By Mary Alice Murphy
The speaker, Ken Silagy, at the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, spoke to members and guests about money issues.
"I've always been a money guy," Silagy said. "People work for money they aren't going to keep."
He asked if those present had an emergency fund and then alleged that no one has one. "The average family needs at least three to six months of money and preferably a year's amount in case of emergency. Nobody talks about money."
Silagy said most people in the country are "hooked on credit. Most people charge at least $500 a month. Some are in up to $250,000 in debt. Half of what they charge on credit cards are impulse purchases. They seldom compare quality over quantity."
He believes that impulse buys wreck families. What families pay for include house, utilities, transportation and fuel, food, insurance and medical. In addition, what they buy are entertainment, cigarettes and booze. Then there are loans, leases, and the credit cards themselves.
"Nobody remembers savings," Silagy said. "A family should aim for putting 10 percent of their revenue into savings.
"Most people have no idea what they are doing with their money," he continued. "How many balance their checkbooks each month? With credit cards, they are spending money they haven't earned yet."
Silagy emphasized: "Financial education is a must. You don't want to be on the wrong side of a creditor. Most people use evasive maneuvers to avoid the creditors. They rob Peter to pay Paul, which is a balancing act. They yo-yo their money from month to month between accounts. They recognize creditor's phone numbers and screen them out with Caller ID. They use the lowest interest rate-and-switch plans for their credit cards. Sometimes, they throw their bills into the air and pay the one closest to them."
"Creditors want their money and they will do anything to get it," Silagy said.
He said the worse practice is late penalties, going-over-the-limit penalties and interest penalties, which just pile on more debt. "I have seen as high as 40 percent interest placed on credit cards."
Payday loans, auto title loans, "these are all legal loan sharking and are legal in Nevada, South Dakota and Delaware."
He said the minimum penalty moved from 2 percent to 4 percent. "They want to keep you forever in their debt."
To be financially educated, a person must understand his cash flow, increase her cash flow, manage expenses, and manage and eliminate debt with the determination to get out early.
Every family should have an emergency cash fund. Everyone should build new spending habits that build control into them, and "regain control of your money."
For those already in debt and with bad financial habits, he recommended against a 15 percent mortgage, because payments are higher. "If you have a 30-year mortgage, and make one extra payment a year, you will pay off the loan five years earlier; two extra payments a year, you pay off in seven, and if more extra payments, you will pay it off even sooner. You can survive in a tight financial squeeze if you have a 30-year mortgage with lower payments."
"Go through with your family your financial situation," Silagy said. "How much is coming in and where is it going?"
He noted that money has no politics. "They can distribute all the money in the country equally to everyone in the country. Within 10 years, the money will all be back in the same hands. Educate yourself on money."
Silagy recommended reducing one's burden of debt as rapidly as possible. "I can get you out of debt within five years or less. I can do an analysis of your money, which can take a couple of hours. You may have issues and have to use your credit card, but if you develop good cash-flow habits, you can pay it off at the end of the month. You can develop a new habit in 21 days. You can decide to remain where you are or decide to make a change. Take action today. Financial freedom is a decision, not a dream. Try being financially free."
Jane Janson, of the Small Business Development Center, of Western New Mexico University, said it seems, as a culture, "we have become addicted to consumption, with monthly payments for things. We are consumer junkies."
Silagy recommended looking at purchases from a banker's point of view. "Look at the balance sheet. How much is coming in and how much is going out, and how much debt do you have?"
He noted that as students arrive to college, they are given credit cards. "Those cards are what create the most issues with not finishing college. It's because they can't support their spending. They quit or they graduate into bankruptcy. They need to be educated how to use a credit card. It should be for emergency only."
Scott Terry said upcoming money management workshops would be held at the conference center.
Silagy noted that for students with degrees in certain fields such as nursing or teaching, student debt can be eliminated after 10 years working in the field in particular jobs.
Annette Toney, Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest Grant County membership manager said Jan. 13 kicks off the annual Girl Scout cookie sales. "For $48, you can send a case of cookies to military members serving overseas. Fort Bliss sends them for us."
Jane Janson said a working session on Gila area watershed and forest restoration will take place beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center.
Cynthia Bettison, Silver City mayor pro tem, announced that Jan. 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the only day to sign up to run for municipal offices in all the municipalities. The municipal elections will take place on March 6.
Terry said the February chamber luncheon will feature Silver Consolidated Schools Superintendent Audie Brown talking about school issues. He said he was trying to get some of the Freeport-McMoRan people for the following meeting in March to talk about the new haul road and the re-opening of the Cobre Mine.
Bruce Ashburn, Chamber board president, said Freeport is looking to hire about 100 truck drivers and mechanics.
The meeting ended a little before 1 p.m.