Weekly business rail, with tips on financial plans, a look at the most expensive fictional homes and more.

Tip of the Week

Organization, discipline and a sense of purpose. They sound like qualities a football team would stress, but they can also be virtues in helping you achieve your financial goals. You can take several steps on your own to help build a successful financial game plan.

- Know yourself: Take inventory of your finances. Calculate your assets -- cash, IRAs, mutual funds, real estate, life insurance -- and your liabilities, like a mortgage or consumer debt and deferred income taxes on investments. Prioritize your objectives by what's most important to you. Determine your current tax bracket and understand its implications for your strategy.

- Start saving now: Assuming an average 8 percent annual return and a retirement age of 65, every dollar saved at age 25 is worth nearly five times as much as a dollar saved at 45.

- Take stock of the market: Mutual funds may be a good way to start in the stock market. Find one that's well managed and meets the risk profile you will be comfortable with. If you can, sign up for the built-in discipline of an automatic investment program.

- Curb your credit cards: If your total monthly debt payments (excluding your mortgage payments) are 20 percent or more of your monthly take-home pay, you're probably overextended. Analyze your debts and see if any of the interest rates are more than the after-tax return on your invested savings. If they are, it makes sense to pay off these loans out of your savings. If you can't pay off your credit cards in full every month to avoid paying interest, shop around for the card with the lowest available rate.

- Be wise with windfalls: If you come up with a significant lump sum such as a bonus or inheritance, try to resist the urge to buy the hot sports car you've always dreamed of. Your long-term financial future will probably be a lot rosier if you invest at least part of it.


The List

According to Forbes’ annual Most Expensive Fictional Homes list, Xanadu from “Citizen Kane” leads the way. Here are the top 20; for more information on how Forbes made the list, go to Forbes.com.

1. Xanadu
2. Rich Manor
3. Burns Manor
4. Vault 101
5. Pemberly
6. Wayne Manor
7. Toad Hall
8. Corleone Compound
9. House on Boardwalk
10. Tony Stark's House
11. Southfork Ranch
12. Drummond Apartment
13. Croft Manor
14. Jay Gatsby's Mansion
15. Tony Montana's Mansion
16. Beverly Hillbillies Mansion
17. Hell Hall
18. Tara Plantation
19. Barbie's Dream House
20. House of Usher

Number to Know

0: Number of Ford shares billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian now owns. After buying them early in 2008, he recently dumped them all.

Quote of Note

“You are going to see a substantial retrenchment in the retail industry. The downturn has been catastrophic."

Financial expert Rick Chesley, as told to the Associated Press, on the fallout from the season’s dismal numbers for retailers.

GateHouse News Service