(Source: cnnmoney.com, abiworld.org, and U.S. News)
While it’s nearly impossible to go through life without some sort of debt, if you can’t keep up with your bills or are living paycheck to paycheck, you might be in over your head. But don’t panic just yet—there are steps you can take to regain your financial health.
- Budget. Create a spending plan and most importantly, stick to it. Get into the habit of balancing your checkbook, and paying your bills on the same day every week—routines like these will help keep you on track.
- Check your interest. Money in a savings account generally earns much less interest than credit cards or loans. So, if you have money in savings, withdraw it to pay for higher interest loans or credit cards.
- Downsize. Reduce unnecessary spending. Cut down on the amount you eat out. Buy generic products instead of pricier brand names. Consider carpooling to and from work.
- Get counseling. If you still can’t manage to pay your debts, you might need professional help. But be cautious of organizations that ask for a large sum of money up front to help you. Refer to the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to check an organization’s reputation.
(Source: The Wellness Councils of America)
- Live beneath your means − This is the first rule to establishing financial independence. Living by this rule will allow you to reach your financial goals faster, and with a lot less stress.
- Pay off your credit cards − Credit cards are usually the most expensive form of debt. Commit yourself to always paying more than the minimum required on your credit card. You’ll save incredible sums of cash by paying off credit card balances.
- Pay yourself first − By making yourself the first “creditor” paid, you’ll develop solid saving habits that will help you reach your long-term goals.
- Save six months living expenses − It’s critical to have a “rainy day” fund. For most people, six months of living expenses will provide an adequate cushion to weather most unexpected financial storms.
- Make a will − This is an essential step for all adults, especially those with dependents.
- Seek wise counsel − Don’t try to go it alone when making tough financial decisions. Consider the services of a fee-only financial planner. A top-notch financial planner can help you to establish a lifelong financial plan.
- Fund your company-sponsored savings plans to the maximum − Through payroll deduction and often tax-deductible contributions, you can accumulate significant savings in company-sponsored plans.
- Plan major expenditures− If a house, new car, college education, or other large purchase is in your future, take the time to make a plan to reach your desired goal. A little planning goes a long way.
- Educate yourself − Read financial publications and consider taking a course on basic financial management or investing. Community colleges often offer excellent courses on personal finance topics.
- Review progress − Every year, list the value of what you own and what you owe. The difference between the two numbers is your financial net worth. Save this list, date it, and compare it to your current year’s progress. You’ll be amazed at how much difference a year makes in your finances.
J.P. Morgan Retirements Plan Services (www.retireonline.com or call 800.345.2345) DTE Energy employees participating in the 401(k) plan can access a number of resources and tools through our 401(k) provider. Once you set up your login, you can transfer funds, check your account balance, review your investment options and learn more about them, designate or change a beneficiary, and more. From calculators and loan modelers to plan features, fund descriptions and performance information, www.retireonline.com provides a host of information and tools you can use to invest in your future.
Employee Assistance Program Counseling Services (800.327.4347, or for DTE Affiliate Company employees 800.969.6162.)
Money 101 (Money Magazine)
Includes a 23-lesson personal finance course from the writers at Money magazine. Users can read the entire course or choose lessons of interest. Topics include: making a budget, basics of banking and saving, basics of investing, investing in stocks, investing in mutual funds, investing in bonds, buying a home, controlling debt, saving for college, kids and money, asset allocation, and taxes.
Smart About Money (National Endowment for Financial Education)
Contains financial information organized around major life events, interactive self-assessment quizzes, and links to a comprehensive resource center of financial education materials.
National Foundation for Consumer Counseling
Includes information about credit-related topics and information about how to find a non-profit credit-counseling agency in a particular geographic region.
Investing For Your Future
Includes 11 units on investment topics, a study guide, monthly investment messages, and links.
CNN Money’s Debt Reduction Planner
Use this online calculator to determine how long it will take you to payoff your credit card debt and how to get your debt down faster.
Retirement Personality Profiler (American Savings Education Council)
Contains an interactive self-assessment quiz that classifies users into one of five distinct retirement planning personalities (e.g., savers, and deniers). Based on this information, users can better understand their financial decision-making style and identify workable strategies to improve their financial security.
Institute of Consumer Financial Education
Includes information on credit, debt, and other financial topics, as well as an online bookstore.