As part of our weekly Wednesday training class I talk with clients on many of the practical lessons I have learned from being Trustee and just by living as long as I have. Because the office of the township trustee helps with emergency financial needs, most of the lessons I talk about relate to money, and I find that I have been sharing much the same advice for many years. Following are some observations I’ve made and some advice I like to share with anyone who will listen.
I have found that people are all different, one from another, including in their financial habits. For example, some of our clients have very little income, but they do a good job of managing it. Some have more income, but often can’t manage it as well as they should. I always say that monitoring your financial activity can result in improved financial prospects. Most accounts can be monitored on-line or by phone, and daily monitoring provides opportunities to correct problems as they occur.
Be careful to avoid overdraft or non-sufficient fund fees. Financial institutions charge when there’s not enough money in an account to cover a check or debit card purchase. It can be very difficult to bring your account back into a positive standing, or to maintain a positive balance after an overdraft fee has been charged. Incurring an overdraft fee can be the cause of additional overdraft fees, shrinking the account balance even more.
Create a responsible plan for using debit and credit cards, and stick to it. It’s easy to forget about the very small amounts put on the cards. Not monitoring these amounts can result in an unpleasant surprise when the statement arrives. View the statement, paying attention to each purchase and to the ending balance. Determine if there were any unnecessary purchases, and eliminate such purchases in the future.
Pay for necessities such as food, shelter and utilities as soon as income is available. Don’t put it off with the intent of catching up later. When making a purchase, if you think “I know I shouldn’t,” then don’t make the purchase! Don’t justify unwise purchases.
Housing or shelter usually takes a large portion of one’s income. If you are struggling to pay your mortgage payment or rent each month, you may need to search for more affordable housing. Consider housing that is based on income. Make use of programs such as those offered through the Fort Wayne Housing Authority (fwha.org).
Take ownership of your successes and failures and learn from them. When you’ve done a good job of managing your funds, pat yourself on the back. When a setback occurs because of bad choices, do your best to overcome it and make better choices in the future.
Saving on a regular basis is something we recommend to our clients at the Wayne Township Trustee Office. Are you consistently saving part of your income? If you are unable to save on a regular basis, try putting your loose change away. Let it accumulate and use it for a “rainy day.” Whether you are able to save only $5 a pay period or larger percentage of your pay, get into a routine of saving.
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, provided impressive counsel, “There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.”
Make adjustments to live within your means; spend based on your earning power.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee
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