Tag Archives: emergency fund

Great News! Our Debt Increased 21% Last Year!

OK, if that doesn’t sound like great news – you’re right. But this Ipos Reid survey was done for the Royal Bank. Not to pick on the Royal, but banks are in the business of helping you go broke. They’re in the lending business and generate their profits when YOU borrow money and pay interest. So it is great news…if you’re a lender.

For the rest of us: Not so much. A 21% increase in just the last year of our non-mortgage debt is insane. That’s the Canadian average, but Alberta set the record with a 63% increase in debt last year. With pretty good incomes in Alberta and elsewhere comes that part of the brain that says: It’s OK, just borrow the money – you make enough to pay it off…eventually.

The survey also found that the same 38% of us are “very anxious” about out debt level as those who responded they’re “comfortable” owing the money. If you’re in the “comfortable” group, what would move you out of that? A job loss, any emergency, your partner leaving their job, the need for a newer vehicle, or a host of things that can go off the rails. Don’t get too comfortable, because things can change in a hurry – and it’s always when you least expect it.

When interest rates are low we tend to think we’re getting free money. Well, they won’t stay low forever, and when they turn, the interest you’ll pay goes way up for something you spent years ago. There’s a current radio ad with the line: You can eat whatever you want and still lose the weight. In financial terms, it’s just as much nonsense, but I bet most of us believe it – or at least want to believe it: You can borrow and spend whatever you want and still be financially successful. No you can’t. You can’t spend more than you earn, and you can’t eat everything you want and still lose the weight. Oh how we’d love that to be true. And after all these decades of weight loss programs having a more than 90% failure rate it isn’t any different for our finances.

For the majority of us, we earn enough for what we need. But we’ll never earn enough for everything we want. And it’s the “wants” that kill our finances, choke us with monthly payments, and stop us from putting any serious money into retirement plans, or even a simple emergency fund.

Until we get real and stop buying into the ads and marketing we can’t turn our finances around. Sorry, it’s mathematically impossible. May the reality check of that hit most of us before it’s too late and before we’re in our 60s and have 20 minutes left before retirement to put some money way.

Or, if you can’t retire when you really wanted to, think back to all the credit card charges, all those vehicles you owned and sold for one-tenth of what you paid, and that line of credit that was around so long you started thinking it was a member of the family…

The Sad News About our Savings and Debt Loads

US household debt to disposable income is still at 122% as of April. In normal times of the economy and employment levels, anything past 100% isn’t sustainable over an extended period of time. That is, you cannot continuously spend more than you earn. It is a recipe for financial trouble in the long term, and obviously means we can’t save. In Canada, even through the recession, we Canadians kept spending. Our household debt is now 146% of disposable income. We may be more conservative than Americans, we may have lower total debt levels but we’re spending a lot more, over and above what we earn, than our American friends.

On that same issue, the Bank of Canada says that, by 2012, one in 10 households will be spending 40% or more of their household income just paying debt. What does that leave to live on? Already 32% of households have no savings. So it stands to reason that, the more we pay towards our debts, the less money we have to live on, or save.

The National Foundation of Credit Counseling just released a study that, last year, the average person had over $2,000 in unexpected expenses! I keep talking about how critical it is that all of us have a basic emergency fund with two weeks of pay set aside – that’s another reason why. We all know there WILL be an emergency. We just don’t know when, what, or how big it’ll be. What an emergency fund does is to turn a panic and crisis into a minor inconvenience, because we have the money! If not, here we go again…using credit, and thinking that’s a solution, and going further in debt once again. Find a way to have two weeks worth of your pay in an emergency account that you don’t touch for anything else.

According to a company called RealtyTrac, foreclosures in the US, in the first quarter of 2010, are UP 35% over the same time period of 2009. And the credit bureau, Trans Union, found that mortgage arrears are rising, and not falling. In Nevada, 16% of homeowners are in arrears, it’s 15% in Florida, and 11% in Arizona and California.

