'It's more than money in the bank'
ﾓNo one is born content with life. ﾠAs babies we cry for our every need. As we grow up we experience the frustrations and struggles of life. ﾠYet, through our hardships, we can learn how to gain contentment. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, ﾓI know what ﾠit is to be in need , and I know what it is to have plenty. ﾠI have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.ﾔ Dr. Michael Youssef
It is a rarity today to find someone who can totally identify with the words of the Apostle Paul. But it may be that in those words we find the secret of true "financial wellness."
Financial wellness is more than money in the bank. It is about having a healthy attitude in such matters, as well.
A clearer definition would be that "financial wellness is an intricate balance of the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of money."
I contacted several individuals to get their thoughts on this particular subject, and one bit of wisdom was repeated, time after time.
"Live within your means. Don't spend what you don't have."
That sound advice, which has been past from generation to generation, may lose some of its adherents in today's young people.
Anyone who has watched even one episode of House Hunters on HGTV can tell you that one major financial downfall of the younger generation is that they "want it all and they want it now."
Gone are the days when newlyweds were satisfied with each other's company and an adequate roof over their heads.ﾠ It seems that now, in their minds, a kitchen without granite countertops is unacceptable and may very likely be a deal breaker on the path to happiness. And, Heaven forbid, that two people should have to share one bathroom.
The deal breaker, and the road to unhappiness, is usually found in having to hustle to make loan payments, thereby missing out on the joy that might otherwise be found in a relationship.
When it comes to taking on debt, I often think of the words of my grandfather, Walter Graham.
"Borrowing money is like peeing down your leg in the wintertime.ﾠ It feels good at the time, but, pretty soon, it gets damned uncomfortable."
One New Year's resolution that ranks up there with losing weight is the determination to adopt a household budget.
Of course, that resolution goes down the hatch as fast as an order of bread sticks and dipping sauce.
"I believe that most people overspend - or spend way more than they can afford," said my CPA contact.ﾠ "If people would take the time to actually sit down and come up with a budget - and more importantly - follow the budget - I believe there would be fewer bankruptcies in America.ﾠ When preparing the budget, don't leave it down to the penny - leave a little wiggle room for savings and unknowns."
And speaking of pennies, here is some sage advice from a CEO.
"Count your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves."
Tracking your family's spending habits for one month can be quite eye-opening. People are often surprised to find that too much of the family's resources is spent in pursuit of external satisfaction, or things that lasts for only a moment.
"The need to need more than you need equals greed," writes Bryant Wright in "Right From the Heart."
At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who are attuned to the needs of others, as well as their own.
Winston Churchill made the following observation: "You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give."
Folks in this spiritual category of financial wellness agree that when they reach out to help another person, that gesture returns to "their own hearth" with "compound interest."
The March 28, 1912 edition of The Pocahontas Times contained some insight into the spirit of the not-so-cheerful giver:
"The trouble with some people is that they want to draw compound interest for life on the little charitable deeds they do just for the purpose of keeping the world from suspecting that they are cold-hearted and stingy.
Getting back to the present, I came across a Financial Wellness Check-up on the Internet. It has a humorous touch, but that bit of humor may be lost in some households.
1. Do you have cash in your pocket? A. Yes; B. Kind of; C. No; D. You must be kidding
2. Do you balance your checkbook regularly? A. Yes; B. Kind of; C. No; D. You must be kidding
3.ﾠ Do you know the total amount of debt you have? A. Yes; B. Kind of; C. No; D. You must be kidding
And so it goes for 10 questions covering areas that, when the answers are calculated, will provide an overview of a person's financial wellness.
If you did not answer "D. You must be kidding" to the previous three questions, then you may proceed to the next section of this article.
From my professional contact at First Citizens Investor Services come the following recommendations. Recommendations that he says are "simple, but often overlooked or neglected."
Review your investments.
Review insurance coverage which protects your assets, coverage for long-term care, and life insurance coordinated with your estate plan.
Update your will as needed.
Review your beneficiaries.
For those who own businesses, it is recommended that you plan to whom you will transfer ownership and management of your company. And, in addition, evaluate the tax implications and clearly communicate your plans in writing.
Have you designated a Power of Attorney, and made sure that person understands the responsibilities that they will have? And does your POA comply with current legal requirements?
Do you have a Medical Power of Attorney, and does that person fully understand your wishes?
Do you have a plan for financial gifts to family members and have you considered the tax implications?
Have you named your primary and secondary executor or trustee?
So there you have it, some tips for Financial Wellness, from beginning to end.
The best advice is to be responsible. But calculating and planning only for yourself could "strangle George Washington" and cause you to miss an opportunity to help someone in need.