A recent AARP conference (ideas@50+ ) featured Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief at The Huffington Post. In her presentation "Thriving After 50," she spoke about retirement and the fact that people are not saving enough to "thrive" in their future. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, about 36 percent of American workers have less than $1,000 in retirement savings. Sixty percent have under $25,000 and 58 percent have debt problems.
There is little doubt that lack of sufficient money constitutes a major stress and contributes to bodily ills. Our attitudes toward money undergird much of our lives, impacting our lifestyle and sense of well-being. Yet many of us ignore the task of managing our finances, often with dire consequences.
Taking stock of your money with an eye on your financial future is a good idea. Here are some examples.
Do I think money:
1. ... is meant to spend on myself? Some of us feel deprived and believe material possessions will erase the suffering. For example, Mr. G. purchased multiples of shoes, sweaters, etc., filling his apartment with stuff he could never use. Ultimately he had to declare bankruptcy.
2. ... can lift me out of the doldrums? Often a depressed person attempts to lift his mood by buying something new. Mr. B. realized the glitter of the new item quickly faded, and he wasn't dealing with the real problem, but covering it over, like painting a rotting floor board.
3. ... is meant to spend on my children, because I'm generous, want the best for them? Mr. V. wanted to save his children from accumulating college debt and paid all their expenses. However, he neglected to save for himself and had to postpone retirement.
4. ... is for others to handle? Ms. W. knew in her "heart and mind" that she shouldn't go into business with her husband. But she did not listen to herself. When the business failed, she had to ask her son to help. He took over her finances, and she found herself in the humiliating situation of having to ask him for money.
5. ... requires too much discipline? At age 70, Ms. Q. still expected someone to bail her out as her mother did when she was a child. "Mom would open the cash register in her beauty salon whenever I asked for money."
6. ... doesn't have to be protected? Mr. M. gave up his health insurance, betting on the odds that he wouldn't get sick. When he became ill, his wife divorced him so she didn't have to cover his medical bills.
7. ... is too frightening a matter to face? Mr. O. was often in a panic about his finances because he was too frightened to figure out how much he really needed to retire.
Once we recognize the psychological snafus, we can appreciate that the principles of money management are relatively simple.
1. Purchase what you really need.
2. Spend as little as possible to get the most. A woman doesn't have to go beyond her budget to find attractive clothes. Similar styles are sold in Macy's and Bergdorf's.
3. Save as much as possible. No one can predict if or when an emergency will arise, and most of us want to have the option to retire.
4. Pay down debt as soon as possible.
Conclusion: Taking care of our money is an important aspect of taking care of ourselves -- our health and sense of well-being. Investing time and effort in managing our money pays off in more ways than dollars.
P. S. Here is a haiku that is relevant to money management:
To finally know
the plum, use the whole heart too,
and your own nose.
-- Onitsura (1660-1738)
It inspired me to write my own:
the gross substance of lucre
seek the plump rose