A recent national survey by the Consumer Federation of America finds that only about one-third of Americans are making “good” or “excellent” progress with their savings, while nearly two-thirds are making only “fair” or “no” progress. Prolonged unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant wages have made it hard for Americans to save. Changes to home ownership rules and increased lending restrictions have made it difficult to build wealth through home ownership.
The survey finds the main issue for many was the inability to spend less than they make and actually save the difference. Without a consistent savings plan, most individuals are not prepared for emergencies. Saving money is more important than ever, but you can only do that if you live within your means and understand how to plan. So how do you get started?
Marsha Barnes, a financial empowerment speaker who teaches financial responsibility and frugality, says many have a difficult time living within their means because they want everything they see right now. “It is not only the individual’s fault, media plays a huge part; we see so many high-end products that look easily attainable and we are inundated with these images on a daily basis,” Barnes says.
Barnes says that you must commit to living within your means, which starts with creating a budget. She finds it perplexing that many individuals who have regular jobs, families, and bills will stretch beyond their means to purchase high-end items seen among the celebrity ranks. Even in the midst of the recent recession, some consumers were still spending money on cars, handbags, and shoes. Society as it stands today has cultivated a celebrity lifestyle that everyone wants. Barnes says there is nothing wrong with wanting these items, but there must be balance and a plan.
Through her Charlotte, North Carolina-based organization, Financial Empowerment, Barnes seeks to bring total well-being to those who want to improve their finances. Financial Empowerment is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial education and coaching to women, young adults, and children. She teaches her clients to have a survival plan.
Additional reporting by Sheiresa Ngo
Stay tuned for part two of Marsha’s story, where she will share more on how she manages to live a frugal lifestyle.