The National Science Foundation estimates that the average person has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. Regardless of one’s financial situation, it’s safe to assume that at least one of those thoughts is about money, because while money isn’t everything, it is a critical component of our lives.
The new year ushers in an opportunity to discuss financial regrets of the past and goals for the upcoming year. But as the year moves along, conversations die down, and we’re often left to deal with our daily thoughts and money struggles by ourselves. But when it comes to money, you shouldn’t have to feel alone. Here are four money thoughts most of us have but never tell anyone.
1. Am I doing this right? The answer is, it depends. When you turn 18, you don’t exactly receive a manual on adulting. For most people, their financial education consists of combining conversations with family or friends, advice (sometimes unwanted), and self-help books leaving one to wonder if they’re doing it the right way.
There isn’t one way to manage money, and our financial decisions should be based on our own circumstances, resources, and goals. While we have commonly accepted indicators to determine our financial security such as credit score and account balances, even the most confident person can be thrown for a loop when introduced to the concept of debt to income ratio.
Your debt to income ratio, or DTI, describes the percentage of your income that goes to debt payments. Take your monthly debt payments and divide them by your gross monthly income, and you get your DTI. Lenders may use this number to measure your ability to repay money you have borrowed, and most lenders prefer that a borrower’s DTI is 36 percent or lower. Most of us have been taught about the importance of paying our bills on time, but when asked about our DTI ratio or other financial measures we’re unfamiliar with, it can leave even the most confident person questioning whether or not they’re doing it right and making the best financial choices for their current situation.
2. Have I saved enough for the rainy season? We’ve heard about a rainy day fund — but what about the rainy season? A rainy season could be an unexpected medical diagnosis or losing a job amid a slow job market. Unlike the weather forecast, we often don’t get a warning when we’re about to encounter hard financial times.
Common financial advice suggests that families or individuals have at minimum six months of their household expenses saved. But what happens when the savings account is drained and expenses are still piling up, or you’re a part of the six out of 10 Americans who have less than $1,000 saved?
There are a few things that can be done to prepare for financial emergencies with longstanding effects such as:
- Saving relentlessly and consistently
- Living within your means
- Keeping your DTI as low as possible
- Purchasing long-term disability insurance, which is insurance that ensures you will still receive a percentage of your income if you cannot work due to sickness or a disabling injury.
3. Will I ever get out of debt? According to a study conducted by Northwestern Mutual, living in debt forever is among the top three fears Americans have about money, and for good reason. About 80 percent of Americans are in debt, and despite this staggering statistic, many people feel alone when faced with the task of confronting and eliminating their debt.
Casting aside the notion of good debt and bad debt, owing lenders and other individuals money can be embarrassing and even scary when you aren’t sure how to climb the debt mountain. In fact, a new study commissioned by Intuit proved that the majority of millennials feel embarrassed and out of control when it comes to their personal finances. It’s important to have conversations with peers about debt because some of our greatest ideas and realizations are sparked through conversations with others, and what you may see as impossible may be seen as fixable by someone else.
When we have conversations about debt and the things that scare us about money, it allows others to offer a varying perspective that may remove some of the anxiety we feel about our financial worries.
4. What happens if I just say, “Screw it”? If you’ve ever said, “What happens if I don’t pay anyone and just live my life happily ever after” and act like none of this financial stuff is even a factor, you’re not alone. Sometimes avoidance can feel like the easiest and best way to address financial concerns. But avoiding a problem doesn’t always mean the problem will go away, and that’s rarely the case when it comes to our money.
What if instead of saying “screw it,” you said, “Okay, let’s deal with this,” and created a plan based on an understanding of your most important numbers?
The team at Intuit has created an app, Turbo, that will help you do just that! Turbo helps everyday people do just that by showing consumers the complete picture of their financial health — their credit score, DTI, and verified IRS-filed income. The app also provides consumers comparisons to people like them and gives them personalized advice and insights based on their tax and credit data to help them improve their numbers and help get them to where they want to be, so they can make financial decisions with confidence. You can learn more about the app and download it here.
We can’t stop ourselves from thinking about money, but we can take steps to create a better relationship with money so that hopefully our money thoughts become more positive, such as “what charitable cause am I going to contribute to this month?” or “what will my next vacation look and feel like?”
Whatever thoughts you’re having about money, remember, you’re not the only one. Don’t believe me? Check out the #RealMoneyTalk hashtag and join the conversation at @IntuitTurbo — let’s get real about money.
(Photo via Getty)