number of credits as you would for successfully completing a semester-long course -- or even one that lasts a full year. Given what tuition costs these days, $50 beats the cost of every college course.

Each school has its own rules (of course), but chances are good that you'll save yourself money, be able to place out of introductory courses, and maybe even fulfill some of your school's core curriculum requirements. With the exception of a test called "English Composition with Essay" all the tests are scored instantly online. Visit the College Board for more information.

College On Your Mind?

There are a couple of articles on our site you'll find useful: College Bound? Get Ready for the FAFSA Race, which is about how college financing works, and Great College Investments You Can Make -- at Low or NO Cost.

Also see our top picks of the pile of books about college which includes traditional titles, like The Fiske Guide to Colleges, as well as books we've found more appealing to high schoolers, like The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, compiled by Yale students, and Up Your Score: The Underground Guide to the SAT.

The Times They Are A-Chargin' (not a typo)
By Marc Eisenson and Nancy Castleman

Back in December of 2001, a friend we'll call Olivia, spent $65 to give her boyfriend, pseudo-named Ethan, a one-year gift subscription to The New York Times Book Review section.

Tired of the papers piling up, she decided not to renew, and simply tossed the first few renewal notices she received. All the while, Ethan continued to receive the Book Review section every week.

Then last February, Olivia received a "suspension notice," followed shortly thereafter by a bill for $11.25 for the issues Ethan received from December, 2002 through February, 2003. At this point, Olivia was moved to respond -- she sent back the bill saying she didn't order the issues and wasn't going to pay for them.

The next piece of correspondance Olivia received was from International Media Concepts, Inc., which describes itself as "a collection agency representing The New York Times. Your New York Times account balance of $11.25 is seriously past due." (Emphasis not added by us.)

The letter went on to state: "We are attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose. Unless you, within 30 days after receipt of this notice, dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid. If you notify us in writing within the 30-day period that the debt or any portion thereof, is disputed, we will, upon your written request, obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against you ." (Emphasis added this time.)

What Would You Do?!

Say you got a letter like this about an $11.25 bill from a collection agency that mentioned a copy of a judgment against you. From the tone alone, wouldn't you worry about what would happen to your credit report? Would you just pay the friggin' bill or invest the time to fight it? Olivia chose to call the toll-free number.

Shirley, the customer service rep, said she'd been hearing from many people complaining about bills like the one Olivia had received. Shirley also said that there should have been a check-off box on those bills to indicate that Olivia didn't want to renew. In any event, Shirley said she couldn't do anything to wipe out the $11.25 bill.

Would you pay or continue to fight? Olivia chose to call The Times' subscription department, where Betty told her that automatic renewal was The New York Times' policy -- meaning that Olivia was liable for the bill and that she should have let the newspaper know she didn't want to continue the subscription -- even though all Olivia signed up for was a one-year subscription.

Knowing Olivia as we do, we're certain that the original order form she filled out didn't make the automatic renewals policy clear. She simply assumed it was like virtually every other magazine subscription, where you get an extra issue or two, as well as a few renewal reminders, before the publication gives up. You don't get a bill for the extra issues you're sent.

Is The New York Times Fabricating Again?

Olivia told all this to Betty, who reiterated the paper's automatic renewal policy and denied Olivia's request to speak with a supervisor. Betty said she was a senior rep, and anyone else would tell her the same thing. That's when Olivia let her know she thinks the policy stinks, and that she didn't appreciate having this $11.25 dispute show on her credit report.

Betty then told her it wouldn't appear on her credit report, and that International Media Concepts, Inc., is a part of The Times, and not a "real" collection agency. The $11.25 would show as a bad debt with The New York Times, and the only consequence would be that if Olivia ever subscribed to the paper in the future, she'd have to pay off the old debt first. Olivia said she'd never subscribe to anything from The Times again, so that wasn't going to be a problem, and she certainly wasn't going to pay for something she didn't order.

The dunning notices stopped, and Olivia's ignored more than a few other offers from The New York Times. She vows to read the fine print before she ever subscribes to anything again. You should do likewise! But watch out! Even though a publication has an automatic renewal policy, it may not be stated when you subscribe. You may only find out about it once the renewal notices start pouring in.

As for The Times well, consider this update: In researching this story, we went to the paper's Web site to see if there was any clear mention of its automatic renewal policy on subscriptions to sections like the Book Review. Finding it hard to locate any relevant info, we emailed a query, and received this response:

"A Book Review subscription is available for 1 year terms only. The product is mailed out 9 days before it appears in Sunday's newspaper. A 1 year subscription to the Book Review is $65.00. If you are interested in subscribing " blah, blah, blah.
A one-year term only and no mention of the automatic renewal! "That's great!" we thought. Maybe The Times has seen the light and no longer feels the need to rope people into paying for a "product" they didn't order, or to use a collection agency look-alike to catch any stragglers. But just to be sure, we sent in another query specifically about automatic renewals.

