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14 Important Steps You Should Take To Free Yourself From Debt

14 Important Steps You Should Take To Free Yourself From Debt

Whether your current debt is large or small, the challenge of getting out from under bills and “I owe yous” can feel insurmountable.

Free yourself from the quicksand by doing the following.

1. Acknowledge that Houston, we do have a problem.

If you are in debt, you have a problem. The degree to which the problem is manageable depends on whether you are in planned, deliberate debt, such as student loans or the purchase of a specific type of vehicle for work; or in chaotic debt, such as the kind that results from taking too many pretty dates out for expensive drinks you can’t afford. You must accept that debt is a problem before you can fix it. So throw your hand in the air, state your name, affirm that you have a challenge before you, and commit to meeting that challenge and free yourself from debt.

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2. Take stock of the situation.

Why are you in debt? What are you spending money on? How much money are you making? Has your debt increased, or are you having trouble climbing out from under hefty interest payments? Are your expenses driving you further into debt, or is it the costs associated with caring for a family member? Don’t worry about finding solutions just yet—first, identify the problem areas.

3. Step back from your emotions.

Spending habits are deeply personal, because they reflect our priorities. There are often added layers of shame, guilt, and regret when discussing debt.  Recognize that none of those emotions will help you solve your current debt problem, and step away from them.  Focus on the fact that you are taking control, you are asserting yourself, and you are disciplined and focused enough to make this happen, all of which are positive emotions.

4. Break out your pen.

Dedicate a notebook or binder to your “get out of debt” plan. Write down anything you identified as a problem area. Be sure to list all debts, who or what you owe money to, and your current payment schedule.

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5. Stop flailing.

While you are evaluating your spending habits and developing a course of action to correct your debt, stop spending. It is much easier to evaluate how and why the boat is leaking without more water pouring in. When you make purchases again, you will be able to do so with deliberate intention.

6. Record all expenditures.

Create a section in your notebook, or an online spreadsheet, to evaluate all expenditures over the course of the last six months. Print credit card statements, online bank records, and dig those receipts out of your purse, car, and gym bag. You must gain an accurate picture of where your money is going, and if debt is a problem, you likely don’t have this picture as in focus as you would like.

7. Identify patterns.

Can you identify patterns in your spending? Do you, for instance, always break the bank when you visit certain stores, or the day you get your paycheck? Do you spend a great deal of money on certain activities?

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8. Categorize spending, and prioritize.

Food, water, basic shelter, simple transportation, and functional clothing are needs.  Everything else is a “want.”  Break your spending into categories, starting with “needs” and “wants.”  Cut out all unnecessary items, and realize this might mean your cable subscription, smart phone, high speed internet, and a slew of other high-tag luxuries modern man is accustomed to having at his fingertips.

9. Be willing to make big changes.

Is rent eating you alive, or are you spending high dollars in gas each month to commute? You may have to move, locally or to another state, to lower your cost of living. You may have to drastically downsize. You may have to put that hobby on hold for a while. Commit to doing whatever it takes to get out of debt.

10. Seek expert help.

You are not the only person to stagger under debt, nor will you be the last. Talk to a financial planner at your bank, or attend a debt management class. There are numerous resources available.

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11. Do your own research.

Anytime the subject is money, be sure to actively engage your brain, scrutinizing all information you receive to confirm or reject its application to your financial situation. Get a library card, and spend some quality time there getting smart on financial management basics, as well as any unique considerations you may have. Bonus: libraries often offer basic financial management classes

12. Get creative in boosting income.

An extra dollar earned is an extra dollar to pay off that debt.  No opportunity is too menial, too demanding, or too low-paying for your time; if you’re in debt, you literally cannot afford to pass up income opportunities. Take a formal second job, or babysit, walk dogs, shovel manure at a community barn, scrub dishes, freelance online—aggressively seek opportunities for additional income and seize them.

13. Pay the maximum monthly amount possible.

Does your lender have penalties for paying off your debt early? Pay the maximum monthly amount possible without penalty, on time, every month.

14. Stay the course.

It took you a while to accumulate debt, and it is going to take you a while to get out from under it. Remain patient, keep chipping away at it, and soon you will be debt free and relaxed.

Featured photo credit: LendingMemo.com via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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