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How can I make positive financial decisions and why is financial knowledge important?

Why Being Financially Mindful is More Important Than Ever

Making conscious and educated decisions about your money is, perhaps, more important than it has ever been before. There have been many changes over the past couple of decades that make individual understanding of financial concepts absolutely integral:

  • Financial decision-making - most notably, long-term financial decision- making - is rarely assisted by employers anymore, rather placing responsibility on the consumer/employee. Pension plans are becoming a thing of the past, making way for retirement plans that require employees to understand and participate, sometimes pay costs, and make their own investment decisions that will lead them to retirement success or failure. 401(k) plans are the predominant example.
  • Social Security, once a guaranteed and sizable source of income in retirement, is now a resource that hangs in the balance and is only enough to cover bare-bones living expenses for most, if that.
  • Humans are living longer, making the need for sizable savings and/or delayed retirement the only ways to have the financial means to survive over an extended lifetime.
  • There are more financial options and the world of finance changes quickly. There seem to be unending options when it comes to borrowing, saving, and day-to-day personal finance products. It's difficult to understand everything available and compare all the possibilities, especially when options will come and go as the world, national, and local economies ebb and flow.
  • The costs of good and services have increased, as have most incomes. Interest rates on any savings has not kept pace, making such "fall backs" little more than an emergency fund, rather than a meaningful ongoing contribution to one's future.

With all this, many are looking for stability in an environment that is anything but. That being said, there are several things you can control within your own financial life and lend to your sense of capability and empowerment.

  • Ensure that you are as aware of your finances as possible. Your choices and action have a direct result on your financial standing.
  • Find a knowledgeable, trustworthy financial resource with whom you can work comfortably. Though an advisor or institution can't make your financial decisions for you, they should provide you with honest information, apply said information to your particular situation, and help you evaluate your options and next steps.
  • Develop positive financial habits. Making conscientious decisions with the understanding of how each financial choice affects another will help you take responsibility for - and connect the dots between - your habits and where you stand, financially.
  • Do the things that make doing the "right thing" as easy as possible. Participate in a retirement plan, start saving early, enroll in direct deposit from work and, whenever possible, automate it all! It will make the process of accumulating funds a given, all the while you know you are making positive steps.
  • Develop a "financial plan." If you're new to personal finance, deal with one thing at a time. As you become more comfortable and grounded in your financial picture, you'll be better able to evaluate all pieces of your story.

In the End
You're never too young or too old, too new to a situation or too enmeshed to improve your understanding of  personal finance or your standing within the financial world. As you move forward in your financial life, learn from your mistakes and the wisdom of others and, as you progress, you'll see that the positive steps you take will lead to the progress you make.