smart spending

4 family money lessons from top companies

Hunt says such money lessons learned the hard way also apply to individual households.

It may be tempting to cut out a vacation to save money, but the negative impact on your mental health and overall quality of life may not be worth it, she says. Instead, scaling it back by driving to a nearby vacation destination rather than flying to a more exotic locale may be better.

"Just as with businesses ... spending money in your home should be a conscious, thoughtful process," Hunt says.

That goes for investing in education, too, she says. If you do the research and believe strongly that a certain credential or degree will help you earn more, it makes sense to invest in it in a responsible way.

Create a culture of financial sanity

A positive company culture will tend to make employees more productive and creative, but it also works the other way. A company's management team can come up with an ingenious turnaround plan, but if its employees don't agree with implementing it, it has little chance of success, Koehn says.

She cites the example of Ford before the arrival of CEO Alan Mulally. Numerous attempts to modernize the company under other CEOs failed to stop the company's decline from its height in the early '90s, thanks in part to a wayward company culture.

Ford, Koehn says, "had lost sight of how (its) people were connected and what it meant to be the successor to Henry Ford's automobile company, with high standards on quality and affordability."

Hunt says the same thing can happen to families. One of her money lessons is that a family financial turnaround plan can founder if all the members don't buy in.

"Start in your family to kind of build a new culture of money," she says. "Schedule, with your spouse or your significant other, weekly or biweekly meetings to talk about your goals and whether you're meeting them. If you have children involved in the household, have them on an allowance, and make sure they understand how that impacts the family."

From there, you can reach out to nonprofit credit counselors who might be able to offer money-management courses and other support, Hunt says.

Pay attention to what's going on around you

In the dog-eat-dog world of business, what often separates the companies that succeed from those that don't is "the ability to look up and out and not get too insular, and say, 'What's going on in this marketplace?' so you can reinvent yourself -- not just because things have gone bad inside but because the market's changing," Koehn says.

A perfect example is Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estee Lauder Cos., who anticipated a fundamental shift in women's cosmetics toward products that were healthier and more comfortable to wear, Koehn says.

The company responded in 1968 by creating Clinique, now a major part of the Este Lauder empire.

Hunt says that keeping an eye on larger economic and social trends isn't just important for companies.

"We should stay informed and look around at what is going on in the economy and plan accordingly," Hunt says.

Hunt cites the payroll tax hike that went into effect at the beginning of 2013 as one example of a national event that directly affected American household budgets.

"There was a little bit of a decrease in almost everybody's income," Hunt says. "I wonder how many people really looked at it to see how much that decrease was and (whether) there was a place in their budget where they needed to compensate for it."

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