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Dec 5, 2022

Forget the Diet, Bring on the Wealth

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - UNC-Wilmington

This article was contributed by Adam Jones

Each year around this time we set out goals to better ourselves over the coming year including physical health (losing weight) social health and mental health (growing our network of relationships and spending time on the things we enjoy) but too few of us resolve to focus on our financial health. 

Over a third of US adults indicated they could not cover an unexpected $400 expense without dipping into savings or turning to credit cards, and no, this is not a pandemic-related issue. That figure represents over 120 thousand adults in the Wilmington area! There are three avenues to help improve the region’s financial health: resolve to work on getting our finances in order, help others grow and improve their financial situations when appropriate, and help break the taboo of talking about personal finances!

While financial experts disagree on some issues, they agree that the first step in the path to financial freedom is to build an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses. While gathering up that kind of cash can be daunting, resolve to stash away at least $500 to cover an unexpected car repair or other bills. Dave Ramsey is fond of pointing out that finances are a behavioral problem, not a mathematical one; think hard about where to stash the $500 so it doesn’t turn into food and fun on a Friday night and remains insurance against tough times. Slip it into the back of the family photo to remind you that those funds are to ensure your family’s long-term future if you need to.

The sub-resolution of improving our financial health is helping others, where appropriate. New academic research on inequality and income mobility shines a spotlight on personal networks and links to opportunity, helping those around you who are struggling to find the next opportunity. That help might look like an introduction or a nudge to move from a job into a career. A 4% raise each year from age 22 to 65 means finishing a career and earning more than 5 times where one started. But to get there, everyone needs a little help getting started, let’s resolve to watch for opportunities to help others get started.

Finally, let’s resolve to break the taboo around discussing personal finances. A recent study found that 28% of respondents would rather sit in traffic for two hours rather than talk about money! While discussing money is likely to remain a tricky conversation, maybe we can start with small talk, “did you set up your retirement contribution for this year?” “I pay myself first,” “yep, fear of missing out almost got the better of me but I wanted to save a little more for XYZ.” We can have financial conversations without talking numbers and cheer each other on without prying into other’s business and ruining a family meal.

While fear of missing out sometimes gets the better of us, don’t miss out on the chance to make a resolution to better our financial health by putting a few dollars into a retirement account instead of buying the chocolate lava cake which might help with one of those other resolutions too.

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