9 Signs You Need Help With Your Finances
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“Where’d all my money go?”
She was staring blankly at the W2 form showing her supposed income from last year and wondering why her bank account was dry.
She decided to go for a ride to clear her head and passed McDonald’s.
“Yep, some of it went there.”
She thought of all the times she stopped there after work to pick up a quick dinner for the kids because she was too tired to cook.
Continuing on, she drove past countless other businesses who had each claimed part of her paycheck.
I’ve seen it a thousand times, and I’m guilty too!
Money comes in, then if you don’t have a plan in place, it goes right back out.
Let’s look at the telltale signs that you need help creating a plan for your money and what you can do to move forward with your financial goals.
1. You’re Not Making Progress
Maybe you’ve tried to make a budget and to pay off debt, but you don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Your budget falls apart and you revert to making minimum payments to whoever is next in line.
Will it ever end?
If you have a $3,000 balance on a credit card that charges 17% interest, it would take you 7.5 years to pay off that credit card with minimum payments. (And assuming you don’t use the card anymore.)
Example of Credit Card Pay Off Timeline
Credit Card Debt
Time to pay off
If you don't have a solid plan in place, paying off a small amount of debt can take years.
2. You’re Not Able to Save
Are you able to pay yourself first?
You should be saving for emergencies, vacations, and other large purchases. You also need to save for your retirement and your kids college fund (if you have school-aged children).
3. You’re Just Getting By
According to a study by CareerBuilder1, nearly 8 out of 10 Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Living paycheck to paycheck means if you missed just one paycheck it’d cause serious financial problems.
Look up and down your street, chances are 8 out of your 10 neighbors are living paycheck to paycheck.
4. There’s Not Enough Money at the End of the Month
What ends first, the money or the month?
No, it’s not a bad “chicken or the egg” joke, it’s a serious problem that many American’s face.
This is past the point of paycheck to paycheck where you’re likely floating money until the next paycheck and pushing out payments on bills until you get paid again.
In this case many people borrow money on credit cards to give the impression of keeping up, when in reality they are putting themselves into a downward spiral of owing even more.
5. You Ignore Bills
Are bills starting to pile up?
Maybe the stack is so big you’re not even sure what’s due next.
Ignoring your bills may offer temporary stress relief but will ultimately cause more harm in the near future.
6. You Ignore Collectors
I’ll admit, it’s very tempting to ignore collectors. They aren’t the friendliest call you could receive and are coming for something you probably can’t give them, your hard-earned dollars.
There are two big problems with ignoring them:
- They won’t go away, and
- Some of your hard-earned dollars do in fact belong to them.
If you feel you are being abused or harassed by a collector, you may need to report them them to your local Attorney General's office and/or to the FTC. You can check here for full details about Fair Debt Collection Practices.
7. You Feel Overwhelmed and Stressed About Money
Have you ever noticed that as your bank balance goes down, your stress level goes up?
When you’re not in control of your money, it’s easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed. There are constant demands on you to pay for that next “thing” that you’re not sure how you’re going to cover.
It could be a bill, a birthday party or your kid’s college.
8. You Feel Stuck
Think back to where you were a year ago.
Now think back 5-years.
Are things better, worse, or the same?
There’s an old saying, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting.”
Are you okay with the path you are on? If you keep doing what you’re doing now, will you be okay with where you end up in 5-years? Or will things still be the same?
If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting.
9. You Have Nothing to Show for All Your Hard Work
You’ve been working in your career for years, but everything still feels the same.
You’re still in over your head in student loans and your expenses magically increase every time you get a raise.
Even if you’ve made some progress, like purchasing a home, it still seems like it’s hard to make ends meet. After so many years of working you thought you’d have more to show for it, like a cushy bank balance, nice vacations with the family and well on your way to retiring early.
What to Do About It
If any of the above sound like you, it’s time to take a good hard look at your situation and pinpoint what’s hindering your progress.
Grab a pen and paper and get together with your spouse if your married. You’ll need to sit down and dissect your finances to understand your unique situation and come up with a plan to fix it.
Some questions to ask yourself
- Your Budget: Am I (are we) living on a budget? What is/isn’t working in the budget? Who should manage the budget. (If you’re married, you should both have a final say in the budget, but it might work better for one person to plan it out, then share and collaborate with the other person.)
- Your Debt: How much total debt do I have? Do I have a plan to eliminate debt quickly? What can I do to make more than the minimum payments?
- Your Spending Habits: Am I overspending in any category in my budget? Can I reduce my expenses to balance my budget? Can I reduce to a bare-bones budget and use any extra money to help pay off debt?
- Your Income: Do I have enough income to pay all my bills and debts, or do I need to think about bringing in extra money?
Start dreaming a little
Nothing is going to motivate you more than envisioning having the life you want. This is your why.
Dream about what it would be like to be debt free. What could you do, and how would your life change if you didn’t owe anybody any money. Everything you brought in was yours to keep, spend and save.
Dream about what life would be like if you didn’t have to worry about money. What if all your bills were paid on time every time, like clockwork. What if you could pay cash for a vacation … even if it took a little time to save up for, how would that feel?
Having a plan is like having a rocket. It’s the vehicle that’s going to shoot you into the stars where your goals are (the sky’s the limit!)
Having a “why” is the spark that’s going to ignite the engine to get your rocket to take off. It’s also the fuel that’s going to keep you going when you hit a little turbulence. Things won’t go perfectly, you’ll have hard times. If you have a strong “why”, you’ll have the motivation to keep moving forward in spite of it.
Plan out your future
Your future starts with decisions you make today.
Put your plan on paper. Write down what needs to change in order to reach the goals that you have for yourself.
Start by planning out your big goals, narrow your big goals down into smaller goals. Drill down your goals into smaller and smaller goals until you have bite-sized pieces of goals that are easy to manage. Don't forget to give yourself a deadline!
Recognizing there are things that can be better in your finances is a step in the right direction. Don't be hard on yourself, many people run into unexpected hardship. You can feel good about your situation if you're working to make a better future for your family.
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