RISMEDIA, April 2, 2009-To say that the American consumer has been spooked by the doom and gloom of economic reports is putting it lightly. The fact is most of us have at some point in our lives made a rash decision out of fear that we later regretted and many of us have put off critical financial decisions for fear of making the wrong choice. In this economy, the only thing worse than overreacting is not reacting at all.
“In today’s uncertain times, it’s easy to subconsciously make decisions based on fear instead of fact,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services. “We have to take emotion out of the equation, or we risk making financial decisions that actually hurt us in the long run.”
Spiker urges consumers to consider the following fact versus fiction when responding to the current economic downturn:
Retirement Investments: Emotion tells us that we’re in a free fall and to get out of the stock market while the facts say the market is priced at what it was 12 years ago. Emotions may run particularly high for retirees who have seen a big drop in the value of their lifetime assets. If you are part of this group and feel a need to move your money out of the market for peace of mind, one option is to start small. Withdraw only the money you need to cover your living expenses for the coming year.
College Savings: Emotion tells us to pull everything out while logic says to sit tight and consider all money-saving options including less expensive schools and living at home. If you have a child starting college next year, remember that you actually have a five-year goal. Take it one year at a time. If your assets or income have taken a big hit recently, be sure to update your application for Federal Student Aid. You may be newly qualified.
Saving vs. Spending: Emotion tells us to save every penny in this economy, while logic says if you have saved for your personal needs or planned for a large purchase, it is OK to spend. Many people don’t balance their checkbooks, so try writing your budget on a 3×5 card and carrying it with you; every time you spend money, subtract it from that card so you don’t overspend. Most importantly, know where your money is going so you can understand how to better save.
Refinancing Home Mortgages: Emotion tells us to take the lower interest rate no matter what, while logic says to weigh the cost versus the actual savings. Look at how much it will cost to refinance and how long it will take to recover the cost. If it will take three years to make it up and you’re planning to stay in your home for 10 years, then it’s a no brainer.
Sometimes knowing the facts isn’t enough when we are emotionally close to the decision. Two additional ideas to help consumers get past the fear and emotion are:
-Create a financial plan or revisit the one you have.
-Schedule an appointment with a trusted advisor.
“Even in a difficult economy, people with a financial plan through a financial advisor report greater confidence in their ability to retire comfortably, greater financial security on a day-to-day basis and they report feeling less financially stretched,” said Spiker. “Households with a financial plan have greater comfort with their levels of savings and personal debt, providing greater confidence when facing the uncertain outlook for 2009.”
Consumers are faced with a number of difficult financial decisions right now. Now, more than ever, they can benefit from the support of an educated and trusted advisor who can help them replace fear with fact and emotion with logic as they navigate their financial futures.
For more information, visit www.firstcommand.com.