Anne SlaughterThe Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays (though, I must admit, I prefer it when it's attached to a weekend, not floating on a Wednesday). Who doesn't love a day spent with family, grilling and watching fireworks?

But this year, it has taken on a bit of a different meaning for me. I've been thinking not just of our country's independence, but our own individual declarations of financial independence (or our lack thereof). Blame the recent media rehashing of the ongoing debate over whether women can have it all, kicked off by Anne-Marie Slaughter's cover story in The Atlantic about her decision to leave her job in the State Department.

Anne SlaughterIn that debate, I side squarely with Team Slaughter. She argues that "juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible." I don't have experience in government, but I know I've had to skip career opportunities in order to have a happy home life with my own two teenagers (and my husband).

But I also acknowledge -- as does Slaughter -- that it's not possible to make choices like those without financial security and independence. Many, many parents must work long hours to put food on the table for their children. And the next generation is off to a rocky start: In a recent survey of 20-somethings from PNC Bank, only 23% rated themselves as totally independent financially.

So if you feel like your finances are out of your control -- your debt is spiraling, you don't know where your money is going, you're leaning heavily on your parents -- take some time after the barbecue to consider what you can do to win your own independence. Here are a few things you can do to get started:

• Get in the game. When you're part of a couple, you fall into a rhythm. He takes care of the lawn, she cleans the bathrooms. He does the Fourth of July grilling, she makes the potato salad. Something similar happens with finances, and often not in a good way: One person tends to steer the ship, and the other becomes inattentive. If you're the partner who's not at the helm, it's time to change that. Start paying attention to bill paying and money managing. Ask questions. Set up a new arrangement, where you each manage things for six months, then switch. If the unthinkable happens -- death, divorce, severe disability -- you won't be caught unaware of the family's finances.

• Run your numbers, and set up a plan. Often, the root of our money problems is that we don't know where the money is going. Whether you're trying to build up some savings so you can move out of mom and dad's house, or if you want to pay down debt, it helps to track your spending, says Stacy Francis, a New York financial adviser. Then you can put a plan in place to get you where you want to go: If tracking reveals you're burning $200 a month on pay-per-view movies, smartphone data plan overages, and dinners out, trim that spending and put the money you save toward your goal. You'll instantly feel better.

• Steel yourself for the unexpected. That means having an emergency cushion -- even if it's just $1,000, though the smart money recommends having a fund equal to three to six months worth of your usual expenses -- and other protections. "Do you need to stop and think more closely about your insurance?" asks Francis. "What happens if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? What if you are disabled?" Having policies in place -- even if they're just for a minimum amount of coverage - will help you sleep better at night.

• Automate. If you take your eyes off the grill for too long, those burgers are going to burn. But in some cases, you can take your eyes of your finances and actually end up in better shape: Ask your bank to automatically transfer money into your emergency fund and retirement accounts every time you get paid. The money won't pass through your hands, so you can't spend it. You can do the same thing with bill payments, so long as you do periodic spot checks to make sure you're not paying for services you're no longer using.

-- With Arielle O'Shea




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12 Comments

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arenadood

I have told my both kids they where welcome to come home any time they wanted and set up living in our basement. Only problem is we have about a three foot high crawl space for a basement.

July 04 2012 at 6:14 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
GARY

POOR BABIES. ALL THEY GET TO DO IS WALK AROUND IN THE MALL ALL DAY WEARING $150. SNEAKERS. TRY SACRIFICE.

July 04 2012 at 4:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
valenightwolf

It's kind of odd seeing articles like this one and the comments about 20 somethings all the time. Maybe I live around a group of abnormals, but most of the 20 somethings I know are busting their butts at any job they can find and don't live with mommy or daddy anymore. They got their own crappy apartment that's barely holding together so they can save enough money to maybe one day get something better. I had to laugh in the face of my student loan collector when they told me to ask my parents to help me pay off my loans. My financial independence is always one step away form the streets, but it's mine.

July 04 2012 at 2:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to valenightwolf's comment
ilm9p

And I'll just bet, among the males of the 20 somethings you're talking about, that were the President to look at them, of not one among them could he say, "If I had a son he'd look just like that".

July 05 2012 at 7:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ilm9p's comment
No

lol veiled racism doesn't make bigotry any less stupid

October 14 2012 at 8:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
Hitmanblues

Declare all you want but with no jobs out there that pay anything, and now one can not retire till dead due to the economic situation in country it is not a preety picture to look at and the rich hoarding their monies so wont help anyone else in country and what they are spending they spend overseas instaed of in country, plus the illegals working cheaper so that it keeps jobs from those born here in country and they send their money back to their countries and do not support this economy in this country

July 04 2012 at 11:50 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Jeff

Same old advice rehashed with a different title. Also, I thought financial independence meant not having to work. This sounds more like crawlingout of debt and out of your parent's basement. You're better off in your parent's basement, not paying high rent.

July 04 2012 at 9:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeff's comment
metalangel1

I bought my home and had it build in my early twenty-somethings. It's just about paid off now. Even before I went to college I made sure I had a home because I considered it an investment. I got roommates to pay the mortgage for me while I worked and later on went to school. Now my home is just about paid off. I am so glad I never lived in anyone's basement. Sometimes you have to think-outside-the-box instead of living in one to get ahead. Use your head to get ahead! :) I had to leave home at 16. I think that gave me a head start in learning how to be independent. Thank God. I believe He helped me all along and is continuing to do so.

July 04 2012 at 8:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Camp Bulldog

I always wonder about the Amercans when it comes to the Country and care. I saw an Presidential election where the issue of the war was rated at 3rd on the list as to what was important to the voters. We also have acquired the knack of making things like military involvement.. a "forgotten war"... that one really gets me...
You complain...and complain...about the Politicians and their ways....then they, your Politicians, throw you a bone with a little meat left on it....and you vote them right back in.

July 04 2012 at 8:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Camp Bulldog's comment
jimjits

Right on Camp Bulldog

July 04 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mmmmm Good!

Um there is no such holiday as the 4th of July idiot writer. It's Independence Day, the most important American holiday there is.

You cheapen its meaning by incorrectly referring to it as the 4th.

July 03 2012 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Get a job is item #1

July 02 2012 at 1:42 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jdykbpl45's comment
ilm9p

Get a job? That’s for suckers. Go down to the local welfare office and claim disability, you know something really drastic like how your “feets be hurting all the time”. Then you won’t have to worry about housing because they’ll set you up with one for free. They’ll even pay all your utilities and give you free cable TV. Don’t worry about paying for Healthcare, you’ll get that free too, it’s called Medicaid. And Food, don’t worry about that neither, you’ll get a little card called EBT and you won’t shell out a dime for food. You’ll get everything for free. Have a couple kids too if you want. That way you’ll get even more! And when the kids go to school they’ll get free breakfast and free lunch year round. Plus you’ll get free healthcare for them too. Play your cards right and you’ll get a free car too. Then when you get really fat off the welfare rolls, you’ll get a handicapped placard so you can get all the best parking spots.

July 02 2012 at 2:58 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to ilm9p's comment