Summer is a great time to hit the reset button on your personal finances. Whether you are single, working it out with a spouse or partner or getting your family on the right financial footing, having healthy finances takes advanced planning, dedication, and good habits. Having healthy finances will not only help you to plan and achieve your dreams, but it will force you to create a backup plan for emergencies, loss of job, medical expenses, taking care of an elder, and other unforeseen circumstances. In this post we’ll look at the most common financial pitfalls and consider some of the most popular and tried and true tips from TV gurus and online programs, so you can bank on a stress free summer.
The Debt Trap: Debt impacts the lives of millions of individuals in the United States who are embarking on the beginning of their professional journeys. Unfortunately, their luggage is weighed down by personal debt, with the 2015 graduating class having the most student loan debt in history, as reported in this article from Mic.com. On the other end of the spectrum, those who are moving into retirement often don’t have enough money saved up to support their living costs as they age, according to this Boston College report from the Center for Retirement Research. Are there solutions to help both parties who are saddled with debt and diminishing capital?
If you’re like me, you’ve seen the bevy of programs out there, be it books, on-line financial tools, or step-by-step programs and may wonder if they are effective and worth your time and energy. Lets take a look at a few.
Using The Standard Pen and Paper Method or Relatively Low Tech Computer Spreadsheets
Performing sixth-grade math with your finances should be easy, right? Often, it is a practice in organization and focus. But with many struggling with outstanding debt and according to this CNN article, where the biggest three banks in the nation are making a large profit off of overdraft fees, maybe more people need better structure with their finances? Missing an entry here, or an accidentally deleted spreadsheet cell there, can lead to dire consequences. Self-tracking and accountability help, but what if you are looking for good advice from popular and proven financial experts, who have made money and achieved success in their own right?
The TV Money Gurus
I’ve listened to Suze Orman and her sometimes over-the-top show, and even though that has ended, soon she can be seen on Money Wars Until then you can watch reruns or visit her website, where she shares sound advice for saving money. Her top rules include no shame–no blame, take responsibility, cover yourself for emergencies and start saving for retirement early, and as many have heard her say, “if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Her programs, books, and guides on what to get, such as wills, trusts and the like get people, especially women, financially prepared to create a wealthy future, even when they face tough or surprising financial circumstances.
Another Top TV and Online Guru to look out for, if you haven’t already is Dave Ramsey. I’ve also listened to his work as have the many who have heeded his advice of living off of cash and destroying credit cards. With his religious, faithful and responsible approach, he puts a sobering yet positive spin on finances. He advises to create a budget, practice getting into the habit of recording it for 90 days and then for the rest of your life, using it to prepare finances a month in advance of account activity. And he suggests that a “budget” doesn’t have to be a dirty word; one that evokes fear, frustration or strain between couples, family, and individuals sorting out their own financial situations. It can in fact, when in check, leave couples happier and in healthier relationships. When everyone is on the same page financially, understanding where the money goes each day, month or year, there can be stability, confidence, and trust.
Similarly, Clark Howard often shares tips on repaying student loans, answering individuals’ questions on difficult circumstances, how to get good deals and avoid some pitfalls. He also discusses huge money-wasters and even tips on protecting your identity and how to enjoy the best vacations for less dough. He makes it entertaining, yet easily digestible.
Finding Online Apps and Programs This Summer
You may want to check out ICash, Quicken Starter, or various free web-based sites like Clear Checkbook, Mint, or Financial Fate. If you are following Dave Ramsey’s advice, it could take 90 days to get into the groove of getting on the right financial track, but getting control of a budget can reduce much unneeded stress in the long run. Before you know it, autumn is around the corner and you could see your financial statements looking better in no time flat.
Teachers, do you use personal finance software or follow the guides of gurus who lay it all out for you? Or perhaps you have a system in place that runs smoothly with minimal technology. Tell us what works for you or what financial goals you hope to reach this summer. What are the greatest challenges? Tell us at TeacherCents.
Melissa Heule, Freelance Writer