Forget 2002! Hoping to play the money game better in ’03, we asked Terry Savage, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, for some hot-new-cutting-edge advice. But Savage, author of The Savage Truth on Money, says a New Year’s renaissance starts with unchanging, basic principles. “Get organized,” she says. “Get out of debt, get control over your money, and discipline yourself to stick to a plan.” Here’s Savage’s three-part formula:

1. Organize your everyday cash flow. “You’ve got to know what’s going out and what’s coming in,” says Savage. For that, she strongly recommends online bill paying. Either sign up at your bank’s Web site or invest in a copy of Quicken Premier 2003 ($70). “That really lets you see where the money’s going,” she says. “You can pay anyone with online bill paying, from the phone company to your brother-in-law’s Super Bowl bet.”

2. Understand your investments. Point your browser to Morningstar (, free registration) and its “Portfolio X-Ray” feature. “This will show how diversified you really are,” Savage says. “You may own four mutual funds, but if they’re all growth funds, they probably own the same 15 stocks.”

3. Fine-tune your retirement strategy. For $40 a quarter or $150 a year, Financial Engines ( will develop and monitor personal investment and retirement plans. “They use very sophisticated modeling techniques to show the probability of likely outcomes,” Savage says. “You may want to take more risks, contribute more to a plan, whatever you need to be sure you’re moving toward those retirement goals.”