Financial wellness is cool, high taxes are cruel

Financial Literacy Month

When my son was in first grade, his teacher game him an “If I had $100…” writing assignment. “If I had $100 I would buy a video game arcade. I would buy the arcade because I like to play video games all day!” My first thought was that we needed to cut down on his game playing! My second thought was that he doesn’t realize how much things really cost.

We’re not too young or too old to to be money-wise. April is Financial Literacy Month, and we could all take some time to think about our financial well-being. So many of us are living with credit card debt, student loans, or overwhelming mortgages.

Most financial wellness philosophies come down to budgets, balances, and goals – or, spending less than you earn, sharing what you can, saving the rest, and making good choices. Here are 4 ideas to help you and your money get healthier and happier:

  1. Pledge to take 30 steps to financial wellness. Money Management International offers 30 simple ways to improve your financial wellness. It all starts with a commitment to change.
  2. Plan your financial first aid kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a free “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit” to help you organize all of your financial information and records in one place.
  3. Make a lifestyle change. If you’d rather make a big leap forward to financial wellness, try one of these challenges. Take David Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge, to reduce your stuff and refuse new stuff. Accept Courtney Carver’s Project 333 Challenge, to spend less on clothes and simplify your wardrobe. Limit your trash to one bag a week with Glad’s One Bag Challenge, to reduce spending and encourage recycling.
  4. For kids: learn about saving money and saving the day. Practical Money Skills has a free printable comic “Saving the Day” featuring Spider-Man and the Avengers. There’s even a “Budget Blaster” worksheet to budget like a superhero. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis offers a free “The Piggy Bank Primer: Saving and Budgeting” to introduce kids to saving, spending, budgeting, and more.

Taking care of our financial well-being is just half of the battle. Our government’s financial well-being is just as important as our own, because the government is spending our money. On April 19, 2015, Hawaii residents and taxpayers will celebrate Tax Freedom Day – the day when we start to work for ourselves, rather than working to pay our taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. In Hawaii, we’ll have worked for the government (through federal, state, local, sales, and payroll taxes) for 109 days, celebrating our freedom five days earlier than the nation as a whole.

Here are 3 fun ideas to help you celebrate Tax Freedom Day:

  1. Pay yourself first. Put $100 in your savings account to symbolize your “first” paycheck of the year. You could even be ironic and spend 30% of it.
  2.  Turn dollar bills into art. Make friends with your money by trying out money origami. Create a $100 money lei from Instructables or a money origami shirt from Homemade Gifts Made Easy.
  3. Play with other people’s money. Challenge family and friends to a game of Monopoly. The Monopoly Hawaii Edition was issued in 1996. You could also play Hawaii-opoly by Island-opoly (with replica 1800s bank notes) and Hawaii-opoly by Late for the Sky.

How would you rate your financial well-being? How could we improve Hawaii’s financial wellness? Do you think that Hawaii’s government is worth the 109 days that we work to pay our taxes?

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