In Canada, according to a report by the Canadian Association of Accredited Mortgage Professionals, there are about 375,000 people with mortgages who are challenged by their current payments. I don’t know what their definition of challenged means, but it sounds like a problem. If rates increase by just one percent, they expect another half million people could be in trouble. That goes back to what we talked about in the security of a fixed rate, instead of a variable rate mortgage.

More Often Than Not, Being Broke Is Our Choice

A survey weeks ago by the Canadian Payroll Association found that around 60% of us live paycheque to paycheque. While their president stated he was very surprised that people were so close to the line, we shouldn’t be surprised at all. In fact, I believe the figure is actually higher!

Being poor and broke is most often a choice. We create our own mess, the mess doesn’t just happen to us. No, not consciously, but in the financial decisions we make, the debts we take on, and our priorities with money. I know that if I spill a cup of coffee, right now, this minute, I’m going to clean up the mess. That’s a cup of coffee – why don’t we take that same attitude towards our finances?

To change it around, we can spend less, or earn more. Either one works, both together change our financial situation that much faster. If we wanted to, by next week, we can make around $1,000 extra each month delivering pizza, the newspaper, or a bunch of other part time jobs. If we wanted to…

If we wanted to, we can sell our car with the big payments by next week, and drive a $2,000 beater until we’re debt free. Just not having that car payment is a huge amount of money that could go to paying off other bills. If we wanted to…

People don’t move until they’re fed up and mad with their financial situation. When we no longer want to live in the state we’re in, you’d be amazed how quickly we can change it around. But until then, we keep confusing our needs with wants, and just give our money to everybody but ourselves.

We’re like an ATM – two paycheques go in, and all the money quickly goes out to make every payment in the world, and we just hope that we’re not out of money before we’re at another payday. Everybody has their hand out for our money and we give it to them voluntarily, and then complain that we’re broke. That’s not a life – that’s surviving, and it’s not a fun way to go through life!

At some point, all the stuff we’re still paying for isn’t worth the financial pain we’ve taken on. At some point, hopefully soon, it has to become an issue of the heck with the cheeses, I just want out of the trap!

In relationships fights over money is one of the #1 issues with couples. It’s the biggest cause of divorces, and a huge contributor to male suicides. We hear this, we experience the fights, and we STILL keep doing what we’re doing? Does that make sense at all?

People know how to get wealthy and know how to avoid making their financial situation worse. But why don’t we take the steps to make it happen? The bottom line is whether we’re prepared to do what it takes to turn it around? If so, it starts with some easy steps that very few people take:

Sit down without the TV and the kids and do a written budget with your partner. Every dollar is planned, and nothing gets spent over and above the budget. It’ll really clearly show you where all your money is going. If the budget is $600 for groceries, $300 cash goes into an envelope or a jar for the coming two weeks. When that money is gone – you’re done spending.

Step two is to get an emergency fund of one week’s gross pay into a separate savings account. Stop being naïve – there will be an emergency. This small rainy day fund is critical. It will rain – you know that!

Step three is to focus on paying off your debts. No RRSP savings, no investments, no vacations, and you’re not seeing the inside of a restaurant unless you work there. But rather a 100% focus on getting debt free except the mortgage. The It’s Your Money book has an easy to understand section that has you list your bills smallest to largest, then every dollar goes to the smallest debt until it’s paid off. Then it rolls to the next one, and so on.

There was a survey done of the richest people in the world from the Fortune 400 list. Seven out of ten started with nothing. Their wealth was built entirely on their own, without inheritances. When they were asked what the number one key was to building wealth, the answer was always: Get out of debt and stay out of debt.

It might seem cruel, but if were to be honest with ourselves, would we agree with this line from Larry Winget’s book jacket: People want what they’ve got. It’s a simple formula: You have what you want because your actions produced your results.

Can you get out of the life of living payday to payday? You bet. Do you want to? I’m guessing we all do. Will you do what it takes to make it happen? Ah – that’s where 90% of people choose not to…