We are told to get an annual physical to make sure we’re healthy; our finances also need a financial check-up. The good news is that there is free, safe help from LSS Financial Counseling, a local nonprofit organization. If you don’t want to do this on your own, call us at 888.577.2227 for your free session or click to GET STARTED ONLINE at your convenience.
What are your financial goals? Maybe you want to pay off debt, save for retirement or a college fund, or buy a house. During an appointment with LSS, your counselor will create an action plan with you that includes concrete steps to take to achieve your goal.
Review Your Credit Report
Pull your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com for free. Look for anything that doesn’t look right or that you need to fix, such as catching up on payments, collection debt, debt that is not yours or you paid but is not reflected on your report. Your LSS Counselor can also help you navigate your credit and provide steps to take to improve it.
Create a Budget
Create a realistic budget together, including on-going periodic expenses that often are forgotten like vehicle maintenance, Christmas/holidays/gifts, veterinary bills, etc. Having a budget or spending plan is crucial to achieve goals. You need to know how much money you have coming in versus how much you are spending. Plus, you will be able to see if there are areas that you can or should cut back to help you reach your financial goal.
Pay Off Debt
Start with anything that you’re behind on. While it may not show on your credit report now, falling behind could lead to collections and showing up on your credit as a collection/bad debt owed. So catch up on payments and/or contact the company to work out affordable payment arrangements.
Next, focus on paying down debt. Starting with your lowest balance debt will give you wiggle room in your budget faster. Try to make higher than minimum payments to pay off your debt faster. Check out the Power Pay Method for more info or ask your counselor if the Debt Management Plan is right for you…it can help you save a lot of money in interest and pay off debt even faster.
Plan for the Future
Start building up emergency savings by making it simple. Set up automatic deductions from your paycheck into a separate savings account…and only touch that money when absolutely needed. Do you have the option of saving for retirement through your employer? If so, take advantage asap. For more info, read 3 Ways to Save for Retirement. If you don’t want to work indefinitely, it’s crucial that you take action now.
Whether you do it on your own or get help, don’t wait to do your financial check-up. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get where you want to be.
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.