Happy 4th of July!
Amidst all of the picnics and fireworks, it’s important to remember that today we celebrate the United States of America. It may not be perfect, but for me it’s home.
I love my home.
America has problems. Americans struggle every day and most folks are unhappy with politicians and scared of sudden violence.
America is still great, and as Americans, we need to take responsibility to keep it that way. If you are doing these things, keep doing them. If you aren’t (and I have some work to do),start making changes.
Americans are notoriously bad at saving money. When most Americans can’t cover an extra $400 expense or have nothing put back for retirement, we have a problem. Unfortunately, when someone doesn’t save, it often means someone else (family, charity, or government) has to step in to help. It leads to insecurity both on personal and societal levels. It leads to personal unhappiness and a lot of blame and shame.
Having financial reserves helps with both your independence and self-worth. It opens up new options for your life and our economy.
Saving money may be simple, but it’s not easy. It takes knowledge, practice, and discipline to live below your means. It may even take some additional income.
It also takes time.
You can do it.
You can use our list of 100 Simple Ways to Save Money to see if there are things you can do to free up money to set up your emergency fund or to put toward retirement. You can take advantage of 401(k)s or 401(b)s at work. You can set up a small monthly automatic draft to a savings account or IRA.
Take Care of Your Health
Like a lot of Americans I am
a little bit fluffy obese. I don’t eat what I should. I don’t get enough exercise. I don’t always go to the doctor when I should.
I need to do better. Health costs have spiraled over the last couple of decades, and health problems are one of the leading causes of financial instability and bankruptcy.
Health care is also one of the leading causes of government spending. Some of the causes are structural, but Americans have also brought health care costs up by not taking care of ourselves very well.
A healthy America would spend a lot less than the 17.5% of its GDP for medical and related expenses that the CDC reported for 2015. A healthy America takes a lot of changes on the individual level, though.
I have changes I need to make. Eat better, move more, be more diligent about preventative care. If more of us did that, maybe we wouldn’t be looking at sky-high health costs and the financial insecurity that brings.
Act Environmentally Responsible
We live in one of the most gorgeous and diverse countries on earth. America has sweeping deserts, beautiful beaches, deep rich forests, tropical jungle and glaciers. Purple Mountains Majesty above the Fruited Plain. America has a wealth of natural resources, and rich arable land.
We are the stewards of great natural wealth. We have a responsibility to protect it and preserve it for future generations. Unfortunately, we aren’t always careful to do this. We think short-term rather than long-term, or act selfishly rather than with others in mind.
There are a lot of things you can do on a personal level: Don’t litter. Minimize waste. Recycle. Compost. Conserve energy and water. Buy efficient appliances and cars.
There are also things you can do that will help longer term, like supporting green businesses and industries with your purchases or investments.
When you take care of the environment, you are making the quality of life and the economic future of our country better.
Support Local Businesses
Sun-ripened tomatoes and berries from your local farmer’s market or produce stand taste 100% better than the ones in the grocery store.
Chain restaurants can have good solid food, but they are rarely as good as the best local restaurants.
Chain retailers may have good prices, but local retailers may have more interesting offerings.
Oh, and small businesses? They provide employment and a lot of other community resources. Main Street makes America stronger.
I understand that sometimes your budget demands you cast a wide net of where you spend your money. Give the local options a chance. They may work out a lot better.
On a related note, support local charitable organizations too, either financially or with your time.There are a lot of people who legitimately need help in our country, and almost everyone has something to give.
Be Politically Active, Yet Civil
People have a lot of anger and dissatisfaction with American politics. It would be easy to just say “forget it!” and do just that.
Unfortunately, washing one’s hands of Washington doesn’t make things any better. It makes things worse.
It’s also easy to say “It’s the other side’s fault.”
Nope, not true.
Most Americans want America to be great. We just have some very different opinions as to what that means and how to go about getting to greatness.
If you want to keep America great, stay informed. Vote. Think about your values and promote them. Float new ideas and new options.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll start a new political movement that people will like instead of hate.
Most importantly, listen to the other side and to people you think you disagree with. Americans have an increasing tendency to only listen to people like themselves. (I know I’ve been guilty of hiding political posts from my Facebook newsfeed).
We aren’t challenging our opinions with ones that might bring balance and perspective. That’s bad. The other guy side might have a point, if we can only get past our knee-jerk response. No one is 100% right and no one is 100% wrong.
America IS Great
Some people think that America is past it’s prime. They talk about making America great again. Sorry, but America hasn’t stopped being great. America has a few problems we need to work on.
It always has. Fortunately, they aren’t the same problems. We work on old ones and make them better, but new problems will always arise. Old problems will morph into new shapes.
We can solve problems if we keep working at them.
So let’s work on them. As individuals, we can still work together to make our lives (and our children’s lives) better, both now and in the future, through better health: financial, physical, environmental, and community health.
Enjoy the fireworks. Be safe, have fun, and help keep America great!