Although the American family has always shown great resilience through the ups and downs of our dynamic economy, the slow recovery we’re experiencing now is compelling many to not only reconsider their priorities, but reevaluate the financial strategies they may have put in place only a few years ago.
Families and Finances
A recent study commissioned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and conducted by Forbes Consulting Group in 2013 titled, State of the American Family: Families, Financial Attitudes & Planning, found that families’ financial priorities are focused around 4 specific areas: Income, Savings, Retirement and Debt.
The challenge for many of us is determining which of the four areas should be our primary focus. Ultimately, only you can decide where to put the majority of your financial efforts. Factors such as age, marital status, number of dependents and short and long-term goals all will play a part in your decision-making. That’s the easy part. The hard part is trying to balance all four at the same time – which you will have to do – along with the rest of your day-to-day life.
Your income(s) is the source of funding for most everything you enjoy in life. In fact, when viewed over the span of your entire working life, your income may be your most valuable asset. For those whose priority is to use their income to build and accumulate assets for the future, your first step should be to protect your income (inquire with your employer regarding your Group Long Term Disability options), and, once secure, look for ways to increase or supplement it. What ‘side hustle’ could you do in your free time to generate additional income?
If savings is your top priority (for the purchase of a home, a child’s education, or other reason), view the sacrifices you make now as the foundation of building and accumulating wealth. First, create a budget that will identify how much, and for how long, you will need to save to reach your goal. Start your savings plan by creating an emergency fund (equal to six months of income), then investigate various savings vehicles available. Consider making arrangements to automatically withdraw money from your paycheck or checking account. ‘Set it and forget it’ is an ideal way to save.
Regardless of your age or situation, retirement planning should be a priority for everyone. Once you have an idea about how much income you’ll need in retirement (70% of current income is a good rule of thumb), the simplest way to save for retirement is through your employer’s 401(k) or similar plan. If your employer does not offer a qualified retirement plan (or you are self-employed), create your own by using an IRA (traditional or Roth) or Self Employed Pension plan. Also consider whole life insurance. While primarily purchased for its death benefit, the build-up of the cash value in a whole life insurance policy is guaranteed, and can help give you a reliable source of supplemental retirement income.
Many Americans, especially younger Americans, are saddled with debt. Whether its student loans, mortgages, or credit card debt, large amounts of debt cause many of us to focus exclusively on paying down the debt. For many, this approach would be a mistake. It is important to recognize that even with high levels of debt, you can still take steps towards securing your income, savings and retirement plans.
Do you sometimes feel caught between providing financial support for your children and saving enough money for your own retirement? Are you concerned that you aren’t doing the right things to prepare for your family’s future? Get help – contact a trusted local financial professional to help you assess and address your family’s needs.
Rashad Bilal, is a financial representative with The Bilal Group LLC, who represents MassMutual and other companies; courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)