If you are having money troubles and can’t pay your debts, it’s important to take action sooner rather than later. Doing nothing leads to much larger problems in the future, whether it’s a bad credit record or bankruptcy resulting in the loss of assets and even your home. If you’re in financial trouble here are some steps to take to avoid financial ruin in the future.
If you’ve accumulated a large amount of debt and are having difficulty paying your bills each month, now is the time to take action–before the bill collectors start calling.
1. Review each debt. Make sure that the debt creditors claim you owe is really what you owe and that the amount is correct. If you dispute a debt, first contact the creditor directly to resolve your questions. If you still have questions about the debt, contact your state or local consumer protection office or, in cases of serious creditor abuse, your state Attorney General.
2. Contact your creditors. Let your creditors know you are having difficulty making your payments. Tell them why you are having trouble-perhaps it is because you recently lost your job or have unexpected medical bills. Try to work out an acceptable payment schedule with your creditors. Most are willing to work with you and will appreciate your honesty and forthrightness.
Tip: Most automobile financing agreements permit your creditor to repossess your car any time you are in default, with no advance notice. If your car is repossessed you may have to pay the full balance due on the loan, as well as towing and storage costs, to get it back. Do not wait until you are in default. Try to solve the problem with your creditor when you realize you will not be able to meet your payments. It may be better to sell the car yourself and pay off your debt than to incur the added costs of repossession.
3. Budget your expenses. Create a spending plan that allows you to reduce your debts. Itemize your necessary expenses (such as housing and health care) and optional expenses (such as entertainment and vacation travel). Stick to the plan.
4. Try to reduce your expenses. Cut out any unnecessary spending such as eating out and purchasing expensive entertainment. Consider taking public transportation or using a car sharing service rather than owning a car. Clip coupons, purchase generic products at the supermarket and avoid impulse purchases. Above all, stop incurring new debt. Leave your credit cards at home. Pay for all purchases in cash or use a debit card instead of a credit card.
5. Pay down and consolidate your debts. Withdrawing savings from low-interest accounts to settle high-rate loans or credit card debt usually makes sense. In addition, there are a number of ways to pay off high-interest loans, such as credit cards, by getting a refinancing or consolidation loan, such as a second mortgage.
Tip: Selling off a second car not only provides cash but also reduces insurance and other maintenance expenses.
Caution: Be wary of any loan consolidations or other refinancing that actually increase interest owed, or require payments of points or large fees.
Caution: Second mortgages greatly increase the risk that you may lose your home.
You can regain financial health if you act responsibly. But don’t wait until bankruptcy court is your only option. If you’re having financial troubles, don’t hesitate to call us. We can help you get back on your feet.
SMART MONEY TIPS are published to provide practical personal financial tips relating to budgeting, saving, spending, debt, credit, financial wellness, planning for the future, and other personal finance topics. For comments or questions, please e-mail us at at Linda@financialfreedomcoaching.com. We are located in the Tampa Bay, Florida area and are dedicated to educating you to take control of your personal finances and financial future. Services include confidential personal financial coaching and mentoring, personal financial counseling, and financial education through financial literacy seminars. Linda A. Stortz is a CPA and financial literacy advocate, having earned the Accredited Financial Counselor and Certified Credit Counselor credentials. For more tips, please go to http://www.financialfreedomcoaching.com.
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Linda A Stortz