Saturday, May 12, 2007

Teach Your Children How to Handle Money and Stay Out of Debt

The schools and parents are failing today's children in a very important area - money management and economics. Many of the young people never take a course in Economics. A few take it in college. People are not being taught how to manage their money and how the economy works, and then are unable to teach their own children. This is a cycle that needs to be stopped.

Without a good understanding of economics people will believe whatever the government or the media tell them about why taxes need to be raised, or why we need to impose unfair tariffs, and so on. No matter what you think about Reagan as a president, he was right about his economic policy: let people hold onto more of their money and the taxes collected will actually increase.

If you were old enough in 1980 to remember what was happening, you might remember how the United States was in a terrible period of high inflation (interest to buy a house was in the double digits), low morale, and a weak economy. Remember the term "malaise?" The whole country was described as being in a malaise.

Then Reagan became president and lowered taxes, encouraged us to work hard and invest in IRAs that earned 10% tax free interest, and told us to be proud to be Americans. It worked.

The nation had such a dramatic turnaround economically that Reagan won a landslide in 1984. Even the media couldn't deter people from voting for Reagan. He won 49 states, losing only in Minnesota, which was his opponent's home state.

What does this have to do with money management and economics? For one, it showed how lowering taxes really does increase tax revenue. It showed how if the government lets Americans keep more of their hard-earned money they will invest it wisely and create wealth.

Americans took their money and invested in businesses. That in turn created more jobs for the low and middle classes. Charitable giving increased during the 80s when people gave more to the poor.

So what does this history lesson teach us about handling money? It teaches us that lowering taxes is always a good thing. It teaches us that living within our means is necessary to keep out of debt. And it teaches us that it is good to be generous and help others.

Today we have grown accustomed to paying for everything with credit. We buy our cars, our vacations, and our toys on credit. We even pay for our education on credit. Then each month when the bills come due we struggle to pay the minimum amounts due.

It's not easy to get out from under a lot of debt, but it is possible. It requires a lot of discipline. It might require selling the new sports car or the new 4x4 to get an older vehicle. It might even require selling the house with the super-big mortgage and buying a smaller home that you can better afford.

Selling your home might not be such a bad idea. Sell the home that takes up so much of your income and buy a duplex or fourplex. Then, you rent out all the units but the one that you live in. That way other people are paying your mortgage.

In closing, keep this in mind: If the minimum payment on your credit card debt requires more than 15% of your income, it is out of control. Take care of the problem now before it gets any worse. If you need to, shop around for a good, trustworthy and knowledgeable financial counselor and get help to reduce your debt.

Be sure you don't let this problem destroy your marriage. This is a temporary set back and there is no need to blame the other person. Work together and start digging your way out of debt.

If you can stick with it and succeed you will be stronger and wiser for having lived through it. You can then teach your own children how to not make the same mistakes you made.

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