FLM Step 1: Member of the President's Council for Financial Literacy talks about commitment

In honor of Financial Literacy Month, we created a microsite that offers 30 simple steps to financial wellness--one for each day of the month. To enrich the experience, we asked some amazing people to guest post during the month on a topic that is related to the day’s step. Their dedication to financial literacy is truly inspiring! Today, Sharon Lechter is discussing the importance of making a commitment. Ms. Lechter is an author, educator, and international speaker. She also serves on the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Cliché, I know, but true. Taking the first step in anything is hard (like dieting and exercise), and it certainly holds true when it comes to financial health. We are barraged each and every day with the doom and gloom reports of the economy, stock markets and bailouts. Is it time to turn off your TV and replace all the doom and gloom with some bloom and boom?

The building blocks to financial well-being are made of focus, control and action. Fear has most people clenched in its grasp. Don’t let yourself be part of that group. Turn your financial fear into focus.

Focus on what you CAN control – your own spending and how you spend your time. Financial Literacy Month offers many tools and resources for financial education and tips for taking advantage of opportunities to increase your financial success. By taking control of your own financial decisions, you will not only impact your own financial well-being, your positive actions will also impact your community, your state, your nation and the world economies.

This is your opportunity to put yourself back in the driver’s seat! Review your last several months bank statements. Exactly what are you spending your money on? It adds up quickly. Did you know that if you brewed your favorite coffee at home instead of buying it on the way to work every morning you could save yourself over $1000 this year? (And that is just one cup a day…) With that simple change in your routine, you would save $1000 and still have your favorite coffee every morning!

Do a thorough review of your bills and you might just find:

  1. Monthly automatic charges to your credit card or bank account that you are no longer using or getting any benefit from.
  2. Insurance charges – have you reviewed your insurance lately to see if you are getting the best rates?
  3. Are you getting the best interest rates on your credit cards? Transfer high interest credit card balances to low interest ones and then commit to paying them off.
  4. Have you read the fine print on your credit cards? Many credit card companies can raise your interest rate if you have ONE late payment to ANY creditor. It is up to you to know this.
  5. Are you an impulse shopper? I started a “2 minute rule” for myself last year because I found that I was giving away clothes to charity with tags still on them. Today if I see something I want, I make a game out of it. I set it aside and walk away to continue shopping. If I REALLY still want it after 2 minutes, I buy it. What happens most of the time is I am too lazy to go back to get it….thus I save myself the time and the money!
Now think about how you spend your time. Fear paralyzes people. Get to the head of the pack by using your fear to motivate you to take action instead of paralyze you.
  1. Start a part-time business from your favorite hobby. Could you use an extra $100 every week?
  2. Instead of spending every evening watching tv or playing on the internet, volunteer at your favorite charity. The more you give, the more you receive. Not only will you be helping others, you will be meeting new people….maybe even your next business partner!
  3. Have a garage sale…it really works. My daughter raised $1500 on one Saturday alone…in just 5 hours.
  4. Don’t be alone. Find people who share your passion and brainstorm ways to make money together. 1 + 1 can equal 11 -- if you put your heads together.
  5. Look in your local newspaper for free seminars on investing. By educating yourself you will be able to start spotting opportunities that are right in front of you!
  6. Start educating your children about money. Help them start a business. By talking to your kids about money and helping them you will be giving them the gift of a lifetime…financial education. You may even learn a thing or two yourself through the process. (Check out www.youthpreneur.com) for resources.)

During Financial Literacy Month take advantage of the opportunities being offered. Make a pledge to yourself that you are ready, willing and able to take responsibility of your financial future. It is the first step towards achieving financial health. It is during times like these when great fortunes will be made by people who educate themselves and take action.

There is a saying, “For things to change, you must change.” The first step is always the hardest. Promise yourself to do just one thing at a time….and start today! By taking action today...Tomorrow will be a brighter day…filled with Bloom and Boom!

Thank you!
Sharon Lechter
Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy
Founder and CEO of Pay Your Family First
Author of Think and Grow Rich – Three Feet From Gold
Co-author of Rich Dad Poor Dad

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.

  • 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.