Good or bad, a lot can happen in thirty-five days. For about 800,000 Americans, thirty-five days probably felt more like an eternity as they worked without pay or were furloughed until further notice due to the government shutdown. Unfortunately for the workers who have been most affected by this, no one saw this coming. For a long time, working for the government was viewed as “the” job to have. The benefits, pay, and security were all unmatched. This recent fiasco, however, has revealed plenty of hard truths and valuable lessons for all of us. Here are a few lessons that we could all benefit from…
Lesson #1: An emergency fund is a necessity, not an option.
If you are new to the savings world, putting away money for an emergency seems unnecessary and sometimes too difficult. There are regular monthly bills and then the unforeseen car repair, medical bills, or family emergency that are all vying for a piece of the budget. Think about how much harder it is to suddenly lose your income and literally have nothing to fall back on.
Consider opening up an online savings account so that the funds will not be as readily available for whimsical spending. Then, set up automatic transfers every month, every week, or whatever works for you. Do not, I repeat, do not get caught up in the amount you are able to save. Even if it’s only five dollars, start there! The goal is to get the momentum going.
The recommended amount of savings is three to six months of living expenses. If that feels too intimidating, make your first goal $1,000 in savings. One day you will look at that account and be glad that you started.
Lesson #2: Consider the big picture.
Laser focus is good but, stepping back every now and then to see how your financial decisions are affecting your overall future is even better. Maybe you have been okay with making minimum credit card payments not realizing that hundreds or thousands in interest charges are racking up over time.
Reassess all of your current financial habits and goals to see if they will get you any closer to where you want to be in the long-term.
Lesson #3: Teamwork makes the dream work.
If the recent government shutdown has not taught us anything, it should show us how important cooperation is. When both parties on the same team are unyielding, it can create a serious roadblock and have many ramifications. If you are in a marriage or other shared-money responsibility situation, consider ways in which you can change your mindset.
This will require some honesty, self-reflection, and compromise. Saving comes easier for some while others like to spend more. Having a conversation early on about each person’s approach to money will help to solidify which financial approach the couple will take on. Also, agreeing with what is considered a major purchase can prevent future arguments and playing the blame game.
Everyone’s viewpoint is different so there is no room for assumptions. Keep the end goal in mind which is to knock out all financial goals together. You owe it to yourself to live the life you have envisioned.
Written by My Fab Finance Contributor Candice Davie