I've often compared being financially secure to being physically in shape - fiscally fit and physically fit.
Most of us want to be physically fit, but very few of us are. The same holds true with financial security.
Lots of people want to be rich, but don't want to sacrifice as needed or develop good financial habits.
As my father (and many others) used to say, "A lot of people want to go to heaven but no one wants to die to get there."
The root of any successful financial program is to value money.
If you study the life of any billionaire, most tend to be on the cheap side.
If a waiter is expecting a big tip Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, they going to go away disappointed. Those guys don't throw their money around.
I tend to be a generous tipper. Most of my family is the same way. We have strong incomes, but no one has made it into the billionaire category yet.
If we are going to catch Warren and Bill, we will need some outside help.
Some overweight people use Weight Watchers. On money, I lean toward immediate annuities and cutting up the credit cards.
People are stunned when I say that 90% of all lottery winners will run through the money in five years or less, and 60% of all players in the NBA will be broke within three years after they get out the league.
Then I discuss people like Abraham Shakespeare, a lottery winner who was murdered for his money, or the recently bankrupt Antoine Walker, who grossed over $110 million as a basketball star.
Shakespeare and Walker should have dumped their entourage and hangers-on. They also should have thought long-term about their money.
One of my favorite financial vehicles is an immediate annuity. With an immediate annuity, a person pays a lump sum to a life insurance company and receives a monthly income that is guaranteed to last for their rest of his life. With two people, such as a husband and wife, the payments can be guaranteed to last for the rest of both lives
It's similar to retirement pensions that some companies and government entities provide for their employees. It gives a solid foundation to a sound financial plan.
I keep running into people who thought they were going to die at age 70, but didn't. They spent their retirement nest eggs and have nothing much left.
Unlike lottery winners, I rarely see average people blow all their money at once. They usually wind up spending a couple of hundred dollars a month more than they should.
Then, one day, they wind up broke.
One analogy is to compare financial success with weight loss.
If I go on a diet but all my favorite foods are still in the refrigerator, I'm going to fall off the wagon and start eating.
I need to get the food out of easy reach.
If someone can easily get to their money, like in a bank account, it's like a dieter having a full refrigerator. Sooner or later, temptation is going to kick in.
All of this goes back to savings.
My view of savings is little bit different.
To me, it's all about having the assets and financial security to live the life you want to life.
It's not just having money in a bank account.
If you have money in an IRA mutual fund or have your house completely paid off, I consider that savings.
The reason to save is to eliminate risk. Doing anything to reduce the chance of winding up broke is "savings" in my way of thinking.
I have not had a credit card in several years. It eliminates a major possibility for me to get in trouble. I can't buy something unless I have the money in the bank to pay for it.
One of the things we need to do as a nation is to develop a savings mindset.
It's easier said than done.
A financial advisor disagreed with a recent column in which I wrote that Americans were not doing enough to save. He said that "Private savings have gone from a -3.8% of total GDP in 2006 to 7.7% in 2009."
That's like saying a person has gone from being morbidly obese to being grossly obese -- It's a step in the right direction but there is still a very long way to go.
We are in a global economy where people in many countries, such as China, are far better at saving than we are.
We live in a time when it's easy to believe that government is going to cut back programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We need to be able to provide for ourselves.
Moving your Money from a Wall Street bank to a local bank or credit union is an a great option. It helps your community and gives you the power to be dealing with people
The upheaval in the economy leads back to one question:
How serious are you about saving?
After all, it's not the lottery. It's your life.