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Do you find yourself putting off important milestones because of financial constraints? If you do, you’re not alone. A majority of American adults—51 percent--say they have delayed at least one key life decision in the last year for financial reasons, according to an American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) survey.
The California Society of CPAs offers some perspective and a few practical tips you can use to try to turn your situation around.
The good news is that a solid majority of Americans still believe in the American Dream. According to a Wells Fargo/Gallup survey, 84 percent still have confidence that they can achieve goals such as owning their own home, having a worthwhile job, living comfortably in retirement and having a better standard of living than their parents.
Unfortunately, though, as the AICPA survey shows, many Americans haven’t yet reached these goals. In 2007, when the Institute conducted a similar survey, only 31 percent of Americans said they had delayed a life event because of money concerns, which is 20 percentage points lower than in 2015. The goals they’re putting off today include higher education (24 percent in 2015 vs. 11 percent in 2007), buying a home (22 percent vs. 14 percent), a medical procedure (19 percent vs. 9 percent), retirement (18 percent vs. 9 percent), having children (13 percent vs. 5 percent) and marriage (12 percent vs. 6 percent).
Why weren’t they able to attain these goals? Lack of savings was the chief reason, cited by 60 percent of respondents. Worries about the economy came in next (50 percent), followed by difficulty paying non-mortgage bills (39 percent) and medical bills (29 percent). Taking care of elderly parents or other relatives (29 percent), paying off credit card debt (28 percent), fears about possible job loss (27 percent) and trouble making mortgage payments (25 percent) were other reasons.
Those who struggle to meet the goals of their own personal American Dream can find solutions. One powerful step that may be easier than you think is cutting your expenses. When was the last time you reviewed your cable bill, for example? It’s possible that you’re paying for premium channels or other items that you never use.
Are you getting the best deal on car insurance? It may be worth your while to shop around. You may also be able to find unnecessary expenses or a better deal related to your cell phone charges.
Next, concentrate on saving more money. The best approach is to start small. While saving thousands of dollars for a home down payment may sound impossible, putting away a little bit on a regular basis is definitely doable. Can you find a way to save $25, $50 or even $100 each week? Resolve to save a set amount weekly and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it adds up, getting you closer to your dream goal.
All of this saving and expense cutting will be easier if you have a budget that helps you understand exactly how much you have to spend and how much your monthly expenses add up to. Sticking to the budget is also critical, of course.
One great tip: Allow yourself a little bit of fun. If you love eating out, for example, don’t deny yourself entirely. Instead, splurge on a restaurant meal once a week.
The AICPA survey also found that 85 percent of Americans have made positive changes to their financial behavior since the recession, so there’s reason to be optimistic about the possibility of altering your financial situation. Your local CPA can help. Contact him or her for advice on the best ways to make your own dreams come true.
Copyright 2016 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
The Money Management columns are a joint effort of the AICPA and the California Society of CPAs as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.
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