of the most difficult obstacles credit and debt counselors face
when dealing with their clients is that consumers aren't always
honest with themselves about their own financial situation. Too
often, counselors talk with people who are way over their head in
debt, yet they genuinely feel that their credit Practices are just
fine, " said Paul S. Richard - Executive Director of the
nonprofit ICFE, based in San Diego, CA. The ICFE is dedicated to
helping consumers become better spenders, regular savers, wise users
of credit and thereby creating new investors in America.
"If you have a
credit problem, the first and most important step is to admit to
yourself that you need help. This is also probably the most difficult
hurdle to clear for most people because they feel that to do so
would be an admission of financial failure. The "real”
failure, however, is in not getting help and, instead, digging yourself
deeper and deeper into debt.," the ICFE says.
Whether you think you're
having a problem or not, take a quick minute to reflect on your
current financial state by reviewing the following "financial
danger signs.” If any of them feel close to home, you may
want to consider contacting an accredited, nonprofit, credit counselor
for an appointment.
- You use your credit
cards regularly and rarely pay more than the required minimum
payment. Simple mathematics makes approach a this is a one-way
road to disaster. Eventually, your debt will become so high that
you may not even be able to make the minimum payment.
- You're often or always
late on regular monthly bills. If you find yourself receiving
the new bill before paying off the previous one on a regular basis,
then you simply don't have control over your finances. These monthly
bills represent your basic needs, so you should be able to pay
for them without any problem.
- You get in frequent
arguments about money with your spouse, partner or roommate. This
is usually a sure sign that you and the person you're arguing
with are overly stressed about finances, probably for good reason.
- You purchase necessary
consumable items, like food and gas, with a credit card. A healthy
attitude toward credit is one in which you only use it in emergencies
or to pay for important items, with the intention of paying them
off quickly. Otherwise, credit is simply a convenience that comes
at a very high price.
- You have no idea what
your total debt is. If you can't estimate within $500 or $1,000
what your total debt is, your spending is way out of control.
chances are when you receive the monthly statements, you don't
even look at the balance, and that's not a good approach.
- You have recently
taken out a cash advance on a credit card to pay a monthly bill.
Typically, credit cards charge a higher interest rate and allow
no grace period on cash advances. They also charge a service fee,
so it simply doesn't make financial sense to pay your bills like
If you're experiencing
two or more of these financial danger signs, it is essential that
you do something to turn your credit Practices around quickly. Otherwise
you may be facing collection or legal actions by your creditors.
People whose finances
are in a downturn, often discover they are paying too much for things
because they fail to comparison shop. That, like borrowing to meet
regular expenses, is another form of
overspending. Overall, the best way to increase your personal cash
flow is to be conscious of how much money you spend and why. Comparison
shopping the consumer's best, but least used defense against overspending.
For information about
how to set up and implement a spending-plan (with a one page work
sheet) for personal and/or family finances, please visit the ICFE's
Web page at: http://www.financial-education-icfe.org.
The site also includes helpful sections on mending spending, increasing
savings, using credit wisely, plus tips on spending for household
and grocery items.
To receive the same information
by mail, please send $1 and a self-addressed, 60 cent stamped envelope
to: ICFE Money Helps
PO Box 34070
San Diego, CA 92163.
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by
the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
designation and founder of the College for Financial Planning in Denver, CO.)
The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending
practices, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an
award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped
millions of people through its financial continuing education courses programs
and resources. In addition to eight Certification courses covering identity
theft, credit files, credit repair and credit scoring, among others, it also
publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated
annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning
Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE is a partner
with the national Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy and the California
Jump$tart chapter. The ICFE staff is also active with San Diego Saves and
Military Saves, both offshoots of America Saves.
The ICFE is also an
on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured
in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips
are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
The ICFE helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about
the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and
implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and
how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G
library, a free eNews service, and an online resource center for students,
parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools in the ICFE Book