With the recent announcement by the Jamaican government of more tax increases and another National Debt Exchange, many people are understandably worried about their personal finances and our country's economy. While the repercussions of these measures are still unknown, we can be sure that there will be more daunting economic challenges on the horizon.
In periods of upheaval and uncertainty, it is even more important for us all to be innovative in thinking of ways to survive and succeed. When faced with a financial problem, you can either choose to let it overwhelm you, or you can decide to adopt a solution-oriented approach to conquer your concern. Here are some strategies to cope with these times:
It's easy to get flustered by your money problem, but panic will only prevent you from finding solutions. It is possible to be relaxed in spite of your challenges if you have a workable plan of action. There are money principles that help you to succeed in good times and in bad times, so you must learn and apply these success steps instead of worrying.
Know your financial reality
In the best of times, you need to have a handle on what it really costs you to live; in this difficult period, it is even more crucial for you to be aware of your financial position. You must prepare a written budget so that you can see where your money is going and recognise where you might need to cut back on spending or increase your earnings.
Control your spending
This is not the time to be frivolous with your money, even if you think you can afford to. Use your budget, which you can download at www.financiallysmart.org, to identify the costs that are vital for your survival. Now is the time to manage your cash flow wisely and reduce non-essential spending, as you can't be too sure of the challenges tomorrow may bring.
Build a rainy-day fund
Like an animal who gathers food for the lean times, you need to channel more of your income into savings right now. Your target is to put aside at least three to six months of your average monthly expenses. Your rainy-day account is a cushion to help pay your bills in case of job loss or major illness, so don't use these funds for anything but genuine emergencies.
Get out of debt
The last thing you need at this time is to be overly indebted. Avoid taking on loans that will increase your obligations, and build up your cash reserves instead. Don't use your credit card to buy things you can't afford; use cash or a debit card for your transactions. If you're in debt, aggressively pay down your loans using several strategies I have outlined at www.financiallysmartadvice.com.
Create extra income
Even if you currently have a great job, you could be advised tomorrow that your company is downsizing. Start now to consider what talents and hobbies you have that can be converted into side income, and look for ways to provide goods and services and earn extra income. The Internet is a valuable resource to find customers who are interested in uniquely Jamaican offerings.
Plan for the future
History shows us that periods of great economic challenges have always been followed by financial growth. While you may have to endure tough times now, be assured that you can prepare for a brighter future. Creating a clear vision for yourself and your family, and focusing on the required steps to accomplish your goals can help you to conquer fear of tomorrow's problems.
Avoid money risks
With interest income on deposits and investments set to tumble, you may feel pressured to seek out more aggressive options to get a better return on your money. Don't get careless in your desire to grow your net worth; it is better to adopt a more conservative approach in uncertain times. Ask professional advisors to help you decide if an investment is worth the possible risks.
Cover your dependents
One of the major sources of worry is what may happen to those you love if a negative situation occurred. Reduce insecurity about the future by covering personal risks such as loss of good health and early death with adequate health and life insurance. You should also make proper plans to transfer your money and property when you die, so that your loved ones will be secure.
Your mind can either be a powerful ally or a debilitating enemy at this time. Control your thoughts by looking at the bright side of any situation; if you only focus on the negative, that's all you will see. One way to put your problems in proper perspective is by helping the less fortunate. You will be richly rewarded in ways that money can't buy.
Time goes by so quickly, and this week we celebrate the seventh anniversary of this column. Whatever the near future brings, I encourage you to adopt these words contained in the Optimist creed: "Promise yourself to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble."
Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Get more advice on money and business matters at www.financiallysmartadvice.com and www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com. Email comments to email@example.com.