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Make Sure Your Financial House Is In Order

Yesterday over 100,000 Americans went online to watch President Obama answer live questions from Twitter users for the first “Twitter Town Hall.” For an hour, he answered questions from consumers about the economy.

According to the White House, most of the questions concerned jobs (23%), the budget (18%) and taxes (11%). It seems that Americans are concerned about getting the budget back under control, and much like the national budget, it is always good to make sure that you are aware of the state of your own personal finances.

Here are 10 tips from the NFCC to make sure your own financial house is in order:

  1. Open your bills the day they arrive. This may seem like common sense, but everyday people walk into one of our Agencies with grocery bags filled with unopened bills. Ignoring the problem won’t change anything, but facing the facts and developing a plan will.
  2. Review your monthly creditor statement thoroughly. Consumers not only need to be aware of the amount they owe and payment due date, but should check their statement for unauthorized charges which could indicate ID theft, rate changes, credit limit changes, and any additional fees that might have been added on. Contact the issuer immediately if you observe anything out of the ordinary on your statement, or if the terms have changed.
  3. Pay your bills on time. Late fees can be in the $40 range, and one late payment can ding your credit score by as much as 100 points. If you’re a procrastinator, travel, or are just plain unorganized, set up automatic bill paying to make sure you’re never late with a payment.
  4. Record each check you write, along with any ATM withdrawals. Overlimit and Non-sufficient Fund fees can be as high as credit card late fees. Even if your financial institution allows you to exceed your balance, you’ll pay a hefty price for that courtesy. Record all transactions and know where you stand at all times.
  5. Do not max out your credit card limits. Utilizing all of your available credit will likely backfire on you. Creditors like to see people responsibly manage their credit by using only 30 percent or less of what’s available.
  6. Track your spending and know where your money goes. You are relinquishing control of your financial future unless you have a keen awareness of your spending habits. Many people feel that having a budget would restrict them, but in reality a spending plan frees you to use your hard earned money exactly as you deem best.
  7. Have at least one month’s income earmarked for emergencies. Unanticipated expenses have been known to wreck the best of budgets. Without a rainy day fund, when the emergency arises, you have to either pay for it by charging, often adding to an already burdensome debt load, or grab cash from another area, thus neglecting that payment.
  8. Have three to six month’s income saved in the event you lose your job. Job losses have affected almost every employment sector, thus no one is immune from the pink slip. The time to prepare is now. Without a paycheck, cash is indeed king.
  9. Have an annual insurance check-up. No one should be over-insured or under-insured. The way to avoid this is to review your policies once each year with your insurance agent. Make sure that you understand exactly what is covered and what isn’t, as the last thing you need in an emergency is a bad surprise.
  10. Have a well thought through plan for tomorrow and execute it.  People have short-term and long-term goals, and we need to plan for each. An example of a short-term goal is a summer vacation. Long-terms goals are things such as a college education for your children and your retirement. Such financial realities cannot be ignored, nor will they take care of themselves.
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