Weekly Columns

When my brother and I applied for a loan to open an eye clinic nearly 40 years ago, the loan officer asked if there was any way that I could show a positive balance sheet. After graduating college I had a lot of student loans to pay off and it became very clear at that point that in order to accomplish our goal we needed some financial security. Fortunately we were able to get the funds we needed to open our medical practice. 

Personal financial education is essential to managing money, budgeting and making wise spending decisions. Whether buying a house, investing in a 401(k) or just balancing our checkbook, having a financial plan is a responsible step to a successful future. 

According to a recent survey by the Consumer Federation of America, only about one-third of Americans say they're making "good" or "excellent" progress toward saving, while nearly two-thirds are making only "fair" or "no" progress. 

It’s clear there is a need for improved financial literacy education. Arkansans and all Americans should feel empowered to save and spend responsibly. That begins with the knowledge of how to make informed financial decisions. While this is a habit we need in adulthood, we can lay the foundation during childhood. 

That’s why I was proud to support the Senate resolution designating April as Financial Literacy Month. This resolution helps promote personal financial learning and educates about the impacts of poor financial decisions. 

There is no better time than now to start taking control of our personal finances. Education empowers us to make better financial decisions. We must strive for long-term solutions, not a quick fix. Small changes now will translate into big results later. 

I understand that current economic conditions make it more difficult to make ends meet, leaving little hope of saving money for a rainy day. We’re facing long-term unemployment and chronic underemployment, increased compliance costs for policies like Obamacare, higher prices for our everyday needs like food, and more hard-earned money going to heat our homes and fill our vehicles. These struggles make it more challenging to save money. However they are the very reasons that responsible spending and saving habits are important. 

We are all capable of getting on the path to financial security – even Washington. This is one of the issues I hear the most about from Arkansans. I hear you loud and clear. We need to create a balanced budget and spend only the money we have. We shouldn’t have to raise taxes. We need to reduce spending. Arkansas families are forced to do this and Washington needs to follow their lead. 

As adults, we have the responsibility of paying bills, but we can still apply what we learned with our first piggy banks to the way we live today. Saving money and spending responsibly is a habit we can all improve. It will take time and effort to change our habits, but being empowered with financial education will pay off in the long run.