The Dollar Stretch.
When you think “stretch” what comes to mind?
Let’s look at a few possibilities:
* to make limited supplies or resources go further than usual, planned, or expected
* to strain or push something to the limit
* to cause somebody to make full use of his or her abilities or intellect, e.g. with challenging or demanding work
* to straighten or extend the body or part of it, especially the limbs, to full length
* to lengthen, widen, or extend something, or become lengthened, widened, or extended, especially by force
I think of the word “stretch” in each of these ways – especially when it comes to how I spend a dollar.
Financially speaking, many of us are looking for information on how to increase our financial flexbility – how to spend, save, and invest smarter. We want our dollars to worker harder, smarter, longer, and to their full ability.
But doing so starts with a willingness to increase our financial literacy. There is truth to the worn out adage – learn to walk before you run. This is especially true when it comes to personal finance. Just as any of us would warm-up and stretch before undertaking a strenous physical activity, similar preparation is required when it comes to our financial activities and goals.
And therein lies the problem – as with many things in life, most of us would rather skip the warm-up and stretch, toss the directions to the side, take the path of least resistance, and forego the ABC’s of developing/learning a new skill set.
So it is with most Americans attitudes toward their finances.
The intention of this website is to provide concise, easily accessible and highly adoptable personal finance practices, information, and resources. I hope The Dollar Stretch will become a resource for readers to warm up, stretch, and workout as they attempt to increase their financial fitness.
A Little About Me –
A few years ago I realized that I was, like many Americans have come to realize, significantly out of shape when it came to my finances. Financially, it’s easy to adopt a populist sentiment that the current economic problems are solely the result of Wall Street, Congress, and any other easily identifiable “them”. In my mind however, the sickness of some of our larger institutions is a reflection, in large part, of our unhealthy financial habits as individuals. We spend too much, save too little, often live well beyond our means, and have financial IQ’s far below our ability.
And what does the average American’s financial strategy really look like? For many of us it seems to look like this:
1) Make sure that monthly expenses match or exceed our monthly income (and that includes the obligation to spend/borrow more any time we increase our earning power). As long as we’re satisfying our minimum monthly payment obligations – no more no less – we’re ‘financially responsible’. Car payments $365, Mortgage $2100, Credit Cards $650, Entertainment $??? … check, check, check, and check!
2) Plug just enough money into our 401k’s to get the company match and hope the 27 year old kid with a finance degree managing the ‘retirement fund’ we picked out of our company’s 8 different options is a financial savant with the value investment wizardry of Warrent Buffet.
3) Ignore boring, mundane, and tedious daily financial tasks like developing a monthly budget, contributing to an emergency fund, cutting expenses, and decreasing our debt load. Instead, focus on the short term and trivial trappings of a household that has financially ‘made it’. As long as the kids are at the same well respected school as the neighbors children, our cars are newer than the people across the street, and we vacation once a year and have the FaceBook photos posted to prove it … ahh, financial success!
Or is it?
I set out on a path to focus on the mundane, the boring, and the tedious when it came to my personal finances. My goal was not to run the equivalent of a personal finance maration in a week but rather to increase my financial flexibility, learn the basics, pay off that first credit card debt, run that first mile, shed some of those wasteful spending habits, and increase my overall financial wellness. Successfully finishing the personal finance marathon wasn’t the goal, putting myself in a position to compete in it was.
So I started finding ways to stretch my dollar – in every sense of the word!
Enjoy the site, visit often, and please share your comments and thoughts. And while I don’t pretend to have all the answers and The Dollar Stretch is simply an extenstion of my efforts to constantly improve my financial fitness – I hope you find it helpful!