Become a Super Consumer

Most kids have some idea of what they want to be when the grow-up. Unfortunately, landing a position as a pirate or princess isn’t always easy. On the other hand, one thing that we all get to be when we grow up—whether we like it or not—is a consumer. While being a consumer isn’t as glamorous as being a Superhero, it is important and does require a lot of training. Learning to be a good consumer is important as it offers a basis for financial success; but many American students complete 12 years of schooling in which little or no attention is paid to economics. As a result, many consumers find themselves on their own to learn from the school of hard knocks. In fact, Americans currently owe more than $2.5 trillion in non-mortgage debt and hold little in the way of savings. Fortunately, there are four very basic tips for wise money management:

1. Live beneath your means. Learn the difference between needs and wants; experts agree that one key to happiness to be happy with what you already have.

2. Expect the unexpected. No one plans to lose a job or suffer from illness. Being prepared for life’s setbacks will give you peace of mind and help you to survive financially if the worst should happen.

3. Plan for tomorrow. Make it a habit to pay yourself first. The earlier you start the better—as they say, the eighth wonder of the world is compound interest.

4. Keep credit under control. The average household owes more than $8,000 in credit card debt. Smart consumers use credit as a tool of convenience, rather than an extension of their income.

Finally, know when to seek help.  After all, even the Batman couldn’t do his job without his trusty sidekick.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.