The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates once again, as most experts had anticipated. The quarter of a percent increase may mean that the interest rates on your credit cards will also increase.
If you regularly carry credit card debt, it presents you with yet one more opportunity to ask yourself, "Why am I willing to pay more for everything that I buy and everything that I do with those credit cards?" If you conclude that it’s time now to pay off those balances, remember that, if you have more than one card with a balance, you can pay off the ones with the highest interest rates first, which makes the most economic sense; or the ones with the lowest balances, which for some may provide quicker reinforcement and, therefore, more motivation to continue. Whichever method works for you is the right one.
It is weddings time again. I was interested to see that once again a recent Bankrate survey found that cash and checks are still the most popular wedding gifts given in the Northeast and Midwest. It is true that many couples are registering for “experiences gifts,” like trips, rather than just household and material goods, but cash is still king. A gift of money gives the couple the freedom to decide what they most want to do or have.
Let’s finish up with a few more of the things that you would hear at a CARE presentation, beyond the Top Ten Lessons, and a few more “financial one liners.”
7. Even though cash will always be king, because it better helps you stay in touch with your hard-earned money, it may be harder for us to use it in the future, as we get pushed more and more into digital payments — card, phones, and computers. The movement is in large part being driven by everyone wanting to “track us” — where are we and what are our preferences. Be a cash holdout for as long as you can — you will make better spending decisions. You likely won’t do as much impulse buying, likely will be more conscious of whether you really need something, and almost certainly will spend less.
8. Having a budget that you periodically update by tracking all of your spending for a number of months is the key to getting in touch with your spending, so that you can make smart choices, live within your means, and avoid debt as much as possible, if that interests you at all. In our “hyper consumer, debt is ok, keep up with the Jones, buy, have, and do what those commercials, movies and television shows tell you every day that you must have and do" society, a budget and tracking your spending may be your only defense to being on “spending automatic pilot” like too many Americans.
9. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wants, wishes, luxuries and conveniences, as long as you can actually afford them. We all have “true needs,” and we must all work hard to make sure that we can provide for them. Beyond that, work harder to have some of those wants, wishes, luxuries and conveniences, but don’t go into debt and pay more for them. Today, in our “hyper consumer society” the lines between needs and those other things have become blurred. If you are in credit card debt, how much do you really “need” to eat out or get takeout, get your nails done, not look for bargains, buy more clothes that you don’t actually need for work, put your kids in expensive activities, or get your lawn cut by a service?
10. It is the same with making anticipated expenses into emergencies — we have blurred those lines also. How can you not have money set aside if you have a 25-year-old roof, 20-year-old appliances, an older automobile, or medical expenses that you know you are going to have that are not going to be covered by insurance? Are you really going to go into credit card debt for them? Again, if you have the money, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference between an anticipated expense and an emergency, but everyone should have a “true emergencies” savings account for when bad things happen to good people. It is another hedge against going into consumer debt.
11. Why would anyone have debt that they have not determined themselves, by putting pen to paper, that they can repay without incurring more debt? Why would anyone take another’s word for it that they can afford something?
These are just a few things that you, or your children or grandchildren, would hear at a CARE presentation.
OK, here they are:
“It’s amazing how fast later comes when you buy now." — Milton Berle.
“The best way to teach your kids about taxes is by eating 30 percent of their ice cream.” — Bill Murray.
Happy Fourth of July weekend!
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo