Americans Watch TV 100 Times as Much as Their Finances

Are you focusing more on your favorite fictional characters than your financial security? Here's why that needs to change. 

Time is a valuable commodity because you only have so much of it. Unfortunately, many Americans aren't allocating their time very wisely. In fact, recent research from The Ascent revealed that we're spending far too little time on something that really matters -- managing our financial lives -- even as we devote hours to TV watching.

While binge-watching the latest releases may be a lot more fun, failing to invest enough time in managing your money can have far-reaching consequences. In fact there are lots of reasons why it's important to hit pause so you can spend a little more time handling your financial affairs. 

A young woman watching tv in a dark room.

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Americans are devoting hours to TV and minutes to money management 

The Ascent's research revealed that the average American spends more than 85 hours monthly watching television. Among those who engage in TV watching, the average time tuned in is about 3 hours 38 minutes a day, while the overall average among all Americans is 2 hours 50 minutes of daily television viewing.

When it comes to managing money, though, time spent is measured in minutes. The average time spent on financial management among people who engage in the activity is just 52 minutes per day while the average total time spent on money management among all Americans is one minute and 48 seconds per day. 

If we add in the amount of time people spend using professional and financial services, it comes to an average of two minutes and 24 seconds per day.

This means that while we're logging hours on Keeping Up With the Kardashians or checking out the latest politically incorrect comedy specials, we're only spending a fraction of that time on money management. 

How much time should you actually spend on money management?

The Ascent's research revealed that two minutes and 24 seconds isn't enough for most Americans to manage their money successfully. Close to half of all Americans don't know how much to spend vs. how much to save, and more than half of all Americans have fallen a long way short of having an emergency fund that's the recommended size. 

Spending more time on money management is clearly called for, but the exact amount of time is going to depend on your situation. The key, however, is to do all of the essential tasks needed to get your financial life in order. Some of the tasks you should be doing monthly include:

  • Reviewing your bank and credit card accounts to make sure there are no unauthorized charges and to check out your spending.
  • Comparing your spending against your budget to make sure you stayed on track -- or creating a budget if you don't already have one.
  • Adjusting your budget to make any necessary changes based on your spending and to plan for future expenses.
  • Checking the progress of your financial goals to see if you're on track to achieving them -- or setting detailed financial goals if you don't have them already.
  • Checking your credit report and score to make sure there are no mistakes and to see how efforts to improve your credit are working.
  • Checking investment accounts to see how your investments are performing and if any asset reallocation is necessary to maintain an appropriate risk profile.
  • Having a conversation about money with your significant other to make sure you're both on the same page about your past month's spending and upcoming expenses.
  • Working on a debt payoff plan or checking the progress of your payoff plan if you owe money and are trying to pay it down.

Doing all of these things will likely take more than the hour and 12 minutes that the average American is currently spending on financial management each month. But each of these tasks is vitally important and will have a far greater impact on your life than the latest can't-miss show you're currently streaming. 

Invest the time to manage your money

While there's no need to give up your TV habit, you do need to make sure you're spending enough time to get your finances under control. Set aside a few hours each month to do the things on this list and join the minority of Americans who are devoting the necessary time and energy to creating a more secure financial future.

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The Motley Fool owns and recommends MasterCard and Visa, and recommends American Express. We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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