According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans spent an average of $69/day in stores, restaurants, and gas stations as well as online. For Americans making less than $90k/year that figure was $61/day. In 2008, during the height of the recession, Americans spent on average $124/day. For individuals making less than $90k/year that figure was $104/day. These figures do not include what Americans spent on housing, groceries or transportation costs. Creditcards.com reported that the average credit card debt is $14,743. While the average interest rate is somewhere around 13%, there are some sub-prime credit cards that charge as much as 79%.
Why the dramatic decrease in spending? Experts blame flat consumer spending on lack of consumer confidence, high employment, underemployment, and high gas prices. In addition, the Japanese crisis had an effect on global supply chains thereby reducing manufacturing, i.e. jobs.
While I am sure some of the decrease was due to the global economic crisis there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that people were spending beyond their means and incurring huge amounts of debt. If your income suddenly decreases because of unemployment or underemployment, you need to look for ways to reduce expenses or obtain more income. As a result there has been a huge movement towards living more frugally, paying off debt and reducing consumption. People from all walks of life, even Hollywood stars, have been effect so it makes sense that lifestyle changes will occur.
Unfortunately there's a catch. Since people are spending less, fewer jobs are being created thereby hurting the already fragile economy. Consumers, even the ones with money, don't feel secure in spending especially with high foreclosure rates and governments shutting down. So what is the answer? How do we stimulate the economy and create more jobs?
About this time every year, millions of Americans start to think about possible New Year’s Resolutions. While some people resolve to quit smoking or lose weight, others may choose to improve their finances. Instead of creating a vague, unrealistic goal try creating a simple plan of attack that can easily be achieved.
The Top 10 Ways to Improve your Finances are:
- Make a Budget – Create a budget and stick to it. This will help you break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. The best way to do this is to look at how much money comes in and goes out for a 30 day period. Use our handy budget calculator to help get you started.
- Reduce Expenses – Can’t pay your phone bill but you spend $15-$20 a day between coffee and snacks. Look for ways of reducing expenses such as brewing your coffee at home, packing a lunch, switching phone carriers and clipping coupons.
- Pay off Debt – Do you know how much money you are paying in interest to your credit card company? Use our tool to find out. By reducing and/or eliminating your debt you will not only save money paid in interest you will have the money to save for your future. If you have a structured settlement, annuity, pending lawsuit or other illiquid asset it may be beneficial to sell some of the future payments in order to pay off your debt.
- Create an Emergency Fund – Do you have 6 months worth of monthly expenses saved just in case you fall on hard times? If not, you need to create a fund in order to protect yourself from falling behind on your obligations if you lose your income. Some people have created their emergency fund by putting a portion of their cash lump sum into an interest bearing account.
- Save Money – Are you going to need a new car soon? Perhaps you want to take a vacation next year. Maybe you need to make home repairs. Rather than acquiring more debt, save for your purchases and pay in cash.
- Save for Retirement – The earlier you save for retirement, the better off you will be. If your employer offers 401(k) matching, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity for free money.
- Protect your Assets – Make sure to maintain your home to help it retain its value. Don’t forget to have a will to ensure that you decide how your assets such as your home, annuity or other assets are divided not the government.
- Get Insurance – Your apartment, home, car and other valuables need to be protected in case of theft, damage or loss. If you are not properly insured you may not receive enough money to repair or replace them. If you have children that need to be supported after you are gone, make sure you have life insurance.
- Protect your Identity - Identity theft can be costly not to mention damaging to your credit score. Monitor your credit report. Check your accounts for unauthorized transactions. Shred documents instead of throwing them in the trash. Shop online at credible merchants and use Pay Pal.
- Manage Credit/Credit Score - Check your credit report every six months. Make sure you pay your bills on time and avoid using credit cards whenever possible. Some experts say to freeze your credit card to avoid making impulse purchases.
These are just a few suggestions on how you can improve your financial outlook for 2011. If the sale of your future payments from an annuity, structured settlement or other asset is part of your plan, give Rescue Capital at call at 1.866.688.3532. We can provide you with all your options as well as a free no-obligation quote.