Ahhhh – yes, it must be summer. Rodeo crews have hitched up their trailers and gone home, art festivals and crawdad feasts spill outside, , allergies and….TAX Returns. As we mull over our 1040s and contemplate how best to make some positive changes, a number of remedies come to mind.
For the mosquitoes and allergy thing, there is the convenient corner drugstore, but for that IRS love-letter called our tax returns which clearly shows how much we spend and how little we save, there is no such easy solution; however, it can be a not-so-subtle wake-up call to ask ourselves what kind of money management plan we follow.
That old baseball sage, Yogi Berra, famously said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”. When it comes to a social media, free-spirit quality kind of thing, that philosophy works rather well. However, the ‘fork’ plan, which is actually the NO PLAN path, or what I call the bumper-car strategy to life, is probably not going to help you build those financial resources so important in creating a firewall between you and that ugly ‘D’ word – DEBT. Did you know that you should not be spending more than 30% of your monthly income on your housing expense? Did you know that at any one time, your family should have at least 3 – 6 months of funds set-aside to help you survive those unexpected, unpleasant, and really unfortunate events that happen all too frequently? You might ask….how much exactly is 3- 6 months reserves in $$$$$$? A very good question which leads to the next best question, do we even know how much we spend on a monthly basis, or, bottom-line, do we have a household budget? By that I mean a real budget based on real income, not future hoped-for windfalls, AND including fixed debt, variable debt, and monthly savings towards our dream goals – a house, a not-pre-owned car, or the inevitable retirement.
If you would like to take a financial wellness check-up, the Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Housing Initiative staff is here to help. Financial coaches work with families to reduce debt and build credit and resources. HUD-certified Homebuyer Education is provided, and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers is available for Montgomery County. For whatever your income and whatever your goals may be, a sound financial plan is your first step. So when you get to that fork in the road, ask yourself… Does this fork take me where I want to go?
Katy Thorstenberg, LMSW, Easter Seals Greater Houston