I’ve had the opportunity in recent years to present and speak to groups that need and benefit from additional financial literacy.

They represent people recently released from incarceration through a returning home program, as well as our deserving area veterans. These are two groups that deserve and can certainly gain personal benefit from credit and financial education. These programs are sponsored by CCOA, also known as Credit Counseling of Arkansas, a non-profit organization organized to assist and educate others in need of financial advice, research and counseling.

I believe all of us who love farming, ranching or rural lifestyles can also benefit from some fundamental financial principals.

Consider a budget. This can be a simple document or worksheet that identifies your monthly income and expenses. The objective here is to realize your sources of income and expenses over a consistent time period. A budget can be as simple as a two-column listing. The obvious benefit is to become better informed about your costs. When you can, cut save or modify to enhance your end-of-month financial position.

Stay abreast of your credit position and be credit aware. It’s important to share my thoughts about one’s credit bureau reports. If others are going to see, use and make decisions based on these reports, you should be aware of the same information. Use the free credit reporting tools available on-line to access your annual credit reports. The three most prevalent reporting services are Trans Union, Equifax and Experian. Review your report and call should you find any discrepancies.

Wants vs. Needs. One of the cool CCOA exercises is to poll the group and get their response to various categories relative to them being a want or a need: Consider these and make your call:

• A cellphone?

• How about an $80 pair of jeans?

• A $15 lunch, a $5 latte or mocha coffee?

• How about $100 concert tickets?

• Finally, a used car?

In the words of many economists – it depends. The truth is that we can rationalize and justify many expenses as a need if they’re that important to us. Just keep in mind those dollars do add up. Each of these factors influences and impact your ability to spend, save, invest and plan for your family’s future. Keep your spending habits in check and consistent. That way you can still have money left at the end of the month.

Find a way to set aside some level of money for that “rainy day fund” and stick to it. After you have amassed 60 to 90 days of these emergency funds, you can move to other, longer-term savings or investment vehicles. I recommend you seek a trained, qualified financial advisor for this level of investing. They are obligated to operate and advise in your best interest.

Ken W. Knies is an agricultural and rural consultant. He holds a bachelor’s of science and arts from the University of Arkansas and a master’s of business administration from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. He formed Ag Strategies, LLC as a business unit focused on quality borrowers and lenders.


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