Here's the response we got: "In regards to your inquiry, the subscription will automatically renew, unless you request otherwise."

Request Otherwise!

Automatic renewals offer no benefit to subscribers, as far as we're concerned. The only beneficiaries are the publications -- or rather, the mega-corporate types who run them, and are so focused on the bottom line, they don't mind violating the trust readers have in them. (It's clear from The Times' emails to us that no editors had their hands on the copy.)

Whether it's a holiday gift subscription for a loved one or a publication for yourself, our initial thought was that you include a note that specifically says: "I am not authorizing you to automatically renew this subscription." But then, just to be sure, we called The Times' toll-free number, where we were instructed to call in about six months later to request a "stop date" -- that a year is too long for their system to register such a request. Hard to believe, huh?

Before you subscribe to any publication, make sure you find out if it has an automatic renewal policy. If it does, ask what you have to do to opt out. And while you have customer service on the phone, make sure to say that you don't want your name, address, or other personal information sold, traded, or rented to other marketers -- or to anyone else for that matter.

If you rent videos and DVDs, your local library can save you a bundle. Our librarian took the time to show us how to request them online, and although we've watched movies almost every night this summer, I don't think we went to the video store more than once. Instead, we've drawn on the resources of virtually every library in the region.

Pretty much every week, the librarian calls to let us know that there's a new shipment in for us. We get to keep the movies for a week -- and if we remember to bring them back on time, we can avoid the one catch -- the $1 a day late fee.

If there's a particularly hot recent release that you just have to have on a certain evening, the library probably won't be the way to go. (We were #63 on the waiting list for Bowling for Columbine back when we reserved it a couple of months ago, and we just saw it the other night.)

But, if like us, there's a pile of not-so-new movies you'd like to see, then I urge you to surf on over to your library's Web site -- if our town has one, yours probably does, too. If it isn't immediately obvious how to order videos, stop by and ask the librarian to give you a hands-on lesson.

You and your pocketbook will be glad you did.

Issue #34 carried an important article, "Health Insurance: Why You Need It," by Larry Roth,* one of our favorite editors-in-cheap. The gist was that if you don't have insurance, and you end up being hospitalized, you're going to pay an arm and a leg -- a lot more than you would even with a super high deductible -- so everyone needs health insurance.

Larry's case in point was his own one-week hospital bill for an infected leg, which was reduced from $36,000 to $6,000, simply because he had health insurance. As with drugs, insurers are billed far less than are the uninsured! With his high deductible, Larry had to pay over $4,000 -- a chunk of change, certainly, but it sure beats $36,000. (You can read Larry's entire article here).

We agree with Larry, and although the subject is maddening, we pretty much thought we knew the ins and outs. Then we learned about an alternative from Rhonda Barfield, author of Eat Healthy for $50 a Week and Real-Life Homeschooling, who sent an email in response to Larry's article.

Rhonda's family of six has not had health insurance for several years. As an alternative, they joined the Christian Brotherhood Newsletter Ministry(CBN), a charitable organization whose members help each other with medical needs.

"CBN doesn't claim to offer insurance," Rhonda explained. Instead, members send in a voluntary, set amount every month. "In our case, we pay $202 monthly with a $1,000 deductible per INCIDENT (not per year). We have to pay for all doctors' visits, prescription drugs, homeopathic remedies, etc., but the system is in place in case of catastrophic illness."

"Last year we were able to test the system twice," she explained, "once when I began experiencing something like anxiety attacks, which turned out to be related to menopause (thank God, only that), and also when our daughter had a bike accident. (YES, she was wearing a helmet.)"

"Through a freak accident," Rhonda reported, "Mary put a 2"-diameter hole in her knee, a really awful hole that looked like a bullet wound." Mary had to have emergency plastic surgery in the middle of the night.

"Total cost -- I forget exactly -- was well over $10,000. Unbelievable. However, except for the ambulance, CBN paid for almost everything. And even though uninsured, we were also able to get major discounts."

How? Rhonda simply called all the providers, explained the situation, and said she'd be most grateful for any discounts they could provide. "One gave none, most offered 20%, and one, 50%," Rhonda wrote. "I then totalled all the discounts and sent verification to CBN," which waives the $1,000 deductible for anyone who arranges discounts totalling more than $1,000.

"The end result was that we didn't have to pay one cent of the $1,000 deductible because of my work in getting discounts of about $1,300. ... Also, an uninsured friend of mine (not with CBN) whose daughter tallied a $26,000 hospital bill got a 100% discount. ... She filled out forms showing they were uninsured, and the hospital dismissed the entire bill."

