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Military Debt: How To Deal With Debt In A Military Family

soldier and the US flagMilitary debt is a serious problem for a lot of our servicemen. It is a sad situation because they have sacrificed a lot in the service of their country while their families have all the signs of heading towards a financial catastrophe. While they put their lives in danger to make sure that the rest of the country is safe, their families are left defenseless against debt and other financial obligations.

We are not saying that their deployment is the cause of their financial troubles. We acknowledge that it is mostly because of wrong financial choices that they have made. But just like everyone else, they are susceptible to the same financial troubles that the rest of the American consumers are facing.

An article from revealed a rise in the use of food stamps that are redeemed by military families. That means more and more military families are using food stamps in military groceries. At least , this is true since the recession in 2008. As of the last fiscal year that ended in September 30 2013, almost $104 million food stamps were redeemed. In 2012, the food stamps amounted to $98.8 million. Now it is at $103.6 million.

Military financial management statistics

It is hard to say if military debt is to blame for the rise in the use of food stamps. However, we can safely assume that this is part of why their budget on food falls short. It is also a good assumption to say that they have been making a lot of mistakes when it comes to their financial decisions.

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation conducted a military survey that revealed the financial behavior of military families. According to the results published on the, 36% of the participants in the survey admitted to having problems when it comes to keeping up with their financial obligations. The report revealed that this is still higher compared to the civilian population – with ⅔ of them having  similar problem. But still, ⅓ is still a high percentage.

Among the other findings in this statistic are as follows:

  • 25% of respondents with checking accounts have overdrawn their accounts.

  • 64% of military families who have overdrawn their account find it difficult to meet their monthly expenses.

  • 10% of families with a mortgage loan have been late on at least one payment in the past two years.

  • 3% of military families has foreclosed on their homes.

  • 3% of military families have declared themselves bankrupt in the past 2 years.

  • 9% of those contributing to their retirement funds have taken a loan in the past 12 months.

  • 6% have done a permanent hardship withdrawal from their retirement plan.

  • Around half of respondents claim to have an emergency fund.

  • More than 50% plan for life events

  • More than ¼ of credit card holders owe $10,000 or more on their account.

In terms of the personal finances, 19% are dissatisfied with their current financial condition. Only 26% are satisfied and 55% are neutral about it.

The survey was conducted last 2010 and we can only hope that things have gotten a lot better financially. With the declaration of President Obama that the federal minimum wage will now be higher, we hope that things will get better for these families.

7 steps to get rid of military credit problems

In most cases, military debt plays an important role in the lives of these households. Among the debts that they owe include credit card debt, mortgage loans, auto loans and student debt. If your family is going through the same problem, you may want to follow these 7 simple steps to get out of debt.

Step 1: Organize your personal finances.

The first step is to know how much you owe. To do this, you have to organize your personal finances. You need to categorize your income, expenses and your debts. While your military debt is a part of your expenses, it pays to separate it from your monthly household expenses.

Step 2: Create a debt payment plan.

The next step is to do something about your current debt. You have to choose a debt relief program that you can follow to help you make better progress when it comes to your credit obligations. Sometimes, what we need is a structured debt payment plan that will help us commit to our payments.

Step 3: Negotiate your debts. Get debt help if necessary.

If the total military debt that you owe is way beyond what you can really afford, you should call your creditors and ask them to give you a discount. You are negotiate for a lower interest rate or even a debt reduction. You can opt to hire a debt expert to help you with this. In exchange for a reasonable service charge, you can have the peace of mind that comes with having an expert deal with your debt problems.

Step 4: Appoint a financial manager in the family.

Choose who will manage your money. Having one person manage the finances in the household is a great way to organize and simplify the decision making process. While this financial manager should still consult the rest of the family, it is ideal to have one person responsible. They will take care of the monetary matters in behalf of the family.

Step 5: Refrain from adding more debt.

The next step is to keep yourself from adding more debt. You have to stop acquiring them – at least until you have successfully paid off what you currently owe. If not, you may have trouble keeping up with your payments. Put yourself under a cash only policy while you are still getting out of debt.

Step 6: Earn more money.

Although the member of the family that is deployed in military service is already earning, the spouse or partner left at home should try to earn more. At least, they should sacrifice until their military debt is paid off. This will help ease the burden for the one currently working.

Step 7: Educate yourself.

It is important for everyone to realize that financial management is a debt solution. Regardless of how you plan on getting out of debt, this is an important aspect in your debt relief program. You need to learn how to manage your finances. That is how you will learn to use a budget, save and make smarter choices about your money. Fortunately, there are many websites that will help educate you about your personal finances. Specifically, you can go to for specific help about your military debt.

