Eighty-three percent of Americans believe their futures look bright when it comes to money.
That 83 percent stat comes from a recent Lincoln Financial Group survey, entitled: Measuring Optimism, Outlook and Direction (M.O.O.D.) of America Survey. What is even more interesting is that 71 percent label themselves as being “in control” over their “life, personal/family health and financial future.”
There is a dark side to this survey that should be noted. Though nearly 60 percent say guarding their wealth is more essential now than in the past, only 15 percent believe they are “very prepared” to do so. And as for retirement, 58 percent think they have made proper plans, but a mere 18 percent consider themselves “very prepared.”
For those who label themselves “in control” the numbers jump – nearly 70 percent believe they made proper retirement plans, and almost a quarter of them believe they are “very prepared.”
What if you’re not “in control”?
There are still nearly 30 percent of respondents that are “not in control” according to this survey. And those are the people Gary Herman, President of Consolidated Credit, wants to speak with:
“There’s still a deep pocket of people who are in financial disarray. The results of this poll did point that out. If you happen to be one of them, there are ways to improve your financial outlook. There’s no need to suffer through your hardships alone. Millions of other Americans are also having a difficult time making enough money to pay off their debt and still afford day-to-day necessities.”
Take control of your financial future
Herman believes building a budget is the first step in the process of securing your finances. There’s no better way to track the money you’re spending and earning. Keep in mind, when creating a budget you have to account for all the money you’re spending. Even if that means including the pack of gum you buy every week.
It’s also a good idea to determine the amount of debt you’re in – especially credit card debt. If that sounds like a daunting task, don’t worry. Use this debt calculator. Too many Americans avoid calculating the amount of debt they’re in because it’s depressing and frightening. Don’t ignore your debt. Take it head on. If you have more than one credit card, start by paying off the one with the highest interest rate and then move to the next. But don’t stop paying on the other cards. Just pay the minimum while you allot more money for the higher rate card.
If the interest rates on your cards are overwhelming, and all you do each month is pay off interest and hardly pay down the principal, try negotiating a better rate with your lenders. They may be willing to help out because after all, they want their money. And if you’re showing the motivation to pay them back, everyone’s happy.
While you’re in the process of budgeting, and if you have kids, make sure to create an entry for a college fund, especially if your kids aspire to attend college. It’s a sure way to avoid taking out a variety of college loans that must be paid back. Experts say the average Class of 2014 graduate has to pay back around $33,000 in student loans.
You should also be saving money for retirement and an emergency fund. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, take advantage of it. Putting money aside, even if it’s only a small amount, in case of an emergency is smart. You’ll end up paying with your credit card if your car breaks down or an appliance stops working without a fund.
Talk to an expert
When you lose control of your finances and your debt keeps growing larger, then it’s time to enlist an expert. One ideal method is to contact a certified credit counselor. Notice the word “certified.” If you call a credit counseling agency and their counselors are not certified, don’t do business with them. When you speak with your counselor they should do the following:
- Examine your debts – This will help them find out what types of debts you have
- Assess your budget – This will tell them how much money you’re bringing in and spending
- Run a credit check – This helps determine your credit rating
- Evaluate your choices – Your counselor gives you alternatives for alleviating your debt
- Debt management program – If you’re a candidate for a debt management program, your counselor will tell you how to join
If you need help…
Don’t hesitate to call one of Consolidated Credits certified credit counselors. They will review your finances and get you on the right track to a better financial future.