The Downside

One drawback that Rhonda readily points out is that CBN is only available to Christians -- although there's no reason why others couldn't organize something similar. Also, strict guidelines must be followed: "For example," Rhonda wrote, "subscribers cannot smoke, and their pastor must certify that they are church members. Part of the reason for this is because members, in addition to sending in monthly payments, are also expected to pray for at least two people in need that month and to send cards of encouragement. One other drawback: payment takes about four to five months."

An Interesting Alternative in Ithaca, New York
In exchange for an annual fee ($100 for an adult, $75 for a spouse, and $50 for a child), members of the Ithaca Health Fund are entitled to payments for the uninsured parts of claims for broken bones, burns, stitches, emergency appendectomies, ambulances, etc., as well as extra discounts at health providers in and around Ithaca. As more people join, more kinds of claims will be covered. Membership is open to all, and payments have been made around the world.

Larry Roth Responds to Rhonda

"While it is possible that some medical providers may give discounts to the uninsured, that is solely at their discretion," Larry pointed out, describing two recent articles in the The Wall Street Journal about this situation. One man was still paying for his wife's hospitalization, and she'd died more than 20 years ago. Another was about a young woman who'd lost her job and had to have an appendectomy in New York. The article showed the discounts insurance companies would have received but which were denied to this woman without insurance -- even though she clearly couldn't pay the undiscounted price.

"It is good to know that some providers will work with the uninsured -- who are the people most likely to need help," Larry wrote. "But the fact of the matter is many providers will not cooperate. As I mentioned in my article, I could not believe the difference between what was billed and what was paid."

"Every uninsured person with whom I have contact has been able to get at least some kind of discount for medical bills," was Rhonda's response. "The CBN newsletter, for example, contains stories in every issue about discounts that were available just for the asking. Those stories confirm my personal experience. As CBN suggests, I put my story in writing, then followed up with phone calls to a real person."

The Morals of the Story

There's more than one way to skin a cat. Whatever you call it, in our view you need coverage for what used to be called catastrophic medical problems, which now include leg infections and injuries.

ASK!! Whether it's a hospital bill, a credit card interest rate, the price of home heating oil, or an insurance premium, if you think it's too high, see if you can get it lowered. Ask nicely, write if appropriate, and don't hesitate to speak to a supervisor (or the doctor). Whenever possible, comparison shop.

# # #

*Larry Roth is the author of Beating the System and The Best of Living Cheap News and the editor of The Simple Life. Although he stopped publishing Living Cheap News in 1999, back issues of his newsletter are still available. For more information, visit, or send a long SASE to Living Cheap News, PO Box 8178, Kansas City, MO 64112.

Emergency Preparedness Upstairs

I vowed that before our last issue came back from the printer's, I'd buy a rope ladder to keep near an upstairs window in case of fire. That way, Marc and I would have something besides the staircase to rely on if we have to get out in a hurry.

The good news is that we did get a ladder -- although making a choice wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. For example, the ladders come in different sizes -- did we need a 12-footer or a taller ladder? Since our bedroom is up one flight, the basic 12-foot model was plenty tall enough.

We had just about made our final selection when I noticed something like this on the box: Warning! Don't use this ladder more than once.

"That makes no sense!" I exclaimed. Why get a ladder we couldn't use in a fire drill? So we chose one that could be used again and again.

The bad news is that we haven't gotten it together to try it out yet! I vow that we will before you read this. (I better "schedule" that drill right away, since I won't have nearly as much time to procrastinate, with this issue going out electronically!)

Seriously, folks, make sure everyone has a way out of the upstairs in case of fire.


It's now jsut a few short hours before we expect to finally stop tinkering with this newsletter and send it into cyberspace. To keep my commitment, I stopped work long enough to have our fire drill. I was able to set the ladder up, climb out the window, and land on terra firma, all by myself. Quite an accomplishment, I think, given that I have zero mechanical ability. (That's only a slight exaggeration. My score was ten out of a possible 100 on the aptitude test we had to take in high school.)

In every issue, we recommend and offer books that we think you'll find particularly helpful. They're well written, and full of concrete, timely advice, but often not readily available in bookstores. Not all are the kind you'd want to read, cover to cover, at one sitting. But we think they deserve a space on your bookshelf, nonetheless. Our Good Advice Book Store reviews other important titles -- on debt management, personal finance, estate planning, real estate, health, family living, gardening, and so on.

Barbara Brabec has successfully undertaken a Herculean task. In updating her classic book, Homemade Money, she came up with so much new information, that instead of one book, she wrote two: Starting Smart! and Bringing in the Bucks! Both books are must-reads for everyone thinking about being their own boss.

