How to Live for Today With the right plans in place for the future, you can enjoy the present
By Robert Safian/Managing Editor

(MONEY Magazine) – We make everything too hard on ourselves. We worry about whether our home would fetch as much as a neighbor's, even though we have no intention of selling. We let uncertainty about how to bequeath our assets prevent us from writing a will. We build elaborate portfolio plans that require continuous readjustment.

Truth is, simpler is often better. And simple doesn't have to mean simplistic. This month's cover story, "The 15-Minute Retirement Plan" (page 50), is a perfect example. There are thousands of retirement worksheets and Web calculators that claim to help you optimize your savings program; we've even recommended a few of them ourselves in the past. But we also know that a handful of key steps provide the lion's share of any wealth building. And that the complications of the "perfect" plan often do little more than deter us from getting into the game at all. That's why we've boiled down the core principles of smart retirement planning to six easy-to-follow steps. As senior editor Marion Asnes, who wrote our 15-minute plan, explains, "Just because it's easy to execute doesn't mean it's not sophisticated." Whether you are just starting out or well along in your retirement planning, our program reinforces what really matters in the helter-skelter advice out there and steers you clear of those overcomplications that can stop you in your tracks.

Another simple truth: As much as we plan for tomorrow, we want to live for today. "Great Trips, Great Prices," on page 60, shows how to enjoy the benefits of the good life--without having to sacrifice your future. Lead writer Donna Rosato (who covered the travel beat for USA Today for several years prior to joining MONEY) explains why now is the best time in years to head for the hills (or the seaside). Rosato and her team identify a slew of specific travel opportunities, along with strategies that can apply to any vacation planning. Plus, they outline the best ways to use frequent-flier miles and travel agents in our new, more consumer-friendly travel landscape.

Finally, on page 143, we inaugurate the Chatzky Program, a new column from editor-at-large Jean Chatzky. Part of a joint effort with NBC's Today to help 100,000 Americans pay down their debt and improve their credit by year-end, this column is the first in a nine-part series. There is no bigger wealth killer--or more potent emotional drag, financially speaking--than carrying too much debt. Jean's program teaches how to get ahead of that problem and stay there.


WE'RE EAGER TO GET YOUR FEEDBACK. e-mail or write to me at MONEY, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.