Getting Unstuck:  Ideas for Financial Wellness

Getting Unstuck: Ideas for Financial Wellness

When we take control of our finances, we begin to feel more secure, and when we feel more secure, the road to peace of mind becomes easier to navigate. It is essential that we not let our finances be out of control.

It is a common dilemma in our modern world to find ourselves in financial difficulty. The average credit card debt in the US is close to $8000 per household. A horrifying number and a significant contribution to the many Americans who find themselves financially stuck. To say that getting “unstuck” financially is easy would be a gross understatement. We have first to understand that the same guidelines for getting out of debt will not work for everyone. Oh, that life would be so simple!

It is easy enough to find a list of ways to become unstuck, but the truth is that personal finance is just that, personal, and we must each discover a pathway that works for our families and us. The importance of that is finances are a family affair, and you can’t take the journey alone!

So how do we get “stuck” in the first place? Many factors may contribute to being financially stuck, some examples may be:

  • Impulse spending
  • Spending before you earn
  • Not paying bills on time
  • Excessive credit card debt
  • Poor money management
  • Job loss
  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Not having a rainy day fund

It is also possible that the Holiday Overspending bug bit you, a common ailment this time of year.

The ideas that have gotten us stuck have a lot to do with the unique vision that we have of ourselves, and the image we portray to others. We live with the fear of being unable to keep up with our peers and concerns of discovery. We need to let that fear go and focus on the healing that financial wellness brings.

Keep in mind that if you are trying to “Keep up with the Joneses,” the Joneses are probably in debt.

One thing is certain the first step should always be STOP CREATING NEW DEBT.

  • Write a list of each debt and what you owe
  • Evaluate the cost of things like cable, internet, phone, interest paid on credit cards, and insurance. Sometimes reducing these costs is just a phone call away.
  • List all of your expenses (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • List your income, and remember not to overestimate. Occasional bonuses or overtime are not reliable income and should be put aside for emergencies or applied to the debt.
  • Talk with your family about spending.
  • Make a budget
  • Develop a savings plan
  • If all else fails seek a financial counselor

I, of course, realize it isn’t just that simple, but we must begin somewhere. Once we are aware of the size of the issue the easier it becomes to start the process of developing a solution. We all need to understand what’s behind our financial decisions, and believe that the answer lies in our unique values.

Talk to your creditors and ask their assistance with developing a plan. When possible, start paying extra on credit cards and loans. An excellent example of paying off credit card debt is to start paying extra on one card when it is paid off take the full amount and start applying it to the next credit card.

It is also crucial that you check your credit report annually. It can be a real eye-opener and is an excellent deterrent to Identity theft. You may find your three free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may also get a free credit score from CreditKarma.com. Be aware that any site that requests credit card information is NOT free.

There are many online resources to assist you in meeting your financial goals, and many of those resources are free to use. The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE.org) offers online classes and links to many usable resources including printable materials. Another option may be FoolProof, a free online financial education site (FoolProof.DirectionsCU.org) login to Solo to get started. You will also find several personal finance apps for your smartphone designed to keep you on track.

Just remember, create no new debt, make a financial plan, create a realistic budget, involve your family, and work towards financial freedom. It may seem like a slow process, but it is worth it!

The Greatest Investment

The Greatest Investment

Being a part of the Baby Boomer generation, I can remember often hearing that “Men have careers, women have jobs.”  This always seemed unfair to me, because my investment in myself and my work is just as valuable as any investment that a man would make. No man I ever worked with was more dedicated, reliable, or willing to learn and grow at any company where I’ve been employed.

In 2005, after several years in various management positions with JCPenney, I decided to change directions in my career.  To do this, I knew I had to come up with a plan. And I really wanted my plan to include ways for me to be more involved in the community and to give more of myself through helping those in need.  

So, I retired from JCPenney.  After a short retirement, I went to work for Empire Affiliates Credit Union to help keep myself busy while working on my new plan.  Very shortly after going to work for Empire, we merged with the Toledo Area Community Credit Union, and I accepted a position in the Human Resources department that would also include working in our Education department.  In this new position, I quickly learned that sharing information with others and helping them improve was very fulfilling. I realized my plan was starting to come to life.

Through various mergers and acquisitions, Empire eventually became Directions Credit Union.  Once we became Directions, the Board of Directors made the decision to make financial literacy education a part of our strategic plan.  The goal was to have Directions Credit Union become the number one place people in the community came to for basic, everyday financial education.  At this point, I accepted the position of Community Outreach Education Coordinator. My plan had now become a reality. I had a new career that I was going to be able to mold and create that would allow both the Credit Union and I to give back and get involved throughout the community.

I believe that the greatest investment that any of us can make is the investment in our communities.  To be a part of the growth and development of the space we occupy with our neighbors, lending ourselves to the things that make our community stronger.  My new position with Directions enabled both the Credit Union and I to get out into the community to help in many fascinating ways.

The truth is that a community that is smarter financially is a stronger community.  My role as Community Outreach Education Coordinator was created to develop and present programs that give participants an understanding of how to make better financial choices.  So, when I took on this new role, I began developing workshops and programs that covered topics including budgeting, saving, credit, understanding checking, money scams, and identity theft.  Today we have over seventy five programs, with new topics such as work ethic, customer service, financial abuse of the elderly, along with updated versions of our original presentations.

In Mansfield and the surrounding area, we interact with over 5000 youth and adults annually, making an investment in them that they can carry into the future.  When a child remembers a lesson about savings, or a senior citizen makes a choice that protects them from a scam, or an offender at one of our local prisons makes better financial decisions because of something they learned at one of my workshops, I know my time has been well invested.  

Out of all the programs and workshops I’ve completed over the years, a couple stand out that I am most proud of because of the potential positive impact they have had on our community.  For six years now, I have done a quarterly 6 week Money Management course at the Richland Correctional Institution as part of their Reintegration program. This program helps encourage offenders to make better financial decisions as they move forward in their lives.  And, for eight years now we have held Reality Store workshops in many of the area Middle Schools. This program brings together many volunteers from the business community to help 8th grade students gain an understanding of income, budgeting, credit, and how to manage their life around their finances.

In addition to all of the presentations and workshops I’ve completed over the years, my role at Directions has allowed me to become involved throughout the community in a variety of organizations.  I am on the RCDG Leadership Team. I provide leadership to the Be Focal Buy Local group, which is a sector of the RCDG. I am the Chairperson of the Area 10 Workforce Development Board of Richland and Crawford Counties.  And, I Chair the Advisory Board of Catholic Charities. Not only have I been able to serve in these positions, but I have encouraged and gained the participation of many business leaders throughout the area in these groups.  

My plan that started many years ago has played out well for both myself and those that I’ve been able to help throughout our community.  I have been able to give the gift of my time and knowledge to help many people. Along the way, I have also invested a lot of time in myself to learn and become an expert in the topics of my workshops, and how to make the various organizations I’m involved with function better.  I have learned to share my knowledge effectively, and to find new ways to connect with people who might need my help. I have learned to connect with others who are not necessarily like me, who may have different values, who have had different life experiences, or who may approach life differently.  I’ve learned that these differences do not make these people wrong, it just makes them different. I’ve learned that the biggest investment I can make in myself is to embrace these differences and to accept any and all that I may be able to help through all that my job at Directions allows.

This has been a fascinating journey, and I look forward to see what the future holds.