Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Learning to Save Money - The Basics You Need to Know

I just finished watching the 2012 film starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Sally Fields as Mary Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. The film revolves around the life of Lincoln during the period after his re-election in 1864 before being sworn in for his second term as President of the United States. This viewing was probably the third or fourth time I watched the film and anytime Hollywood gets a hold of history they always bend the truth. Now, I understand the need to capture an audience's attention. I also understand the real purpose of the film is to make money. Film critics might say that the movie was accurate in areas and embellished in details to make the movie better for entertainment purposes. There will always be a mystery surrounding Lincoln, but one thing is for sure, to this day, the men that would sit in the seat of the Presidency would never fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln. There are many examples of Lincoln's greatness, but The Gettysburg Address stands on its own.

The Civil War has dragged on for three grueling and bloody years and citizens from both the north and the south tired of the carnage and were eager for it to end. Gettysburg started a string of Union victories, and Lee was being pushed back south of the Mason-Dixon line. Union victory finally seemed a possibility. Lincoln had found himself becoming a popular president among the common man. It was a perfect scenario for him to use to get the 13th Amendment passed. He had come a long way in 4 years. Most of the high society and politicians still scoffed at his demeanor, and gangly looks, though.

History is a great judge of a leader. A perfect example was the dedication ceremony for the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. The event coordinators hired Edward Everett, a very prominent and respected orator of the day. The President was only invited out of obligation as many a reporter wrote before the event that the President was an uncoordinated windbag and would be a waste of time to listen to. The committee sent an invitation to President Lincoln saying, "It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks." Even the invitation showed a sense of disdain for the President, "just a few appropriate remarks."

Scheduled to speak first was Everett, and he gave a very eloquent speech that lasted about two hours and resulted in a moment in time that hardly a person today even remembers let alone that he even spoke. Lincoln quietly rose from his seat and pulled a folded piece of paper from his jacket and started reading his address that he just wrote on the train ride to the ceremony. He only spoke for about two minutes. Not even long enough for the photographer to get his camera ready and to shoot. The cameraman himself expecting the President to linger in his speech figured he would have plenty of time to get a shot. As history would have it, there is only one blurry photograph of Lincoln as he was sitting back down after his speech. The crowd remained hush as the President concluded and sat back down. Only a delayed and scattered applause. A legend states that Lincoln turned to his bodyguard and commented that his speech, like a bad plow, "won't scour." Although there is no proof Lincoln said that it could easily be imagined based on our knowledge of Lincoln's personality.

The next day Everett wrote the President. Everett apparently did not miss the importance and weight of Lincoln's speech wrote him saying, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

That is how I think of Abraham Lincoln, a man who had a way with words. Quiet, even-keeled and a gentle-hearted person. Is this an accurate picture? No, but I think it is close enough to accurate that if we knew the true details that the story would not be far off-center. It is a fact that he was a sincere feeling man. He struggled with depression for multiple and understandable reasons, but this is what makes this man great, he accomplished all that he did while battling his personal issues. The man held the union together, ran a 4-year civil war which claimed the lives of over 600,000 men. He lost a young son to sickness and had a wife who was even more emotionally unstable than he was. Mankind will never see a man of this caliber again.
Some of us might look back on all this stuff and groan - it makes you think back to the awkward, naive teenage version of yourself, with all the ill-advised hairstyles that went along with it. But these can actually be a few of the elements of a young person's life that shape them into active, proud, and engaged members of their adult community.

School is the first social environment we encounter in life, and nowhere is the sense of society and joint effort stronger than at a private institution. In contrast to public education, private institutions evoke a strong sense of history, tradition, and community that prepares students for their role as citizens.

Why is this so important? Kids today are bombarded with all kinds of bad influences. Pop culture and public figures present examples of selfish individuality, of acting impulsively to the disservice of those around you. TV and movies are jammed with self-indulgent characters, both real and fictional. Nobody wants the folks from "Jersey Shore" to influence their children.

A private school challenges kids to become apart of its history. It asks students to take pride in themselves and become active, contributing young adults working toward a greater good. It's easy to see how this translates to adult life. A private school student gets the tools and experience needed to make them passionate about community affairs. Research shows that these students are more likely to become public servants and community leaders.

This sense of community is positive for so many reasons. An active, concerned public helps preserve our social structures, and makes our shared dreams more attainable. So many schools forget that they're not just trying to turn out college students and test-passers - they're actually molding young citizens into shape. A private school education doesn't lose sight of this core goal: private institutions challenge their students to form and cultivate a commonality. Students learn what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves. Isn't this what we want for our society, for our nation as a whole? We all get stronger if we're each putting a little elbow grease into our own citizenship.

From the individual's perspective, life just makes more sense when you're able to contribute to a common good. It's challenging and mentally healthy to be a good citizen, and perform all the functions that this entails. A private school gives young people their first taste of this. The beauty of this kind of education is that these schools hold students accountable to themselves and to their community - the same we as adults are held accountable for our actions and their effects on others. We live in a society that teaches us how to spend money. We have an economy built on the backs of people's money. The only way our economy prospers is by its citizens spending more money. Companies spend millions each year advertising to create a sense of need in people, so they'll spend money. The credit card people know this and they spend even more money to get you to use their cards in the hope that you will carry a balance and then pay them interest. Your debt is a billion dollar industry.

It is no wonder that American's cannot save. There is nothing in our culture that promotes keeping your income. You need to keep up with the Jones's. If you don't have the bigger house or the new car, you're not successful in life. We are taught from a young age that image is everything, so buy it.

While there is nothing wrong with having things, it is important to know how to save money to be able to get them. Saving and living within your means gives you the best chance of affording the things you want without overextending to get it. It is possible. You can start getting onto the road of saving.

First, you need to have a reason to save. Why do you need to keep your money? What are your goals? Having clearly defined goals will help establish a discipline to help meet that objective. Maybe the goal is to save for a car, a house, a trip, or retirement. Once you know where you want to go, then you can start the journey on how to get there.

Next, you need to find the money. The sage old advice says to save 10% of your income. Well, that is easier said than done. The point is that you need to start somewhere. Many financial institutions have financial calculators on their websites that can help calculate how much you need to save each month to get to a certain dollar amount in a certain number of years. This information is helpful because if you don't know what the end number is then you won't know how much to put away. For example, if you save $150 a month for 20 years with a 3% interest rate, you will have a bit under $50,000 at the end.

Now you ask, where can you find the money to put aside? This is where priorities come into play. This step might take some sacrifice. Unfortunately, not many people were taught delayed gratification growing up, but here is where it comes in handy. Sacrifice a little today for a better tomorrow. Is going out 4 or 5 times less a month worth $50,000 down the road?

This is where a budget can be a life saver. Again, many financial websites have templates that can be used to help figure out what your monthly expenses are compared to your income. This will be helpful in seeing areas that might be cut to help set aside some funds for the future. You must live within your means today so you can live your dreams tomorrow.

Last, is consistency. Don't stop. Don't give up. If you stop putting the funds aside, you are robbing from yourself. Yes, there are always reasons for wanting to spend the funds you earmarked for savings. There is always a gift to buy or a sale at the mall, but if you budget correctly, you should have money for these occasional wants and needs.

The principles of saving are straightforward. Starting to save will take some work. Saving money is counter-culture, but it can and should be done. Remember, set a goal, figure out what it will take to get there and don't give up. These are your dreams. Do what is needed to make them happen.

No comments:

Leave a comment