Here is a video from the Bank of America that has tips to help you pay off your debt.

4 options to get military financial aid

It may be a scary situation to watch your military debt grow. But your fear will do nothing to help you. It is important to start acting on it now to prevent it from further harming your personal finances. There are debt relief options that will help you with your financial struggles. Not only that, the government have put into place various programs and laws that will help military families deal with their respective debts. Here are 4 of them that can help you out.

  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Also referred to as the SCRA, it aims to help families deal with military debt. This is mostly in effect for those who are on active duty. The provisions include an extension for lease contracts, cancellation or termination of any auto rentals and limits the interest that will be collected from them.

  • Joint Federal Travel Regulations. This is intended for military personnel whose landlords are about to face foreclosure. They are provided with cash allowances that will help with their military travels and transfers associated with the foreclosure of their landlord.

  • Military Lending Act. The next program is initiated by the Department of Defense to limit the interest and fees that are being imposed on military servicemen. These are imposed on payday loans, tax refund anticipation loans and vehicle title loans. The regulation limits its at 36% only.

  • Homeowner’s Assistance Program. This is to help military families who are having problems with their homes. This will provide them with financial aid in case they have to sell their homes at a loss – or even if they are unable to sell it. This is extended to both active and former members of the military to aid them in any military debt that is related to their home. Not only that, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and the surviving spouses are covered by this.

You can say that these are among the perks of being part of a military family. But still, you should know that it still boils down to financial management. Make sure that you understand how to manage your money well so you can avoid the unnecessary burden of military debt.

Debt Is Not A Financial Problem. It’s a Personal Problem

Surviving Debt Despite UnemploymentIf you’re typical you probably hate being in debt. But here you are stuck in debt again. It seems like you just pulled yourself out of debt a few months ago and here you are back in debt again. How in the world did this happen and so quickly? And what could you do to solve this problem permanently so that you are never in debt again?

The first step

The first step in getting permanently out of debt is to define the source of the problem. While you may believe that the reason you’re in debt is a financial problem it’s not. It’s actually a personal problem that you just think of as a financial one. This is why you’re never able to permanently stay out of debt. In fact, treating debt as if it were a financial problem is about the same as trying to cure a cold by blowing your nose. You might be relieving a bothersome symptom but you’re not addressing the underlying cause.

A much larger problem

To put this another way, if you’re constantly falling into debt this is just a symptom of a much larger problem, which is that you’re addicted to an unsupportable lifestyle and self image and are spending more than you earn. If you are unwilling to address this root problem, the symptom will recur and you will be back in debt again.

Your personal life habits and attitudes are your debt’s real cause because this results in overspending. So, the answer is simple. You must spend less than you earn. There is just no way around this. Unfortunately, this answer is about the same as telling an overweight person that they need to eat less and exercise more. You probably already know this is what you need to do. The tough part is actually getting it done.

Slaying the monster that is debt

We understand that you want to get out of debt as quickly as possible but if you choose a superficial financial solution you just may end up as a repeat offender. For example, you could use debt consolidation, transfer all your debts to a 0% interest balance transfer card or take out a homeowner’s equity line of credit and pay off those debts. Or you could sell your house, your car or your boat. However, this does not address the root cause of your problem. You are trying to relieve the symptoms of your problem by looking only at financial issues.

What’s causing your debt?

You need to identify the ways that you spend more than you earn and then change these habits. This may mean tracking your spending for three or four weeks and then dividing it into categories so you can see exactly where your money is going. This will help you identify leaks or those areas where you’re spending too much. You need to plug all of those areas so that you will never go into debt again. This is not a very sexy solution but it will permanently solve the problem.

One day at a time

If you truly want to stay out of debt you must keep plugging those leaks until you are spending less than you earn. It may take you months or even years to do this. But that’s okay. The important thing is to not become overwhelmed. You might start by picking just one habit that produces debt and causes overspending and then correct it. When you’ve done this, pick another of those bad spending habits and go to work on it. Keep rinsing and repeating until you’ve completely stopped overspending. You will need to be persistent but if you are you will reach your goal.

Have realistic expectations

Understand that this is not a quick solution and that you need to set realistic expectations. What this is about is long-term financial management using permanent habits that will convert your debt into wealth. If you can learn to spend less than you earn, your debt issues should vanish forever. And that is a very good thing.

