Amid all the negative news about the economy and job security, military families are putting their financial houses in order.
The military community is attempting to improve their finances by tightening their belts and changing the way they spend money. Our ongoing research, which assesses the financial behaviors, intentions and attitudes of thousands of American families, reveals that households have been cutting back on expenditures in a variety of areas, including leisure activities, clothing purchases and household goods. More than half of respondents in our December survey indicated they had reduced holiday spending.
Also military families are spending their money in smarter ways. They shop at discount stores, use more coupons and buy generic instead of brand name items. When they make purchases, more than one third are using cash or debit cards instead of credit cards.
Looking ahead, Americans intend to save more and cut debt in the months to come. In our December survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents indicated that they intend to increase the amount they save while keeping their debt at the same level or decreasing it in 2009.
Want to put your own financial house in order? Start by investing in your future. The stock market has been battered. But as prices have fallen, stocks have become more attractive, not less. Bargains abound; many well-capitalized and profitable companies now trade at lower prices relative to their earnings than they have in years. But investors gripped by fear and uncertainty not only aren't buying, they're continuing to sell.
Warren Buffet, regarded by many as the most astute investor of our time, says a simple rule dictates his buying: "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." Bad news, Buffet asserts, is an investor's friend: "because it lets you buy a slice of America's future at a marked-down price."
So even if you're only able to invest $50 or $100 per month, it's time to go shopping. And don't wait for a signal from the media or other investors that the water is safe for swimming. The stock market anticipates the future and will likely rebound substantially before most of us can see that the fundamentals of our economy are starting to turn.