Saturday, August 6, 2011

Family Finances – securing a future on any salary

I wonder where the “experts” and “financial advisors” get their information and why so many of them don’t practice what they preach. Quick disclaimer here: I’m no expert, but in the money department my husband and I have been successful in that we have very little debt, have put four kids through college, paid for weddings, owned vacation homes in the U.S. and Canada and put away more than enough for retirement, all on public school teachers’ salaries. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Give to God first. The government gets their big chunk right away and since you never get a chance to even hold it in your hand that money is like it never existed. Treat another 10% the same way. You won’t miss what you give to your church, believe me.

Avoid credit cards while you’re in your twenties and starting out. Write checks when you’re shopping. Carry a calculator and add up your groceries as you go. If you don’t have the money in your checking account to cover your purchases, then you can’t buy them. It’s just that simple. When you do start using a credit card, which is a great way to pay many monthly bills, never let it get over what you can cover with your checking account. Never, never, never pay an interest fee or a late fee. Having credit card debt is the worst thing you can do to your financial situation.

Put aside money monthly into two types of savings – one that you can access in an emergency (like needing a new furnace) and one that is locked into a future retirement account (IRA, annuity, matching funds program, etc.).

My last piece of advice is to buy a house that you can afford. If you’re single, purchase something that is well below your budget (about 25% less than the bank and realtors say you can afford) and put at least 10% down. If you’re married, purchase something that you can afford on only one salary. The money you free up should go into those two types of savings mentioned above.

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