Tips for debt reductioncalculator with text how much

It’s also important that while you’re changing those overspending habits you are also working to eliminate your debts. Here are five steps that could help.

1. Evaluate your debts

Print out all of your credit reports and get all of your other financial statements so that you can see just where you stand. This can be scary but it’s critical. Take a piece of notepaper or a spreadsheet and put down your balances, interest rates and the monthly amounts due on each of your debts. Don’t forget your personal loans, credit cards, auto loans and any other debts. Be sure to also write down the annual fees you pay on those credit cards.

2. Determine what you can pay

Once you have all this information you need to determine how much you could pay on your debts. Add up all of your monthly earnings after taxes and then subtract your mortgage payment or rent from that amount. Next, subtract your other fixed monthly expenses such as payments on student loans, utilities, groceries and insurance. This will tell you what you have left to pay on your debts.

3. Create a plan

You now know your exact financial situation. So the next step is to make a plan for eliminating those debts. The way you do this is to subtract your monthly expenses and minimum debt payments from your monthly after-tax income. Use whatever money you have left over pay off the debt that has the highest interest rate and the highest balance. Continue to do this every month until you pay off the debt. Then start working on your debt that has the next highest balance/interest rate. This is the quickest way to reduce your debts. Make sure you do not charge anything on your credit cards during this time and be sure to make at least the minimum monthly payments on all your other debts. Try to also increase how much you pay on that debt with the highest interest/balance every month.

4. Contact your lenders

Step four in reducing your debt is to contact your lenders to see if you could get better terms. For example, you might be able to lower your interest rates or even get a reduced settlement on some of your debts. Most financial experts say that it’s easiest to negotiate debts that have already been charged off by the creditor or are already in collection. f you would like advice from an attorney on settling debts, watch this video …


5. Be sure to follow through

Do your best to meet your repayment goals every month. It’s not bad if the amount you put towards your target debt varies from month to month. Just try to put as much as possible consistently towards your debts. One good way to do this is to sign up for automatic payments.

Be sure to celebrate your success when you reach a major milestone. Do this and before you know it your debts will be a thing of the past.

Don’t forget to pay yourself

It’s important that while you’re paying off your debts and changing your spending habits that you don’t forget to pay yourself by putting money into savings. You need to have an emergency savings account so that when, and not if, you run into a financial emergency you will have the money to cover it. Otherwise, you’ll just be back in to debt again. If you have a tough time saving money, arrange to have automatic withdrawals from your checking account each payday with the money deposited into your savings account. The money you don’t see is money that’s harder to miss.

14 Signs That You’re Headed For Big Trouble With Debt

woman looking at billsUnless you’re one of that well-to-do one percent, chances are that you’ve gotten off track with your finances at least once in the past 5 to 10 years. You have good intentions to not let this happen again so it’s important that you can recognize the signs that you may be headed for a personal financial disaster. That way you could get back on track before it’s too late.

Here are 14 signs that you may be headed for trouble

1. Not paying your bills on time. One of the first signs that you may be headed for trouble is if you are unable to pay your bills on time. There are several reasons why this is important, not the least of which is the damage it does to your credit score. That little three-digit number rules your credit life in an inverse ratio. In other words, the lower your score the higher the interest rates you will be charged. For that matter, if your credit score falls below 580 you could even be forced to pay more for your auto insurance, your rent and even your utilities.

2. Struggling to just make the minimum payments. The minimum payments on your credit cards are just that – the minimum that you can pay to keep from being charged late fees. If you’re having a problem making just the minimum payments this is a sign that you are headed towards serious financial problems. Plus, it will take you much longer to get out of debt. As an example of this if you owed just $5000 at 19% interest and made only a minimum payment of $125 every month, it would take you roughly 273 months (nearly 23 years) to pay back the $5000 and would cost you $6,923.14 in interest.

3. Using credit cards to make payments. If you’re doing this, it’s the ultimate borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Don’t fool yourself. When you do this you’re just piling debt on top of debt. The one exception to this is if you were to transfer all of your balances to a 0% interest balance transfer card. This would give you a sort of timeout period of anywhere from 6 to 18 months. During this introductory period of time all of your monthly payments would go towards reducing your balance instead of paying interest. If you could heavy up on those payments you could actually be debt-free before your introductory period expired.

4.Taking cash advances. If you’re taking cash advances on a credit card this is not only a sign you’re having a serious problem with your finances but is probably costing you big money. This is because almost all credit card companies charge you a much higher interest rate on cash advances than on purchases. Next time you get a statement from one of your credit card providers check the interest you’re paying on purchases versus cash advances. The odds are that cash advances will have an interest rate that’s at least 10% higher than on purchases.

