What is wrong with us as consumers when it is considered "normal" to be broke? Weren't our parents a part of a generation who saved their money, bought things only when they needed them and had the money in hand, and generally were responsible with their money?
But one of my favorite personal finance gurus, Dave Ramsey, says that it is now commonplace to be in money trouble. And that's a sad, sad statement about our money management skills and our readiness for the future.
Dave says the best thing consumers can do to put themselves on the path toward long-term money success is pay off their debt. Consumers are victims of their own overspending, not of earning too little or being otherwise financially persecuted. He does say, however, that this generation has been "marketed-to" more than any other, and that's had a definite impact on our buying habits.
Consumers are also sucked in with offers of easy debt. When they start looking at major purchases as just another small payment per month, they're setting themselves up for disaster. With all these debt payments lined up each month, what happens when there is an unexpected illness or job layoff?
Dave Ramsey tells people that their best bet is to completely get rid of their debt. Stop using the credit cards and aggressively work to pay them off. He recommends beginning by paying off your smallest debts first – that way you can see some progress right away and that gets you excited to keep going. There's no quick fix for money problems, especially when you've got serious debt. But the sooner you start working to pay it off, the sooner you will feel a weight coming off your shoulders.
It's time for consumers to get more responsible with their money, and strive to become "abnormal" by not being continuously financially strapped.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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