I don’t know about you, but I have a few savings accounts in a couple of bank institutions. The unfortunate truth is that I probably have more money stashed away in our bedroom ceramic piggy bank than those account numbers will reflect on my monthly statements.
I’m in my thirties, I should have a healthy Roth IRA account (raided last year during a period of joblessness in my family), I should have emergency cash in an a FDIC protected bank account to help us survive in the case of a medical or joblessness emergency, I should have a nice savings account started already for my 2-year-old son. Reality check: I just did a transfer from my son’s account to our checking to cover an unexpected expense this week.
The good news is our credit card debt has dramatically dwindled from the terrible amounts it once was back in our twenties and so forth. We have a couple of credit lines open, one of which actually still has a balance to be paid off and is scheduled to be completed within the next couple of months.
But what is it with us that we can’t seem to get a good savings “nest egg” in place? Why do I envision my husband and I spending our golden years as a bag boy and bakery lady in our local Publix grocery store rather than having the money to survive from our younger years? Did our grandparents and parents really have it more together than we do in the personal finance department or is there another factor(s) to consider? Allow me to touch on a few main issues I think those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond may be running into with their financial health: STUFF, FOOD, HOUSING and TRAVEL.
Perhaps there is more to this 5-letter word than we recognize. Could it be that we just have so much more stuff available to the everyday Joe. While stores like Wal-mart and Target have great deals overall, they also contain a lot things that we may not necessarily need but have at our consumer fingertips. How many times have we walked into a store (hello Wal-mart) intending to only spend about $10 and then standing at the register looking at the cash register lady with a shocked face at the $111.59 total on the screen?
So we need food to survive, including beverages and even water itself (bottled costs so much more than our tap but who really trusts the tap water in their city?). If you add up your monthly receipts from food you buy in stores, the amount will astound you. If you go further and tally up all the food you buy in restaurants/fast food joints/et cetera and add that to the prior food bill, you may lose your appetite for the rest of the week. In our time-crunched society, it has gotten very difficult to balance our work/family lives with the need to feed and actually try to cut costs at the same time. Add to that the sad fact that our food costs in general are rising (read: food inflation) and we really are up against a financial wall.
Whether you own or rent, you are still facing a bill every month, every year and there is no escaping the hidden fees with it all. If you are an unfortunate homeowner like my husband and I, you may find you cannot even sell your place after you’ve moved away (that’s us, by the way) and so you either end up renting or staying with family that all will include some sort of monthly cost on top of what you already own a bank(s) with your mortgage loan. If you rent solely, you have a little more relaxed of a cost monthly but you face whatever rental fees are included and cannot control when they raise the rent or change the rules.
Perhaps we shouldn’t travel. Never see your family, forget your friends. Ditch the idea of seeing new places, exposing your children to new cultures. If you haven’t noticed, air travel continues to serve up new frustrations with new fees and brilliant Spirit airlines took the first step toward charging for your carry-on. Can these airlines just go ahead and raise their overall fares already and stop with the mental fee torture? I’ve begun traveling by road trip style not just because of the cost of air travel but its overall hassle and stress–the TSA security process only a scratch on the surface. I can’t stop seeing family and friends, I refuse to live life as a hermit and so I must be creative in the future so I can afford to travel.
I hope this little posting hasn’t depressed you, in fact I hope that either you’re better than us and have it financially together or if not that this helps inspire you to tackle some issues head-on. This week we are switching from our outdated Microsoft Money software to the latest Quicken financial software to help plot out what our family needs are and how those compare to our inlays and outlays. Some banks offer similar help through their own programs online. You can meet with a financial advisor if you need one-on-one assistance. One of my favorite financial TV personalities is Dave Ramsey: his website is www.daveramsey.com
Wherever you or your family are financially are, you can change that this week and even if it takes a while going forward with active changes in your spending and saving, it will be worth the effort to be able to go to sleep at night without the headache of always living paycheck to paycheck with credit cards as the survival mode in between. Let’s hope we can get it together even if our nation is going further into debt and taxes are inevitably rising.