Money management is important for all
Last summer, I had the opportunity to study “across the pond” at Oxford University. While there, I used up roughly 75% of my spending money buying Moo-Moo’s milkshakes. It was perhaps not the most intelligent budgeting on my part, but what can I say? Those milkshakes were heavenly.
My escapades in England exemplify how essential it is to be well-versed in the art of money management. It seems that I am not alone in my lack of financial expertise.
Bills.com, a financial services website, cites the N.Y. Federal Reserve’s 2018 Q4 Household Report, which estimates that “total household debt increased by $32 billion (0.2%) to $13.54 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2018. Furthermore, overall household debt is now 21.4% above the post-financial-crisis trough reached during the second quarter of 2013.”
It’s clear that many Americans need to work on their budgeting skills. This is a crucial skill regardless of one’s stage of life; after all, we all use money on virtually a daily basis, and older adults and teens each face their own unique monetary challenges.
Some common issues
If you are over the age of 65 and retired, you may be well-acquainted with the widespread problems relating to paying for healthcare and living off of Social Security and a fixed income.
In addition, a lesser-cited yet prevalent problem faced by older adults is debt from student loans. Many baby boomers are experiencing financial difficulties over their debt obligations as guarantors of student loans for their children and grandchildren. Roughly 2.2 million Americans over the age of 60 have co-signed student loans for their offspring, making them responsible for any debts their children are unable to pay.
These types of monetary plights only scratch the surface of what older adults experience as they struggle to manage money today.
Money can also be a source of stress for teens. Adolescents are beginning to take on financial responsibility for themselves. Many parents expect their teenagers to get jobs and pay for their own expenses or even contribute to their college tuition.
My parents, for instance, strongly encouraged me to get a job when I turned 16, and they require me to pay for most of my non-essential expenses, such as movie tickets and lunches with friends.
Without years of financial experience, teens often struggle with money management, a skill that will become increasingly important as they age and become independent.
Of particular importance for older adults: before you sign any documents or make decisions, consult with financial advisers, attorneys or your banker. Scammers are very sophisticated today, and two heads are better than one when evaluating “opportunities.”
Be vigilant at all times. When you’re on a website, do not click on advertisements or supposed lottery winnings, as they are likely scams. The same is true of emails from people you don’t know who are promising you something too good to be true.
To prevent fraud, don’t forget to shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
Lock up checkbooks and account statements when in the company of others, and, of course, never give out personal information such as your Social Security number or credit card numbers to people you don’t know who call or visit you.
The most important lesson for teenagers to learn is how to budget and to spend less than they earn. This can be a challenge for teens eager to buy the latest video game or to go on a shopping spree at the mall with friends.
An effective way to prevent teens from using their money inappropriately is to encourage them to divide it into sections: spend, save and give. This may help them to avoid blowing all of their savings on a single item.
It is also wise to teach teens how to use a credit card and how to tip at a restaurant. By instilling healthy financial habits in teens, it is far more likely that they will be intelligent spenders and savers in the future.
The next time you interact with a younger friend, discuss some strategies you both can use for money management. Talk about the importance of effectively budgeting money, and trade tips to avoid scams.
And maybe, to celebrate your economic goals, you can buy yourself a special treat — perhaps a milkshake.