Live within your means

Financial literacy statistics slideNovember is Financial Literacy month. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the National Financial Literacy conference in Montreal. It was an inspiring two days of learning how we are doing as a country in helping Canadians have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

Since I work for a company that helps people be financially secure, financial literacy has always been a passion of mine. One key theme from the conference was how being financially secure plays into our overall wellness and happiness.

Here were a few statistics shared at the conference:

  • 47% of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque
  • 35% feel overwhelmed by debt
  • 74% have saved only one-quarter or less of what they feel they’ll need to retire
  • 1 in 4 could not come up with $2,000 within a month in an emergency
  • 46% say they will have to work longer than they planned five years ago
  • 50% believe financial stress is impacting their performance at work

And Canada is further ahead than most other countries in the world.

The key to financial wellbeing really comes down to one simple tenet: live within your means and don’t spend more than you earn.

Of course, this is much easier if you have a good job and good income. It’s not as easy if you are a single income family or living close to the poverty level.

We also live in a highly commercial society that is constantly enticing us to spend money.

I walked out of the conference last week and went for a walk on St. Catherine’s Street. Every store window had the word “Sale/Vente” blazoned on it promoting early Christmas offers. (And yes, I did spend money shopping). One person shared a story about a friend of hers who was visiting L.A. who saw a purse on sale from $5,000 to $1,200 and couldn’t pass it up because it was such a “steal”. We are programmed to spend.

So how do we do a better job of living within our means? It starts with lifestyle choices.

Look at how you spend your time and consider making shifts in your leisure activities. Choose activities that require no spend or very little spend: hiking, free community concerts and events, and hobbies at home or spending time with family and friends that cost little money. If you are struggling each month, make a budget and stick to it. Decide which expenses are necessary and which ones are discretionary. See if there are ways to reduce both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to live within your means and look after your financial wellbeing, especially this holiday season. Next week, I’ll share some of the best sites and tools shared at the conference to help you take control of your finances and be financially secure.

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