How long will you keep making promises to yourself to do better with your money?
A poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 66 percent of survey participants want financial stability but don’t know how to get there.
“It is deeply concerning that so many are unclear about how to reach that objective,” said Bruce McClary, a spokesman for the NFCC. “With a few initial steps, most people could be on their way toward achieving what they had initially thought to be impossible.”
Is this the year that you finally create an emergency fund that you don’t raid until there is truly a crisis, such as losing your job or having to pay a huge car repair bill?
What will it take for you to finally put together a budget or get rid of that credit card debt eating away at your wealth?
When will you get started? Tomorrow?
My youngest child once said something to me that I recall often when I procrastinate. She’s 14 now, but she made the pronouncement when she was just 4. I had been promising to do something for her and kept putting it off. I kept telling her I would do it “tomorrow.”
After a few days, my daughter woke up and said, “Mommy, today is tomorrow.”
Decide today that 2015 will be the year you get your finances in order. You will budget. Save. Get enough life insurance if you need it or become a better money manager so you can teach your children to be good with their finances.
And I have a way to help you. Last year, hundreds of readers nationwide joined me in doing a fast based on my book “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.” Before Christmas, people began to ask if I was going to do the fast again.
I’ve decided to make it an annual financial fitness ritual. So, this year’s group fast will begin on Jan. 11. If you’ve done it before, you know the drill: For 21 days, you can’t buy anything that is not a necessity, and — this is the hardest for some — you can’t use your credit cards. But at the end of it, you’ll have set yourself up for a better financial life.
The benefit of doing the fast together is that we can all support one another. I’ll be doing it along with you, and I want to hear from you on Twitter (@singletarym) and by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On Monday, Jan. 12, I’ll host a Twitter chat at noon. Plus, stay tuned for announcements about other special things we’ll be doing during this fast.
Happy New Year! Come chat with me at noon Eastern time for my first live chat of 2015. I’m available to answer your financial questions.
Join the chat by clicking this link.
Bankrate’s first Money Pulse poll this year focused on family budgeting. “Most Americans keep some kind of household budget,” wrote Bankrate’s Claes Bell. “But fewer than 4 in 10 have the cash to handle a substantial cost outside their budgets.”
Here are some other highlights from the survey:
• 20 percent of men said they keep a budget in their head vs. 16 percent of women.
• 22 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 budget with a smartphone app.
• 20 percent of respondents earning less than $30,000 a year don’t keep a budget, vs. 13 percent of those making $75,000 or more.
To help folks figure out how to create a budget, keep to it or just save, Jean Chatzky, a contributing editor for Bankrate.com, asked several money pros, including me, what they would recommend. Here’s what some of them had to say:
• Farnoosh Torabi, host of “So Money,” a daily podcast: “Fry the big fish first. We tend to obsess over cutting out the small stuff like our gym membership and daily double-shot lattes. And while, over time, those costs can certainly add up, you can sometimes make a more immediate and greater impact on your budget by reducing bigger ‘fixed’ expenses such as housing or car insurance.”
• Lauren Young, money editor at Thomson Reuters: “Never, ever pay retail prices — or shipping costs, if you buy online. Your first line of attack to find the best deals: e-mail. Get on the e-mail lists of your favorite retailers.”
• Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com: “Set up direct deposits from your paycheck into a checking account equal to the amount of your monthly budget, with a separate direct deposit for any difference into your emergency savings.”
• Ric Edelman, chairman and chief executive of Edelman Financial Services, says don’t worry about setting up a budget. “If you want to create wealth, focus on saving and investing. After you figure out how much you need to save monthly and what investments to choose, go ahead and spend the rest of your money however you wish.”
Read here what other experts had to say.
Bankrate.com will hold a budget Twitter chat at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. Use the hashtag #mybudget. If you register for the chat, you will be entered for a chance to win one of four $50 Amazon gift cards.
Do you agree with Edelman that a budget is a waste of time? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your full name, city and state. In the subject line, put “Budgeting for 2015.”
“The most financially challenging state of life is not retirement, it is early career,” says Linda Stern, a senior personal finance correspondent for Reuters.
Although many seniors have a hard financial time, young adults struggle because they are just starting out and their salaries are probably low. “But you have the longest list of expenses: career clothes, cellphone bills, your first home furnishings, cars, weddings, rent,” Stern points out.
So, she has some tips for the young and financially squeezed:
• Feed the 401(k) to the match, not the max
• Get rid of credit card debt.
• Pay down student loans.
There’s more good advice here.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.