I am countercultural. I say “No, thank you” to the credit card offer at the checkout. I often wish I had a
hidden camera to record the disbelief on the clerk’s face, and that of the person behind me, when I turn
down discounts, free stuff, and points on my purchase. At the end of the transaction, I hand them my
business card with my standing invitation: “Let me teach you how to be countercultural.”
Americans firmly believe in “buy now and pay later.” It allows us to indulge our every whim and pay it
off later. In fact, we like debt so much in the U.S. that 78% of us live paycheck to paycheck. According to
the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American household carries nearly $60,000 in consumer debt. As a
nation we have racked up $12.73 trillion in credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and student loans.
So what does financial wellness look like in an instant gratification culture? Well, it’s weird. Financial
wellness basically means saying “No, thank you” to a lot to things others tell us we can’t live without and
we must buy now! It starts at the checkout counter and ends with our retirement plan.
It means living within our means: making a budget for monthly expenses, and intentionally contributing
to savings for goals we may not realize for months, years or even decades. It’s voluntarily avoiding debt.
One of my most successful clients drove a beater for two years while he diligently saved to buy a newer
$8,000 car with cash. That behavior helped him save $10,000 for a down payment on the house he
bought two years later.
The best financial tip I can give anyone any time is this: Don’t buy a sales pitch. Get a strategy. Build a
monthly budget and stick to it. Save to make planned purchases, including holidays gifts, vacations, and
more. Be as diligent about funding your retirement as you are your daily latte. It all pays off in the end.
Dawn Dean is the financial coach for The Financial Opportunity Center of Goodwill Industries of
Central Michigan Heartland. All services are free and confidential. You can reach her at 269-788-6500,