A recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) poll reveals that the overwhelming majority of consumers surveyed (92 percent) have a fear of running out of money, or FORO.
Root causes of this fear vary. Sixty-four percent of respondents fear they will not having enough money to pay monthly bills, 14 percent fear not having enough funds to comfortably retire, 11 percent fear having enough for unplanned expenses, and 3 percent fear not being able to finance their children’s education.
Finding stable financial ground today will relieve stress and allow planning for future needs to begin. To get started, the NFCC suggests that consumers put the following five steps in place:
1. Begin saving - People without a well-funded savings account are living on a slippery financial slope, as unplanned expenses are inevitable. When money is tight, saving is often low on the list of priorities. To remedy the situation, consider living on a cash basis – people who pay with cash typically save 20 percent over their previous spending with plastic. Pretend that any raise, bonus, birthday money or other windfall money never happened and instead direct it toward savings. Aim to build up the rainy day fund to equal one month’s salary, as this should be sufficient for most short-term emergencies.
2. Track spending - A leak can’t be plugged until it has been identified, and finding a financial leak starts with tracking spending. Have everyone in the family who spends money write down their spending for 30 days. It is critical to include incidental spending, as small leaks can add up to be big problems. At the end of the period, have a family council to review the spending, making joint decisions as to how the money should be spent moving forward. Make necessary cuts and allocate the money toward the categories that the family determines are most important. The unity that results from this type of decision-making process will likely produce a greater level of success, as everyone will be moving in the same direction.
3. Create a cash-flow calendar – This is perhaps the easiest step, but will increase financial awareness. On a calendar devoted to finances, record all sources of income and the associated paydays. Next, note which bills are due to be paid during the various pay cycles. If there’s not enough money available to meet a debt obligation on its due date, call the creditor and find out if the date can be moved. This will prevent overdrafts, late payments and fees.
4. Decrease debt - Debt is expensive. Face the financial facts, write down and total the existing debt and associated interest paid each month. The totals may be shocking, but will hopefully spur action. Ignoring the problem will only make matters worse. If help is needed to create a realistic debt repayment plan, reach out to an NFCC member agency.
5. Set goals - Make a list of short-term goals for the next 12 months. Make a separate list of long-term goals. Now go back and include dates and dollar amounts with each goal and decide which can realistically be met. Goals that aren’t achievable only serve to discourage and potentially derail the entire plan. Knowing the objective, timing and financial commitment necessary to meet the goal will bring a sense of purpose to overall spending decisions.
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.