Homemade Money: Starting Smart! ($24.95)

Subtitled, How to Turn Your Talents, Experience, & Know-How into a Profitable Homebased Business That's Perfect for You!, this is Barbara Brabec's detailed guide for home business beginners. It gives an intro to the work-at-home industry, shows which at home "opportunities" to avoid, and helps you figure out: what type of business is right for you, how to price your time, and how to blend your business life with your personal life. Also includes lots of resources -- books, online organizations, etc.

Homemade Money: Bringing in the Bucks! ($24.95) Subtitled, A Business Management & Marketing Bible for Home-Business Owners, Self-Employed Individuals, & Web Entrepreneurs Working from Home Base, Barbara Brabec's Bringing in the Bucks! picks up where Starting Smart leaves off. It will teach you how to do business on the Web, market your business with little or no money, solve time, money, and space problems, manage stress, and fight burnout. We got more than a few leads from this volume, which we'll be putting to good use.

The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women ($24.95) The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth, by women's health advocate Barbara Seaman, looks at why doctors have been prescribing estrogen to combat the effects of aging and menopause, and to prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis, and many other diseases. Seaman's painstaking research shows the role the pharmaceutical industry has played in driving the use and research of hormone replacement therapy. With one out of eight women likely to develop breast cancer, it never made any sense to us for women to take a drug that helps most breast tumors grow -- estrogen. And given the findings in recent health studies -- that estrogen causes more problems than it solves -- this book is a must read for everyone who wants to understand corporate America.

Invest in Yourself ($22.95)  Hardback on Sale: $11.95 If you're interested in our ideas, this book, written by the two of us, along with credit expert Gerri Detweiler, is the one to get. The advice we offer in Invest in Yourself: Six Secrets to a Rich Life is more important now than ever. Vicki Robin says we "Blast through the muddled notions our culture has about money and offer smart and simple approaches to every aspect of your financial life." Jay Conrad Levinson says it "offers rock-solid advice presented with warmth and easy reading." Terry Savage calls it a "perfect gift ." There's time for you to get it, read it, and give it away for the holidays.

By Nancy Castleman

Even if I do say so myself, Marc and I make complicated, sometimes overwhelming subjects easier to understand. Could you or someone you know benefit by having some of our time and energy focused solely on a particular problem or opportunity -- be it a personal finance, business, lifestyle, or health issue? In the same way you might hire a personal trainer at the gym, we can get you on the right track. We can also save you time, money, and grief. For example, say you need info and advice about how to:

Get up to speed on a newly diagnosed disease without reinventing the wheel. People knowledgeable about their disease and involved in treatment decisions have better outcomes than people who are more passive. We can do the initial research for you, or guide you through the maze. When Marc and I researched breast cancer treatment options, following my diagnosis back in 1990, it was much more difficult to do than it is today. Based on our research, we made conscious choices about my treatment, and I'm sure glad we did. Otherwise, I don't think I'd be here today!

Develop a Web site for your small business without it taking years or costing you an arm and a leg. A few hours worth of email exchanges and phone calls with us will help you get the site you want, sooner and cheaper, whether you design it yourself or work with a pro. Marc designed this Web site, as well as the site for Just Alan, his brother's wonderful gift store in Woodstock, NY, and for Again with the Comics (our new site to finally part with the 10,000 or so comics we've had for about 20 years).

Publicize a book, service, cause, or other product. We've been at it since 1984, and we've learned how to get the word out on the cheap, with or without a publicist. Chances are, you first heard about us through a write-up in a newspaper or magazine. If there's an idea you want to get out there, an hour or two of brainstorming with us should do the trick.

You name it ... how you can ...

  • Self-publish the book of your dreams -- or see if you can get a mainstream publisher to bite.
  • Find a great place to live and raise the kids.
  • Get your folks to finally develop an estate plan and/or to finally develop one of your own.
  • Start a home-business as a cushion against hard economic times and to save money on taxes.
  • Get out of debt or become a smart money manager who knows it pays to focus on debts as much as investments.
  • Simplify your family's lifestyle without anyone feeling too deprived.

Interested? Tell us how we can be of service in a brief email message sent to We'll get back to you asap with our thoughts about what the project would cost and what the time frame would be.

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This issue of The Pocket Change Investor is dedicated to Paul Havemann and the other great folks at HSH Associates, the nation's largest publisher of consumer loan information, and the host for our Web site!

We take more than reasonable care to give you timely, accurate information. But before making major decisions, speak to your advisors.

Issue #35 ©2003 Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman  Good Advice Press  PO Box 78  Elizaville, NY 12523