I can tell you who WON’T save us: the President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, the Security and Exchange Commission chairman, the Treasury Secretary, Uncle Ben of the Federal Reserve, or even a new President. No, what will get us out of this bind is the same thing that has gotten us out of binds in the past:
Getting back to basics.
Any football coach will tell you that when you’re down at half-time and getting whipped all over the field to focus on the basics of blocking and tackling. A track coach will tell you when you’re way behind to focus on each step and to keep your arms in and your pace steady. A golf coach will tell you to keep your head down and your left arm straight. A business coach will tell you to cut your expenses and grow your customer base. Getting back to the basics is the surest way to resolve any crisis.
Our “leaders” won’t listen to reason, so what are the financial basics WE need to focus on to insure that we, as individuals, have a secure financial future and that we don’t have to be bailed out (a personal bail out is called bankruptcy)?
1. Live within your means starting TODAY. C’mon. Do you really need a new car, boat, house, flat screen TV, vacation home, truck, plane, furniture, or wardrobe? Contentment will take you a long way financially so cut those expenses.
2. Budget your income starting TODAY. From this point forward, make it a practice to know where every cent of your income is going. Even if you don’t make enough to cover your current expenses, write a budget anyway. Make your money go where you want it to go.
3. Formulate a plan to get out of debt TODAY. Whether you prefer the Dave Ramsey method of paying off small balances first or you prefer to pay off the largest interest rate accounts first, start a plan to eliminate debt from your financial life.
4. Seek ways to diversify your income TODAY. Anytime you can make extra money, you can use those funds to work on your debt or help cover your expenses.
5. Save something out of every paycheck TODAY. Ideally, the larger the amount the better, but don’t be intimidated if you cannot save that “magical 10 percent.” Any amount is a start, and getting started is the hardest part of the game. Just get started. Only $5? It’s a start. People have come to this country with less and accomplished a great deal. So can you.
Nothing fancy. No shrewd moves. No collateralized debt obligations, no mortgage backed securities, no credit default swaps or anything that isn’t easily understood by a 5th grader. The basics are just that … the basics.
Where DO we go from here? The answer is anywhere you wish but only after you have gotten the basics down pat.