Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can I Get a Pulse?

Perhaps it was my former life as a banker that always makes me want to get back to the money, honey. And so it is the case again today. Because I know from firsthand account that ignoring your financial vital signs can lead to poor financial health.

Vital Signs:
For instance, back when I was a financial counsellor/salesperson/bean counter (aka banker), people would come into my office with a complaint--a headache from their overdraft fees or nausea from their credit balance--and I would try to make them feel better. But one thing I often observed was that most of my patients...ahem, clients...didn’t even know their own financial vitals. Vitals like the following:

1. Account Balance and Transaction History: Perhaps it is because we don’t even handle “real” money anymore, favoring plastic cards instead, but I can’t tell you the number of people who would sit at my desk and stare in shock at their transaction history. Can that really be my balance? they’d ask, or Did I really spend $50 at Carinos? Sorta like “Can I possibly weigh that much?” And just like in physical health, often times it wasn’t until a problem cropped up, like an overdraft or fraud, that they would seek help.

2. Basic Rules: Many of my clients also forgot that their banking and credit accounts came with specific rules, sorta like calories in and calories out. These rules were those fine print terms and conditions that you receive at opening. The conditions that say, for instance, that the lender has the right to raise your interest rate from 4% to 18% if you miss a payment on your credit card. Or that says you’ll be charged a $33 fee for spending over your balance. Not understanding the rules often led to breaking them, which was almost always an expensive error.

3. Stress Points: Finally, my clients would sometimes overlook the impact financial stress can have on their relationships. For instance, I’ve seen firsthand when friendships dissolve in a bank cubicle, or marriages crumble in the lobby. Whether money was the cause of the dissent in the first place never mattered--it was the money that eventually had to be hashed out in the split. And the process was M-E-S-S-Y. It is easy to forget that when we don’t care for our money--like when we don’t care for our bodies--our loved ones are inevitably impacted.

Needless to say, the state of these financial vitals were extremely telling about a person’s overall financial health and risk factors. And like a doctor, I could almost predict the financial future based on the above basics.

Check-Up Needed:
I share this with you, of course, because part of being a Recessionista is being financially healthy. And one of the first steps to health is knowing the vital signs. I, of course, could always use a good dose of my own medicine, so I’m challenging myself to start looking at my account history every day (something I’m not so good at doing). And I’ll give you a report on how I’m doing in a couple weeks.

How about you? What vital sign could you check in on? Let me hear your check-up plan today by posting your comment below! Maybe you’ll inspire someone else to follow your “healthy” example.

Previous Recessionista Posts:
Homegrown Resilience
A Wallet Full of Friends
At Least a Lighter Wallet Weighs Less...
Kickin' My Budget into Gear


  1. It would benefit my husband and I to stick to our weekly budget meetings to go over our account and budget status. It would keep us more in check with how we are/are not meeting our budget! For some reason our weekly budget meetings are the first to be compromised because of other things. We need to make this a priority. I also would suggest that it helps to set a realistic budget. If you make it too tight you will always fail. If you make it too loose you will never get ahead.

  2. Great advice! And I completely agree that finance "stuff" tends to get moved to the bottom of the list. I'll even clean the toilet before I check my balance!
    What is it about money that makes us want to avoid it?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin