David Libby, President and CEO at Town & Country FCU, discusses the importance of getting a handle on your finances in this opinion editorial published in the Portland Press Herald for National Financial Literacy Month. He highlights that the path one takes to financial wellness should be unique and defined by the individual on the journey.
The text of his commentary is below:
April has again been designated as National Financial Literacy Month, an opportunity to give your finances a checkup. No matter what time of year, getting a handle on where your finances are and how to get them where you want to go can be a challenge. Remember, your path to financial wellness is unique to you and is defined by you.
Of course, your financial wellness journey should include many of the basic financial concepts, including your budget, your income, your expenses and short- and long-term financial goals. Once you’ve done a short assessment of where you are and where you want to be, then the choice of how to get there is up to you. But, just as there are many different routes when driving to the same destination in a car, take the one that feels comfortable to you. In other words, you do your thing and let others do their thing. The only ones who should be keeping up with the Joneses are the Joneses.
Often, the first steps on your financial wellness journey can be the most difficult. Your financial check-in should include evaluating your debt, the interest rates you are paying on your credit card(s), and other fees. Reach out to financial partners to discuss your personal financial situation and start a dialogue. Together, you could find ways to reduce or consolidate your debt payments and get a better interest rate on your credit card that is more affordable and can save you money. Other free resources may be available, including money management tools that can offer tips and information to help you achieve your goals.
In addition to being National Financial Education Month, it is also Youth Financial Literacy Month. This is a good time to have an age-appropriate discussion about finances with your kids, grandkids, or other children in your life. Talking about money should not be taboo, and neither should sharing financial challenges and experiences. As an adult, you can play a role in helping kids have a better understanding and awareness about finances. For younger kids, make sure they have a savings account of their own and encourage them to save on a regular basis. For older kids, it may be time for a debit card connected to an account. Some, including Town & Country, offer free debit cards for teenagers, so you can avoid getting a stand-alone card that charges monthly fees. As a joint account owner, you can monitor their activity, transfer funds, and more, without paying unnecessary fees, while still giving them a sense of financial independence. If you start children on their financial wellness journey at an early age, you can play a part in making their financial road less bumpy.
If you have a spouse or significant other, hopefully, you’re on the same path, or at least a similar one. Either way, it’s good to have frequent discussions of your financial situation so you both understand where you are and what, if any, changes need to be made so you can make those decisions together.
Finally, determine what financial wellness means to you. Is it having a better understanding of your finances? Is it setting and reaching saving goals? Is it making a budget and sticking to it? The point is that financial wellness has different meanings for different people. Decide what you want it to mean for you, and then see where you are in your journey. You may be well on your way. You may not be. There is no wrong answer.
The path to financial wellness is rarely a straight line. It can be filled with bumps, detours, U-turns, and obstacles that can and may get you off course. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance from professionals, trusted friends, and other experts. With perseverance, understanding, and commitment, your definition of financial wellness is possible and you can (eventually) get there from here.