It's common for individuals to seek all forms of independence throughout their lives. Small children, teens, young adults, young couples, boomers, seniors, even centenarians all seem to dislike being told what to do or when to do it. Most individuals want to make their own decisions about their destiny and do what they please whenever possible. We are all seeking to be INDEPENDENT!
However, we don't seem to be residents of planet earth long enough, to amass the knowledge it would take to make independently educated decisions about all areas of life. For instance we may have an interest in medicine and enjoy reading and studying different aspects of it. However, without the proper training and experience it's unlikely that we could be proficient at surgery. Likewise, this example applies to all other areas of our lives including our FINANCES.
A well known motivational speaker once said at a seminar "Money is definitely not the most important thing in life. However, it's a close second to oxygen!" Everyone in the audience laughed, but it's really sad that so few people treat their finances as something that is really important in their life. Financial understanding and planning seems to be something we could worry about tomorrow. After all, today like yesterday was meant for spending. Right?
I'm always amazed at articles written by well known economists and business leaders boasting that the U.S. economy is doing well because of strong consumer spending and home sales. Then the next article I'll read says that in the past few years, consumers have borrowed over 2 TRILLION dollars in credit card and auto debt according to the Federal Reserve. Add mortgages and that figure jumps to 10 TRILLION dollars. Read on further and you learn that credit card charge offs and other bad debt in 2004 hit 65 BILLION dollars. These numbers will give you an idea of how consumers, who are supposedly driving our economy, are managing their finances. They use two magic words - "Charge it"!
If all age groups seek all forms of independence as described above, why does financial independence take such a low priority in many people's lives? I've conducted several polls on Financial Management and learned that the top vote from respondents say they invest 2-4 hours or LESS a MONTH on Financial Management affairs. Compare that to a poll we conducted where the top vote from respondents indicated they spend 3-4 hours a DAY watching TV. Thus, it's easy to conclude from these last two paragraphs that money management is not a very high priority to many individuals. Is it any wonder that 10 TRILLION in debt has been amassed in recent years?
My advice is to begin better money management today rather than tomorrow and learn the phrase "cash flow" in its simplest form. Now, you don't have to go to school to learn about cash flow. Just find someone over 80 years old and ask them about their credit card debt. They will say "What's that?" I never spend money that I don't have in my pocket! My Mom and Dad didn't take an economics course in school or college. They learned from their parents, who probably learned from their parents the simple meaning of cash flow. Granted the temptation of credit cards were not around back then to seduce them. But their disciplines were incredible when it came to spending wisely and saving up for an item before they purchased it. With CASH!
It's the beginning of a new year and a great time to get serious about your finances regardless of your current financial condition. If you have been fortunate enough to be disciplined and have amassed assets instead of debt work harder this year than last year to improve your return on your investments. Interest rates are climbing and dividends are taxed at lower rates than ever before. Keep up with the changes in tax laws regarding IRA's and 401k's. Plan, plan, plan!
If you are less fortunate or have not been a disciplined spender, and have amassed debt instead of assets then work harder at relieving yourself from financial slavery to your creditors. Their ridiculous interest rates and fees will make life miserable for you if you allow it. If you are a member of the 2 TRILLION dollar club mentioned above, and can't figure out a way out of the mess you are in, seek some competent professional assistance. Get your SPENDING habits under tight controls and stop making any new debts. Then pay down your debt as quick as possible to stop the fee and interest bleeding. Don't put off your financial management until tomorrow. It will only get worse if you do nothing.
Today can be the first step you take toward a brighter financial future. It's never too early in your lifetime, to begin worrying about your financial independence. Don't fool yourself into believing that because you are only 25, it's time to party and spend, then worry about your finances at 35 or so. Start worrying NOW! Spend less and save more and get serious about being financially independent in the future.