During a slow economy many people stress about money moves. While you may be worried about the day to day, though, there are four things that just about everyone is already doing that helps make these trying times a little bit easier.
It is pretty common knowledge that Americans, as a culture, are not always the best with money. Financial experts are often heard criticizing the horrible financial habits of Americans with commentary on our lack of savings or lack of planning for the future.
Strangely enough, though, these experts have found that many Americans are actually doing a few things right, and we have been for at least the last five years.
The first smart money moves that Americans have adopted is holding onto vehicles a little longer. R.L. Polk & Co, an auto market research firm, estimates that the average age of a car in the United States is almost 11 years, which is the longest amount of time ever documented for car ownership.
While driving used cars is not usually considered an “attractive” quality, the behavior helps prevent many people from having to make a car payment. The average amount of financing that car lease holders get is around $25,000, which equates to a monthly payment of approximately $550 (for a 48-month lease).
Add to that the higher cost of new car insurance (say a difference of around $50) and you will save $600 a month. Even if you were going to buy something at a much lower price, you’ll end up saving by holding off as long as you can.
Secondly, Americans are working longer. While this behavior is dependent on health, the idea of an early retirement is somewhat a thing of the past.
It doesn’t help that the government keeps increasing the age for receiving social security but people are also, simply, working much longer. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor says that the number of people working past the age of 65 is the highest it has ever been.
This not only increases short term earnings but it also feeds into social security and improves retirement conditions when you do finally choose to hang it up; and a study done by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that working longer simply makes you happier.
While this generation has posted record highs for working age, this is also a significant time for paying down debt. Americans are actually doing a very good job of consistently working on reducing their credit liability. Obviously, this is especially important during a housing crunch when home values are low but it is also a sign that people are simply sticking to the necessities.
Whereas previous generations had used credit cards to purchase frivolities or luxuries, this generation is using credit as needed. A new study from credit-score firm Credit Karma shows that the average American consumer has reduced their credit card debt by 8 percent over the past year. Card Hub has also reported that delinquencies are down 20 percent and charge-offs are down 37 percent.
Finally recent data also shows that more Americans are attending college than ever before. Nearly half of 18-24 year-olds are currently enrolled in some form of higher education.
This includes an astounding increase in community college enrollment, which is a smart way to get a degree for much less money moves, reducing tuition costs and, therefore, the need for costly student loans.
Considering that a college degree is believed to increase a person’s income by $650,000 over their lifetime, it seems that a degree could make all the different when money matters.