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,
Tricky traps of sneaky snacks
We all know that nutrition is a big part of our overall health. While nutrition labels were invented to inform consumers, marketing manager managers have managed to sneak a few things under the radar. Reading the nutrition label with an informed eye is the best step to beating them, so here are a few tricks to watch for.
The top of the label describes a standard serving size and how many servings a package contains. However, there are certain items that we look at and make serving size assumptions, so we fail to check the serving size. Sometimes it can be surprising: A bottle of pop may only have 75 calories per serving. But if that bottle contains two and a half servings and you drink the whole thing, you're consuming 225 calories.
The footnote of the nutrition label gives suggestions on important nutrients such as fat, cholesterol and fiber, but these suggestions are based on a 2,000-2,500-calorie diet, and only a percentage of people have those recommended calorie amounts. For moderate active women especially, this may be too high. For very active men, this may be too low. Be sure to check your own BMR at the Nutrition section.
We are in a sugar era, with people eating far more than any time in history, and this high sugar has been linked to the current obesity crisis. But added sugar comes in many forms, which so hard to find on the ingredients label. One study suggests manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets. The FDA requires food producers to list all ingredients in their foods. Here are just a few names of sugar to watch for in the ingredient list: Agave, barley malt, beet sugar, cane juice, caramel, confectioner's sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, demerara, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, glucose, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), honey, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, panocha, rice syrup, sucrose.
Let's Eat Together!
There is a buzz-phrase that has been circling the internet; “What you eat in private, you wear in public.” This rings especially true for many of those who have tried diet after diet only to remain stagnant. Or they lose the weight only to gain it back because the underlying causes and lifestyle choices have not been addressed.
Everyone needs to eat. Some of us eat too much, and some of us not enough. What matters most is what we eat. It’s easy to grab those quick meals, but generally speaking the nutritional value of fast food is not what our bodies need to run efficiently. There needs to be an even exchange of calorie intake to calories burned (or more or less depending on your body image goals), and an emphasis on key nutrients. You may feel full, but your body is confused and starving. We all need to eat, so let’s be mindful of what we put in the fuel tank.
When we eat in a social setting, everything can shift. It allows us to take the time to slow down and enjoy ourselves. A good bit of wisdom from writer Michael Pollan is to, “spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.” Rushing a meal can lead to stress, poor digestion, and overeating. In a busy would, it can be difficult to get everyone to the dinner table at the same time for a conversation as simple as talking about each other’s day. Conversations are what allow us to connect to people and create a sense of community. What better time to do that than while having a meal? We all have to eat right? Good things should be shared.
Eating with others can also motivate us to make better choices about what we eat ourselves and when we eat it. A sit-down meal is a great way to create a connection between healthy foods and good times. Be the role model for your friends and family and create dishes that nourish the body and soul. Developing a regular mealtime schedule with others helps to create a routine in our day and can control snacking. It helps prevent spontaneous emotional eating, keeps our blood sugar balanced, aids in digestion, and curbs overeating - not only for the need to leave some for others, but because someone else is watching and holding us accountable. Scheduled meals will also help your loved ones for the same reasons. Make their and your health a priority. Make it a challenge to eat with others as often as you can. Set aside the time, it’s worth it.
Drink it Up!
This month’s challenge is to match ounce for ounce the amount of water you drink with any other liquids. This is an attempt to have everyone drink more water!
The need for water is well documented and well publicized. We have all heard that we are made up of 98% water, and we are constantly losing water. Therefore the need to rehydrate is ongoing. There are many different approaches to making sure we drink enough water. People are carrying around water bottles, setting timers on their watches, using apps, and counting ounces. Whatever works, I cannot tell you one method is better than the other.
I can tell you what has worked for me.
I drink more water now than ever before because I don’t drink the other things. Years ago I stopped drinking pop and replaced it with more water. I didn’t intend to cut down on the others, Ice Tea, Lemonade and Gatorade, it just happened. As I got in the “habit” of ordering water it seemed I just did it more and more. It is to the point now that I order “coffee and a water,” “beer and a water,” and of course “just water, please.” My advice is to just grab a water every opportunity you have, and you should always be well hydrated.
“Pickleball” may have a name that sounds more suited to playground, but it is considered one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong using a paddle and plastic ball with holes, similar to a waffle ball.
Pickleball fever is still rampant across the country for people of all ages. It is especially popular with the retired population, since it is low impact and on a smaller court, yet still energetic and fun. While new courts seem to pop up everyday (usually over old tennis courts), pickleball court space is coveted every winter in the South by “snowbirds” like rare gold. Don’t let the fact that it is popular with people of age make you think the game isn’t competitive. While the game is easy to learn, it inspires the competitive spirit. As said by avid player Cheryl Lutz “There is no sorry in Pickleball!”
Want to check it out? Chances our there is a group near you! It is the perfect way to exercise with a group as well. Grab a friend or come alone and come out and play. Check out the Places 2 Play section at https://www.usapa.org/what-is-pickleball/ and play today!