As Halloween draws near, it's time once again to highlight some of the fearsome financial numbers haunting many Americans today. As always, my intent is not to scare you senseless, but rather to spur you to take action.
Don't let these frightening figures defeat you in your quest for financial security:
The Deadliest Debt: $37,000. Oh my. This was the average college grad's student loan debt as reported in a Wall Street Journal article that dubbed the Class of 2013 "the most indebted ever." It is spine-chilling just how much total debt these young people owe. The real world takeaways? Start saving early, make price and approach part of the college selection process -- starting with two years at a community college, etc. -- and leverage your education benefits. If you plan to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, start today to get the four-year commitment clock ticking.
The Mummified: 40.4%. Uniformed participation in the Thrift Savings Plan has eclipsed the 40% mark. Whoop! (sarcasm intended). The trend is up, but the pace is glacial. Come on folks, let's go! With the availability of the Roth TSP, there's another great reason to get in the retirement savings game. Sign up today and get started on a path to securing your financial future.
Houses of Horror: 20.6 million. No, that's not the average number of calories in the typical trick-or-treat bag, but the number of households paying at least 50% of income toward housing. This startling statistic drives home the point that you must carefully manage your housing expenses.
Cutting out coffee, eating out and other "extras" can certainly help shore up your budget, but not if you're locked into rent or a mortgage that consumes too much of your monthly income. Shoot for 20% or less on housing so you won't be spooked by money woes.
The Skeletal: 57%. This is the percentage of American workers with less than $25,000 in household savings and investments, excluding home and pension benefits, according to the 2013 Employee Benefit Research Institute Retirement Confidence Survey. Ugh! That's a terrifying tally that can put you in a financial boneyard fast. Military retirement or not, a robust retirement nest egg can add fun, flexibility and financial freedom to your future. Work it.
Land of the Lost Children: 70.5%. This is the percentage of parents in a recent survey who indicated their teenagers didn't understand money management basics. Now that's something to keep you up at night. Remember, all education doesn't happen in the classroom. Needs vs. wants, budgeting, the power of compounding interest and responsible use of credit should all be part of your training plan for your kids. And if you need a refresher on these subjects yourself, make it something you all can discuss and create some action plans.
The Number Slayer: 65%. That's the percentage of Americans who had failed to review their credit report in the past year, according to the 2013 NFCC Financial Literacy Survey of U.S. Adults. Really? It's free at www.annualcreditreport.com and will allow you to determine if the important data that ultimately results in your credit score is accurate. Remember, a good score can ensure you have access to loans when you need them, save you money on interest, and even affect job or rental applications and insurance premiums.
Well, after this brief tour through freakish finances, how do you feel? Are you cringing? Crying? I hope some of you are cackling with glee because you're keeping those spooky numbers at bay. No matter where you stand, it's never too late to get rid of the tricks and get in line for some long-lasting treats.