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As the statewide coordinator for the Utah Saves Campaign, I have had the privilege of working with Utah Savers from across the state since the program's launch in November of 2005. While there are many financial issues that people are struggling with, there are a couple of issues that seem to consistently keep people living paycheck to paycheck.
The struggle we have as a campaign is just trying to get people to change their behavior --there are many barriers that keep people from being good savers including: 1) time--many people don't have the time or the desire to sit through financial education classes to learn new strategies to pay down debt, purchase a home, learn about investing, saving for retirement, etc. Utah Saves works closely with church groups, employers, and community based organizations to offer financial workshops at work, or where people are already accessing services. 2) instant gratification--people don't value saving the way that they once did. I think we all have grandparents or parents who are great Savers, but the attitude today is that we want everything now rather than saving for major purchases. Easy access to credit enables this behavior-- with average interest rates being between 20-25% even small purchases add up quickly. 3) trust--we see that many people don't know who to trust for financial information. There are plenty of financial tools, classes, software, products, and financial planners out there to assist people with their finances, however, all this information becomes "white noise" for people and nothing really gets through. Utah Saves has tried to create a trusted gateway for people to access simple, useful information (from various sources) to address this barrier. 4) motivation--just getting started is the hardest part. Start small. Take some time on a Saturday morning and open accounts for your children, or set some financial goals for yourself for the next year and post them somewhere in your house.
There is so much hope for people struggling with their finances. We have seen young couples who have paid off $30-50,000 of debt, single mom's who have purchased their first homes, high school kids who have saved enough to buy their first cars, immigrant families who have started their own business.....while they all had different goals and strategies for reaching those goals, what they all had in common is they learned to change their spending behavior and became savers.
I think that people want to do better--we can all be better savers--become a Utah Saver and talk about saving. Next time you go to purchase something, remind yourself that you are a Saver and you are conscious about your spending.
If you have any questions for Jerilyn, Please post them on the comment board. Jerilyn will post answers to them as her time allows