With the Presidential elections scheduled for November, there is much debate in the U.S. concerning the most important campaign topics. In the June edition of Bankrate's Financial Security Index, a sample demographic of 1,000 adults were asked how much personal finance would influence their votes this fall. According to the results, an estimated six in 10 respondents suggested that personal finance will be incredibly important in their eventual decisions, and this revelation offered a fascinating insight into the current economy and how it is perceived within society.
SEE: Money And Politics
Personal Finance in the U.S.
Despite the above statistics, 50% of respondents remain unsure as to which Presidential candidate would help them see an improvement in their own personal finances. Therefore, while citizens appear willing to cast their votes based at least partially on the present and future health of their finances, there is also a great deal of uncertainty as to who offers the greatest chance of long-term prosperity. More than revealing a certain level of indecisiveness in the voting demographic of the U.S., this also raises the important question of whether citizens are taking enough individual responsibility for their own financial futures.
Studies certainly suggest that the current generation of young adult voters struggle to manage personal wealth, thanks in part to a generally poor level of financial literacy. According to a PNC financial independence survey released in May, the average debt among adults aged between 18 and 29 in the U.S. is $45,000, while the unemployment rate for the same demographic stands at 12.4%. With the national rate of unemployment far lower at 8.2%, there is a tangible reason to believe that a significant portion of U.S. citizens are failing to take control of their careers and therefore unable to build genuine disposable wealth and financial savings.
An Age Old Issue
The issue of whether citizens take enough responsibility for their financial well-being is not exclusive to the U.S., and it is something that has been discussed in the U.K. for several decades. Under the famed rule of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the concept of society was disregarded as something that bred dependency and inhibited wealth creation, and this philosophy led to the privatization of several industries and an increasing emphasis on empowering self-help and financial independence among citizens. Although these government policies drew criticism at the time, they were at least effective in encouraging individuals of all ages to take the initiative and strive to secure their own fiscal future.
While Thatcher's policies may have been extreme, they at least proved that individuals could develop a greater level of financial responsibility if the circumstances demanded it. The key is for citizens to develop this same level of independence in a more progressive political regime, where help and welfare is more readily available to those who genuinely require it. This process begins with a desire to change behavior and embrace willpower as a method of controlling your finances, as recent research suggests that this has genuine scientific merit as a self-improvement tool. According to the work of researcher Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney, willpower functions like a muscle in that it can be trained and strengthened.
How to Take Charge of Your Money
With this general attitude and drive in mind, all that is left is to put practical steps in place to manage your finances. A good place to start is by investing time into technology and online money management systems, which have continued to evolve in terms of their sophistication and the number of features available to users. Resources such as Mint.com and Doughhood are remotely accessible tools that can be used for budgeting, managing expenditure and creating savings and their ease of use empowers even less financially aware individuals to get to grips with them quickly.
In order to use this technology effectively, however, you also need to develop an acute awareness of your financial circumstances, and take tight control of both incoming and outgoing financial transactions. Budgeting is the most effective way to achieve this, as this is an involved process that requires you to appraise every aspect of your finances in determining disposable wealth and the potential for making savings. It is therefore an ideal first step towards financial independence, so long as you are accurate in your calculations and detail every sum of money that is spent or earned in exact dollars and cents.
The Bottom Line
From these simple steps, the citizens in the U.S. can strive to develop a far greater control of their personal finances, so that no future government change or action has the power to significantly hinder their long-term prosperity. This would also provide a foundation from which the current generation of adults can educate their children on wealth management, and equip them with pivotal skills and knowledge before they start working and develop an income source.
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