IN THE 30 years I have been working in the money business I've seen tremendous advances in the way ordinary Australian manage their personal finances.
We're budgeting more, saving more and reaping the rewards of shopping around to find the best deal on everything from groceries and power bills through to home loans and credit cards.
But there's always something new to learn about money matters, and MoneySmart Week offers useful opportunities to get more from your money.
MoneySmart Week runs from 2 to 8 September right across the country. It's an initiative of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board, of which I am chairman, and it's something I'm really looking forward to and supportive of.
The idea behind MoneySmart Week is to give all Australians access to information and simple strategies that can make a big difference to your financial security.
I'm a firm believer that understanding money is a starting point in managing financial stress and working towards meeting personal goals. And despite improvements in the way we manage our money, I reckon there is still a need for events like MoneySmart Week.
Data released earlier this year by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that almost half (47%) of Australian consumers feel they are in financial trouble or not financially secure, up from 36% a year ago.
A 2011 survey by ANZ Bank highlighted particular households that can struggle to get ahead financially. They include those on annual incomes below $65,000, parents supporting children and home owners with a mortgage of $300,000 or more.
At the heart of good money management is some pretty straightforward rules. Spend less than you earn and invest the surplus in a sensible manner, preferably on a regular basis. The thing is, while many Australians would like to improve their financial situation, sometimes they don't know where to start.
That's where MoneySmart Week comes in. It will raise awareness of the programs and support already available.
If you'd like to get involved, there will be a whole array of events held around the nation - in workplaces and the community, each looking at various aspects of money management.
There are webinars for women; seminars on using a self-managed super fund, advice on investing for kids, plus loads of other events designed to help you manage your money.
If you can't make it to a MoneySmart Week event, it's worth taking a look at new online tool developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The 'Money Health Check' lets you see how you are tracking financially and offers a personalised action plan to help improve your finances. Another great benefit - it's free.
To locate a MoneySmart Week event near you, or to take the Money Health Check, visit www.moneysmart.gov.au.
Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money magazine. Visit www.paulsmoney.com.au for more information.
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