Fear of financial insecurity or financial literacy – why is it such a difficult choice?

Here it comes – every April since 2004 has been designated National Financial Literacy Month by the U. S. Government.  According to surveys that track this issue, U.S. adults are at best in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the world when it comes to understanding basic financial concepts such as compound interest.  Yet efforts to educate Americans is hard to encourage, as evidenced by financial literacy survey results.  According to the Wall St. Journal, only 57% of Americans passed a basic financial literacy test.  For the average American the fear of financial insecurity is very real and permeates their daily thinking.  It can affect their mental health and the stress  associated with financial insecurity can lead to physical health issues as well.

Financial-Literacy-1We owe it to ourselves to become educated on financial matters because we are our financial advisor.  From monthly budgeting and bill paying to retirement planning, we are our own best advocate to ensure our financial well-being both today and in the future.  It’s not that Americans don’t want to become starter about money. Most adults wish they had financial coursework. Only 5 percent say they were taught about money by a teacher, and 40 percent say they would give themselves C’s, D’s and F’s on their grasp of personal finance concepts. A full 85 percent of American parents believe that financial education courses should be a requirement for high school graduation. And 52 percent of teenagers want to learn more about money, and they’re most interested in budgeting, saving and investing.

How to get started on the road to better financial self-knowledge?

  1. List questions you have about your personal finances.  Making a list of things you’d like to know more about allow you to free your mind and get your fears on paper and out of your head.
  2. Start a financial journal.  If you don’t know where you are you’ll never get where you want to go.  Track your spending for a month.  Then total up where you spend your money and what you spend it on.  Ask yourself if your money is going to things you truly value.  Which expenses can you do without?  Which expenses can you cut?  Is there any opportunity to save a little money, even 10% of your take-home pay?
  3. List your financial goals.  Everything from this summer’s vacation to how much you want to retire with.  This list of goals is your financial roadmap.
  4. Meet with a trusted advisor to answer your questions and discuss your goals.  For most people, an hour with a personal banker at your local financial institution will be enough time to answer your questions and help you become familiar with the products and services they offer that can help you achieve your financial goals.

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