Fiscal Responsibility is a Double-Edged Sword

Due to declining sales, decreased revenues and tightened budgets, manufacturers are accustomed to taking less chances and pursue opportunities with less aggressiveness.

By MIKE SCHMIDT, Associate Editor, Manufacturing Business Technology

As a first-time homeowner, I’ve begrudgingly began to incorporate the principals of fiscal responsibility into my increasingly stable and straightforward life.

It sure hasn’t been an easy adjustment. Just a few short years ago, I didn’t even blink when I’d politely inform bank tellers that, yes, I did say I’d like to withdraw $8 from my checking account. Why $8? Because I had $9 to my name, and overdraft fees simply didn’t fit into my budget at the time. I’m also the guy who took his now-wife on our second dinner date by scrounging up $35 in loose change, taking a quick detour to the bank to exchange it for paper bills, and offering up several prayers that she wouldn’t order dessert that night.

Once upon a time, haphazard personal banking habits suited me just fine. But the never-ending stream of mortgage payments, insurance payments, car payments, and credit card payments has forced me to not only tweak, but virtually overhaul, my approach to all things monetary. It’s not simply about making ends meet this week and next, but considering potential fiscal pitfalls months and years ahead.

The Great Recession brought the notion of fiscal responsibility to the forefront of manufacturers’ minds, and with good reason. Thanks to the combination of declining sales, decreased revenues, and tightened budgets, manufacturers are accustomed to taking far less chances and pursue opportunities for growth with far less aggressiveness than in years past.

And that’s precisely why fiscal responsibility is a double-edged sword.

I know the struggles of the global economy have ensured that most of us are tightrope-walking our way through life without a safety net. Sure, life doesn’t give us a whole lot of options other than to put our collective heads down, work hard, save money, and hope for the best. When it comes to spending money, a prudent approach is a wise approach.

But it’s when we allow fear and doubt about our financial future to creep into our minds that we prevent ourselves from seizing opportunities, leaving us unable to act in the best in the best interests of ourselves, or our families, and/or our business enterprises. There is no bigger mistake manufacturers can make right now than mistaking inaction for prudence.

Now is the time to move forward through innovation, developing new products and value-added services, and investing in (the right) technology to improve efficiency. These efforts cost money — and in some cases — a lot of money. So it’s important to spend wisely, and that’s obviously where fiscal responsibility enters the equation.

Life has gotten quite a bit more complicated for me in the four years since I last made $8-dollar withdrawals from my checking account. The combination of increased responsibility and economic uncertainty has made me rethink many of my past attitudes about money, and that’s only made me smarter and more apt to discover and embrace new opportunities.

Care to spot me $8, or help me balance my checkbook? Are you cautious or aggressive when it comes to making financial investments? E-mail me at