If you haven’t checked your calendar lately, don’t be surprised to see we’re now in the Fourth Quarter and well on our way towards closing out 2011.

And despite a rocky October start on Wall Street, there are new signs the U-S Economy’s still improving, even if it’s just minor gains.

But for struggling homeowners around South Florida, the 4th quarter will bring more pressures on our paychecks and more opportunities to get ready for holiday spending.

For the 28th straight month, the U-S Economy was able to squeak out gains according to the latest figures from the Institute for Supply Management. Consumer Sentiment is also improving and Auto Sales are seeing an uptick too.

Wholesale Oil prices are dropping under $80 a barrel and that’s triggering price drops at local gas stations.

Holiday Hiring is starting all over South Florida and will hopefully provide thousands of jobs for local unemployed workers.

But our slow recovery is still expected to continue thru the end of the year.

Still un-resolved problems in Europe and gridlock in Washington are still expected to pull down investor confidence thru December.

For local families, the 4th quarter will mean more tough times paying bills, while price-hikes and stalled salaries make it harder than ever to keep up with it all.

South Florida homeowner Irene Coto is a local therapist. She says she’s been hearing a lot of bad news from her patients and has to work all week to keep up with her own bills. She says ” i work seven days a week.  and i see all of my patients.  most of them are completely stressed out.  they need to come see me just to deal with, how do i feed my kids? how do i pay my rent? and a lot of them have lost their homes. 

That’s why financial planners say *right now’s * the time to start your own end of the year “Moneywatch”.

Double check your bills to track spending .

Cut-back wherever possible.

Try to save some extra cash over the next few months for holiday shopping.

Consider spreading out purchases to avoid all the bills coming due in January.

With improved consumer spending, some money managers forecast possible improvements in the Local and National economy.

Financial Planner Matt McGrath of Coral Gables Evensky & Katz advises, “You typically see a boost in the economy from consumer spending in the fourth quarter. Retailers are already getting a jump on holiday advertising and promotions. So we could see improved spending possibly as soon as early October”.

A growing number of retailers are already offering lay-away plans and deep discounts to stimulate early holiday shopping.

And South Florida’s biggest economic engines, Tourism and Foreign trade, are both forecast to see solid gains thru the end of the year.


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