The Checkout

Financial Worries

Kathy Lally

Lately, I've gotten one e-mail after another telling me about yet another new study or survey declaring this: Americans are worried about their finances.
The other day, it was from financial services company The Hartford, which found that 55 percent of parents with children aged 16 to 24 are afraid their children won't be able to support themselves financially.
Then came one from the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute, which found that fewer American workers and retirees are confident that they will have enough money to retire comfortably.
And there was this: A poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which found that four in 10 American adults are holding off on major life decisions, such as getting married or having children or going back to school, either because they are financially strapped or worried about the U.S. economy.
Even I'm starting to worry now.
I know things seem bad, but should we really be this worried? And what can we do to spare us all this angst? I decided to ask financial planner Rolf M. Winch of Lifetime Financial Partners in Rockville.
First, he said, you need to actually figure out your finances. What are your assets? What are your debts and liabilities? "Take a realistic look at your situation and figure out where you are. That may be a hard thing because some people are so scattered," he said.
Next, he said, sit down and do some soul-searching. If you have a spouse, have a conversation with him or her. Where do you want to end up financially? How old do you want to be when you retire? Do you want to save for a house? When do you want to start having children? "Most people spend more time planning their vacation than they do planning about where they want to end up in life," he said.
Then figure out if what you've got and what you're doing is going to get you to where you want to be, he said. Can you find ways to pay down your credit card debt? Are you spending too much on dining out? Are you taking too many vacations?
Eventually, he said, you will have to start being proactive. Maybe even start changing your behavior. He often advises clients to keep all their receipts and log their spending for three months. "A lot of people really have no clue where their money is going," he said.
And having a clue is what will minimize that anxiety that many of us are feeling. "If you're kind of being proactive about looking at these things you're going to be less concerned and you're going to have no angst because people are more afraid of what they don't know," he said.
--Nancy Trejos

By Kathy Lally |  April 16, 2008; 11:05 AM ET Nancy Trejos
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I'm worried about my finances because I HAVE looked at the numbers. I'm well over 40 and the concept of retirement continues to be not just distant, but completely unreal.

The good news is that I'm one of those people getting the max check ($1800) for the economic stimulous program. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Posted by: Jose23 | April 16, 2008 12:43 PM

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