By CAROLYN MCLEMORE, CRPC®, and KURT VANDE STREEK
Are you financially literate?
There are events throughout history that are so significant, they serve to remind us how fragile life really is. For example, most American adults remember exactly where they were when news surfaced that the Twin Towers were attacked on the morning of September 11, 2001. Today, we are facing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As believers, we know and trust that God is fully in control despite how unsettling this situation may seem. “Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10.
One ramification, however, of global events like the two mentioned above is that financial markets do not like them — hence the very swift and severe pullback experienced over the past few weeks. In addition to focusing on the physical and emotional health of our families, friends and neighbors, moments like this also remind us of the importance of financial health — a national initiative highlighted each April in the United States with National Financial Literacy Month.
Are you new to the concept of financial literacy? Financial literacy is the ability to understand and effectively apply various financial skills — including personal financial management, budgeting and investing. Reflect for a moment if you will. Can you think of someone who had a lot of money and lost it, or someone who has never been able to financially get ahead because of poor money choices? Our hunch is it took less than five seconds to visualize a person.
Unfortunately, most people are not taught the fundamental principles of personal finance at an early age — so they find out these principles the hard way. The majority of colleges and universities still don’t offer courses in basic money management skills, and most students entering college did not benefit from financial literacy courses in high school. There’s good news, though! Organizations like the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE), and experienced financial advisors, are working to fill the “gaps” in financial education.
What are the primary ways to achieve financial literacy? They’re the same seven habits we recently shared to improve your financial health:
1. Create and track a budget monthly
2. Start funding your emergency savings
3. Develop a plan to eliminate your debt
4. Automate your retirement savings
5. Review your insurance needs annually
6. Establish a comprehensive estate plan
7. Talk with your family about money matters regularly
To comment on the important fourth habit, automating your retirement savings: The general population is familiar with the concept of investing, but are you aware that you can align your personal values with your investments?
For example, do you have a deep care and concern about climate change? If so, there’s an investment for that. Or are you opposed to industries like tobacco, gambling, and/or pornography? There are investments that can filter those industries out too. The concept of aligning your values with your investments is called values-based investing and, truth is, too few financial advisors are discussing this opportunity. We hope that changes, and we’re proud to offer values-based financial planning and investing with every one of our interested clients.
Before implementing the suggestions listed above, or if you’re interested in learning more about values-based financial planning and investing, consider seeking counsel from an experienced financial professional. Our team at Trustmark Financial Services would be glad to come alongside you in this endeavor, and can be reached at 769.209.4684 or 601.208.6029.
Carolyn McLemore is a financial consultant and first vice president with Trustmark Financial Services. She and her husband, Gary, live in Brandon and are active members of First Baptist Church of Fannin.
Kurt Vande Streek is a financial consultant with Trustmark Financial Services. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, live in Jackson with their two children and are active members of Redeemer Church, PCA.