It’s time for a gut check. How are your finances? Did you just get nauseous? Even if you’re in great financial shape, talking about finances can make you queasy. It’s very common. Discussing personal finances can be uncomfortable. Just like talking religion or politics. Maybe it’s because we don’t know enough about our finances or how money works to ever feel completely comfortable.
Or, maybe we just spend more than we make. Study after study and countless articles touch on a growing debt crisis. How could that be, you ask? Employment is at record or near record highs and the economy is stable. All signs are pointing up. But, the arrow is also pointing to our rising personal debt. Just look to Visa & Mastercard. They are achieving double-digit growth in their credit card portfolios.
How is this happening? For starters, let’s look at your budget and focus on the requirements: Housing & Healthcare. Both have risen in cost significantly over the last several decades. We can hide the rising cost of housing by looking only at cost per square foot figures. But, when is the last time you saw a neighborhood being built in the suburbs that had homes with average square footage of 1,800. The cost for that house may be reasonable. But, it’s not being built. Newly constructed homes are consistently clipping the 3,000 mark with square footage. And that is a very large expense.
What about healthcare? Well, healthcare continues to outpace personal income in terms of year-over-year growth. When is the last time your annual pay increased 8%? Healthcare climbs at that rate annually. As does the cost for higher education. Now, some of us may not have to worry about the cost of college. But, many do. And we are seeing the effects of a hyper-inflated cost of tuition. Pew Charitable Trusts just published an article stating 20% of college loans are in default. That means one in five former students hasn’t made a payment on their student loan debt in over 270 days. And the numbers are even bigger if you look at those that haven’t made payments in the last 180 days.
Not only does it cost a lot more to live, but many in the younger generations are starting out with significant debt. Imagine graduating college, starting your new job and every month you make a $300+ payment to your student loans. That’s an incredible hole to dig yourself out of.
How can we stop or curb this growing debt crisis? Credit Unions are perfectly suited to help with financial education, budgeting tools, smart lending programs, etc. And members need to step up and do their part as well. That $5 latte has replaced a pack of cigarettes as the new daily addiction that needs to be addressed. I daily latte drinker spends about $1,500 per year on their morning joe. $1,500 annually over 18 years is over $27,000 that you can invest in a 529 college plan for your child. And you not only help your child eliminate future debt issues. You show them how to be good stewards with their money.