Whether you make a lot of money or a little or have massive amounts of credit card debt or none, more than likely, finances are an issue in most households. Financial problems are common and include difficult issues like not having enough money, losing a job and conflicting financial values. In my little family of four, money is a topic of conversation between my husband and I on a daily — yes, daily — basis.
We regularly discuss our monthly budget, upcoming expenses for the week and how we’re reaching our savings goals. For us, money is a continuous and evolving topic. So whether you’re on top of things financially or still have a way to go, financial issues are inevitable and most important, shouldn’t be ignored.
Let’s take a look at the top five money obstacles families are likely to face and help provide some solutions you can put into action today.
Issue No. 1: Not Enough Income
Each year, Americans say lack of money and too much debt are their biggest financial challenges. Adding to that stress, about 25 percent of families rely on just one source of income, which can make it feel impossible to save money, reduce debt and increase your net worth.
Solution: Embrace a Tough Reality Check
If you’re making too little money, the solution, though painful to hear, is simple — eliminate expenses and/or increase your monthly income. Find ways to eliminate unnecessary expenses: minimize dining out, cut your cable package and cancel that pricey gym membership. Take a long, honest look at what your net income really is each month and where that money goes. A part-time job, though not ideal, may be necessary in order to get your finances where you want them to be.
Issue No. 2: Too Much Debt
The average U.S. household credit card debt is over $15,000. The average mortgage debt is $150,000, and student loan debt just over $30,000. Debt is no fun and can be crippling for households.
Solution: Make Debt Reduction a Serious Priority
Each month, you probably have very little left over after all your expenses are paid. And while mortgage and student loan debt can often take years to eliminate, pesky credit card debt shouldn’t be a major thorn in your financial life.
If you are caught in the web of credit card debt, the first step is to stop using them —for good. Take a look at your monthly budget and see what expenses you can realistically live without. Try to bring in extra income earmarked solely for credit card debt. Start with the credit card that has the highest balance and slowly make it a priority to work your way out of the hole. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it will be hard. But in the end, the relief you will feel from manageable balances will be more than worth it.
Once your credit card debt is paid off, avoid the temptation of racking up another round of purchases. Make it a habit to save before spending.
Issue No. 3: Job Loss
One in three Americans have anxiety over losing their job. Even people with seemingly secure jobs have seen them come to an end. Job loss is usually shocking and traumatic, especially when household budgets depend on two incomes.
Solution: Have a Plan in Place
If you or your spouse were to lose a job, what would you do? If you’re not sure, the first place to start is with an open conversation with your partner — discuss your family’s options. For example, my husband is the breadwinner in our home. And while he used to be self-employed, he now works for an employer.
Our plan, should he lose his job, centers on his self-employment income opportunities to hold us through the interim period between his old and new job. It’s also important to make sure that you do your best to save as much as possible, especially if job security is uncertain.
Issue No. 4: Staggering Health Care Costs
Individual insurance premiums average just over $300 per month under the recently passed Affordable Care Act. Families, of course, should expect to pay much more. No doubt, health care is an expensive necessity.
Solution: See Health Insurance As Mandatory Expense
Health insurance is no longer an option, and ironically, having health insurance provides a huge sense of financial security for families. The cost of treatment for even minor illnesses and injuries sans health insurance can be overwhelming. Take time to research health insurance plans that provide balance for your family and make the expense a mandatory line item in your monthly budget. Can’t afford cable and health insurance? Choose insurance and opt for Netflix or Hulu. The financial risk associated with going insurance-free is too high and will likely jeopardize your financial stability in the future.
There are a variety of options that will insulate your family from paying retail for medical services while still fitting into your monthly budget. For example, a high-deductible plan may be something to consider if your family is generally in good health.
Issue No. 5: Conflicting Financial Values
Money is the No. 1 cause of divorce in America, yet it has nothing to do with how much or how little a couple makes and everything to do with differences in goals and values toward money.
Solution: Talk It Out — Get On the Same Page
In a marriage, you’re on the same team. This means you need to reach an agreement about how your household will spend and save money. Compromises and open discussions need to happen on a regular basis. In my own life, my husband is the “spender” in our relationship and I’m the “saver.” We compromise by creating a strict budget that allows for some saving and some discretionary spending. For us, if we didn’t communicate about how our money was spent, we’d wind up overspending. Take preventive measures to avoid heated arguments and make sure both of you have a voice in the discussions.
Remember, most important avenues in our lives are full of hard work. Having a happy marriage, moving up in your job, raising children and making money play a critical role in the foundation of your life. If you keep a realistic attitude and are willing to sacrifice today for the security of your financial future, you can and will accomplish amazing feats with your money.
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