America Saves Week – A National Movement for Personal Finance

By Alanna McCargo

It is the most basic and fundamental thing that any financial planner or financial education course will teach: you must have a plan for saving money. Some of us first learn about savings at a very young age, when we receive our first piggy bank as a birthday gift. It’s the simplest and probably easiest concept in finance to teach and understand, yet so many people fail to put saving money at the top of their priority list or manage to save like they should. Without this basic financial need addressed, you are likely to remain in a state of what I call the ‘financial twister’, where you feel like you cannot get ahead of debt, always seem to be behind or living ‘check to check’, and you are spinning in circles trying to keep income up with spending and bills. If you are living like this, you are more likely to suffer ‘total devastation’ if one unexpected event happens in your life. Saving is preparedness and it should be taken as seriously as your job and your health.

America Saves Week 2013 takes place February 25 through March 2. It’s a national movement for you to bring savings front and center, make a commitment and make progress. The national week is designed to help individuals take financial action by setting a savings goal, making a plan and saving money automatically.

The America Saves Week initiative provides online tools to help you make a pledge to save, assess your progress and get basic savings in place to ensure you and your family have the protection you need financially from unexpected ‘storms’.

A few savings facts that you should know:
• Consumers with savings plans are more likely to save and reduce debt.
• Fewer than 50% of Americans say they have a savings plan with specific goals.
• Only 66% of Americans spend less than their income and save the difference.
• Only 66% of Americans have sufficient emergency funds for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor’s visit.

America Saves week is a great time to take a moment to assess your situation and take action if you are not saving as you should be. Not only should you be thinking about your rainy day savings account, but also your future savings for children’s college funds, down payment on a home, and your retirement. All of these require thoughtful planning and action on your part, and it is never too late to start planning ahead. Saving is one very important part of the financial picture and America Saves week could be a great time for you to put it in focus.

Black History Month and ‘Matters of Finance’

This Black History month has been a true reflection for me on the legacies of great and strong-willed people who fought for justice and equality for all people. The entire month always inspires me, and is a reminder of how far along things have progressed in some areas, but how far we still need to travel in others.  The one area that hits home for me is the massive and continuous gaps in personal finance, wealth and prosperity. The data proves it year after year — there continues to be great disparity and inequality when it comes to wealth, savings, income, credit worthiness, asset development and home ownership. Poverty is striking minority communities and children at highest levels since the economic downturn.  This isn’t news anymore, it barely even reported. It has become the new reality and we have to come together and ensure that complacency doesn’t set in. Ensure that financial education continues to be promoted in low income schools, and that families have the opportunity to save, build healthy credit and maintain stable income. The first step is bringing awareness and education, then taking action to improve the situation in communities and households who need it most. None of it is easy, but it absolutely necessary for future prosperity.  I will address many of these issues as we kick off the  ‘Matters of Finance’ series, providing very ‘matter of fact’ information to help improve personal finances and build for a better future. The series will publish in emPower Magazine with monthly topics and action plans that are absolutely critical to ensuring a more balanced financial future for those who are drowning in the ‘great financial gap’.

It’s time to get ahead.

Note: America Saves is a national campaign involving more than 1,000 non-profit, government, and corporate groups that encourages individuals and families to save money and build personal wealth. Overall management for the campaign is provided by the non-profit Consumer Federation of America(CFA).

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