Make Time to Keep Your Financial House in Order.
by Humberto Cruz
It's our job to keep track of our bank balance so we don't bounce checks, use a debit card, or make automated teller machine withdrawals for money we don't have.
I remember it vividly, recent news coverage of legislation
"When you're busy trying to make a living and raising a family," she said passionately, "who has time to keep track of the balance on your bank account?"
My reply, more passionate still: Make time. It is our job, particularly when raising a family, to manage our money responsibly.
It is our job to keep track of our bank balance so we don't bounce checks, use a debit card, or make automated teller machine withdrawals for money we don't have.
It is our job to educate ourselves about money so we don't waste it on overdraft fees or lose it in risky and inappropriate investments.
It is our job. As I retire from The Savings Game, I leave you with these four key words.
Over the course of 1,028 weekly columns, dating back to April 1991, I have emphasized these basic principles for financial success. They all entail personal responsibility:
Spend less than you make.
Save and invest the difference wisely for the goals most important to you.
Identify your goals clearly.
Calculate how much you have to save and the investment returns you need so you don't take more risks than necessary.
And never forget that money is only a tool. True happiness comes from commitment and relationships, not material wealth.
All this is very simple but not necessarily easy to accomplish.
Human nature conspires against us, tempting us to blow our money on useless "stuff" or on fleeting pleasures with no lasting value. Or we succumb to the siren song of promised fat and fast profits and gamble our money in high-risk, complex and questionable, if not fraudulent, investments.
Without financial discipline and common sense, we can be our own worst enemies. Worse than any "fat bankers" on Wall Street, "evil" credit card companies or unscrupulous "advisers" pitching unsuitable high-commission products.
We do need to watch out for excessive bank and credit card fees, and reject inappropriate, self-serving or downright fraudulent investment pitches. Over the years, rules and laws have been necessary and always will be to rein in abusive practices.
But we are still in charge. We -- not the government, our employer or anybody else -- are responsible for our financial well-being. Even if we hire a professional adviser, we are ultimately responsible for accepting and following any recommendations.
Responsibility brings rewards. The most inspiring letters I've received came from readers who never earned much money but saved regularly and invested with discipline to reach a comfortable, worry-free lifestyle. Part of taking responsibility is learning to play with the cards we are dealt -- while looking to draw better cards in the future with smart and honest play.
You could say my wife, Georgina, and I weren't dealt great cards. Not wanting us to grow up in a communist country, our parents made the sacrifice to leave our native Cuba in 1960 -- along with their homes and possessions -- while we were teenagers.
To afford college, Georgina and I had to work. After we were married, we lived in a rented one-bedroom apartment. It took six years to save for a down payment on a "starter" two-bedroom home. Today we own a beachside home free and clear and enjoy a secure retirement we built through steady savings and investments. We'll continue to manage our money to make sure it lasts as long as we live.
After all, it is our job. I wish you much success with yours.
Article: © Tribune Media Services
Personal Finance: "Make Time to Keep Your Financial House in Order."