You can achieve financial security even in a down economy if you are disciplined about establishing and maintaining four savings instruments, according to Dr. James Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, who is also a nationally recognized researcher on consumer culture and behavior, compulsive buying and credit card use and abuse.
The four savings goals are:
1. Establish an easily accessible emergency fund of at least $2,500.
2. Save three to six months of living expenses. If you lose your job, this is what will pay the mortgage and put food on the table.
3. Regularly contribute to your retirement account.
4. Start a college fund for each of your children and make regular contributions.
To achieve real financial health, though, Roberts has a radical idea: Stop using credit cards. "This involves creating an environment that makes it easier to not spend money, such as avoiding the malls, shopping without credit cards and only with cash, using a 24-hour cooling off period for big purchases and paying yourself first to help you attain the four savings goals," Roberts says.
Americans have become desensitized to what he calls the "pain of paying," a concept that deals with the different levels of "pain" associated with how we choose to pay for our purchases. Cash, checks and debit cards have an immediate and "painful" impact on our wealth, but credit cards, with their "buy now, pay it later" mentality, make it too easy to spend more than we can really afford.
"When we pay with cash or write a check, we have to count out that money or write out that amount. We don't have that benefit or barrier with credit cards," Roberts says. "There's a delayed impact on our wealth when we use credit cards. We have 30 days to figure out how to have the money available to make payments. As human beings, we're optimistic that we'll come up with it some way and make that payment."
Credit cards also tend to "super-size" purchases. In fact, researchers have found that bills in fast food restaurants paid by credit card tend to be between 50 percent and 100 percent larger than bills paid in cash.
Achieving financial security takes discipline, time and dedication, but it can be done when you set specific goals and work toward them.
--From the Editors at Netscape