The neat thing about our valley is that I can take a break from the road and enjoy the beauty of the country valley and mountains. Another benefit is that we are invited to Sunday country dinners occasionally where community members and extended family gather.

This year a wide range of occupations were represented at dinner, including doctors, truck drivers, machinists, teachers and administrators of all ages. The economy and personal finance were hot topics of discussion. The following is a summary of the conversation and some well-founded recommendations.

  • Develop an emergency fund of six months of income at a minimum, and preferably nine to 12 months of income. The latter is important for couples with a high debt load or uncertainty in jobs. This can be accomplished by putting away a little money each month.
  • Pay off consumer debt, targeting high interest rates first. Also, a few recommended paying off smaller debts first to build momentum and a sense of success.
  • Credit cards are a fact of life. If you have cards, limit it to two or three cards, and keep them in a location that is difficult to access to reduce impulse spending. Pay off the entire balance monthly to avoid high interest charges.
  • Use cash instead of credit cards. Many people are more reluctant to spend cash than charge on credit because they can actually “see” the money being spent.
  • Teach your children financial responsibility. Children are very open to learning finance between four and 12 years of age. Stress the importance of saving and personal money management by walking the talk!

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, Corn & Soybean Digest trends editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu.