This coming week has been designated as "Utah Saves Week," a campaign to help all Utahns improve their financial literacy and increase their personal and family savings.
Given the enormous personal and social costs associated with poorly managed family finances, we are pleased to see the State of Utah work with numerous business, civic and philanthropic organizations to sponsor this thoughtfully-conceived educational effort.
The underlying principles of sound family finance seem simple: don't spend more than you earn; save for emergencies, major expenditures and retirement; invest wisely; and if you must borrow, never borrow more than you can reasonably repay.
But the knowledge of straightforward principles doesn't automatically translate into good practice. This is abundantly clear in the state of Utah, where foreclosures and personal bankruptcy filings are up significantly in the past year.
And hiding behind these grim economic facts are the bitter stories of marital stress, discord and dissolution that too often accompany failing finances.
The economic downturn of the past several years has taken a terrible toll on family finances. Unemployment and underemployment have devastated the finances of many families that had prepared, planned and saved for a rainy day that turned into a monsoon season.
But in most cases, the major challenge to sound family finance is not found in the shocks from the broader economy. Instead, it is found in the behavior and attitude of individual family members.
There are some pivotal life choices that affect our finances. Individuals decide how much to invest in education and training, setting parameters on their earning potential. Families decide where they will live and how they will pay, placing constraints on how much they can spend for non-essentials.
But there are also daily choices about whether to pack a lunch or eat out, whether to use cash or credit, whether to wait or indulge. These seemingly small decisions (and thousands other like them) add up quickly. And they indicate whether one is in control of his or her scarce resources, or whether motives like appetite and status control.
We believe that financial responsibility is both an issue of knowledge and know how. Everyone can improve on both scores. We encourage all to take advantage of the events of this week to commit to improved planning, budgeting, organization and saving. The array of resources available at www.utahsaves.org and our own www.imagineahappieryou.com are great places to renew this commitment to sound financial practice.