March 12, 2012

Financial Fitness

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Financial "literacy" or "fitness" encompasses a wide range of activities, such as managing money effectively; investing; setting up savings accounts for major life expenses, such as college and retirement; and prudent tax preparation.  However, being financially sound generally means putting together the financial reserves necessary to be able to meet financial challenges and retire without being stressed financially. 

This objective can be much easier said than done and requires consistent planning and work.  Saving can seem like a cruel joke when faced with a lost job, a costly medical emergency or even a car breaking down.  However, following an informed personal financial plan, even during tough times, can help boost the quality of life for our families. 

Maneuvering through the maze of finances is easier with experts on your side.  The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalitionprovides a number of financial fitness resources, including providing free educational speakers for a variety of groups and personal finance education materials.  The Coalition is also planning a financial literacy conference titled "Your Money Matters."  More information about the conference and other financial planning resources can be accessed through the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition's website: http://www.idahoflc.org

In addition, the University of Idaho Extensionalso offers access to information from family economists across the nation, such as recommendations about what important papers to keep, how to organize them and setting financial goals.  The economists suggest that "Setting a financial goal is the first step to achieving your financial objectives and creating a sustainable spending plan."  They advise evaluating expenses to categorize these spending goals as "wants" or "needs," and defining the length of time it will take to achieve the goals and when you need it.  Further, they recommend that once the goal is classified as a want or a need and how long it will take to achieve, it is time to decide it if is a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timeline (SMART) goal.  This sort of planning can be challenging and requires considerable communications within families, but planning now can improve families' financial foundations and better enable us to address unexpected events. 

These are just a few of the financial planning tips and educational resources available.  It is never too late to get on a better financial path, which has been one of the most frustrating aspects of our nation's current financial hole.  We have every opportunity to start digging out of it, if the President and Congress would do what families across this nation are doing-being realistic about the situation, working together and taking the difficult steps to get out of the red.  The benefits far outweigh the effort. 

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