5. Being refused for credit. When you apply for any type of credit, the first thing the lender will do is check your credit score to see how much of a risk you represent. If you have a low credit score and a credit report filled with late or missed payments this tells the lender that you are a very poor risk When you’re turned down for credit it’s because the lender believes that you won’t be able to pay back the money. This is a very serious red flag.

6. Earning less than you spend. Have you ever sat down to compare your spending with your earnings? If you’re piling up debt it’s because you’re spending more than you earn. You can double-check this by calculating your debt-to earnings-ratio. The way you do this is by dividing your fixed monthly debts by your earnings. If you find you have a percentage of 40% or higher, you’re headed towards a financial cliff.

7. Reaching or going beyond your credit card limits. Thirty percent of your credit score is computed by taking the amount you owe and dividing it by your total credit limits. When you reach the limit on a credit card or exceed it, you may be denied more credit or other lines of credit. As an example of this if you had total credit card limits of $5000 and had charged up $2500 on them you would have a debt-to-credit ratio of 50%, which would be much too high. This, too, would have a very negative effect on your credit score.

8. Taking money out of your savings or retirement. When you take money out of your retirement account you lose the returns you would have earned had you left the money alone. And when you take money out of savings, you will have less available should you run into a financial emergency. Most financial counselors believe you should have the equivalent of at least three months of living expenses in a savings account to protect yourself against emergencies. When you drain down your savings account this puts you at risk for running into an emergency where your only option would be to add more debt onto your credit cards.

9. Continually paying late fees. If you find that you’re always paying late fees you are either not doing a good job of managing your money or you’re just lazy. When you’re late on just one payment your credit score could be reduced by as many as 50 points. This could drop you from having “good” credit to “bad” or even “poor” credit and prevent you from getting any new credit.

10. Juggling bills. This tactic may help you in the short run but not over time. When you start shuffling bills so that you can at least make the minimum payments on the “hottest” ones, all you’re doing is putting off the inevitable. This, too, will damage your credit score and end up costing you money.A pile of bills, checkbook, pen and calculator on the table to create budget

11. Counting on a windfall. Are you putting bills aside waiting for a big Christmas check from Aunt Jane, a bonus or a commission? This is like one of those storm-warning flags that alert sailors to bad weather. It’s a distress signal that financial problems lay ahead and that you’re about to run into a storm of debt.

12. Doing the old credit card hocus-pocus. These are the words often spoken by a magician when bringing about some sort of magic change. But there’s no magic change you can make with credit cards if you’re continually making late payments or worse yet, skipping some. The only “magic” that can help keep you from falling further into debt is to pay off your balances.

13. Fighting over finances. Couples that are not struggling with debt rarely have arguments over money. If you and your spouse or partner is constantly arguing over money, it’s because you’re having financial problems. A better solution than fighting over finances is to sit down, have a calm discussion about the problem and then make a plan for getting them under control.

14. Paying overdraft fees. You could be on the brink of financial disaster if you’re constantly paying fees for overdrawing your checking account. Whether you want to face it or not, this means that you just don’t have enough money to support your current lifestyle. You will rarely find pages will get you

If you see some of these warning signs

If you see only one of these warning signs, you’re probably not headed for a financial disaster in the next few months. However, if you see three or more of these danger signs it’s time to buckle down, get to work and make a plan for getting your finances under control – before you start hearing from debt collectors. Trust us when we tell you that debt collectors are in general not very nice people and if you fall into their clutches, they can make your life miserable.

Frugal Lessons From Books Like The Hunger Games

books with a mouse attachedDid you know that you can get frugal lessons from books like The Hunger Games? Everything in life is like a novel that can give you a lot of life lessons. You just have to really understand the story line plus the conflict and solutions that the characters are facing.

Books in general hold a lot of influence in society. We are not just talking about academic books. There are various literary works inspired future generations to think of new ideas. An article in published an article that cited some science fiction novels that brought about some of the best ideas.

The article explained that geeks love to read. And no matter how they are bullied back in high school, they are mostly responsible for the technological advancements that we have today. The minds of these geeks are stimulated every time they read – even if it is only about science fiction. The Business Insider article mentioned how the likes of The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke inspired the Kickstarter project of a space elevator research. Not only that, NASA is also thinking about the space elevator concept and could probably implement it soon enough. Even Hyperion by Dan Simmons inspired geeks to think about space travel, AI, and connectivity across galaxies etc. These are all developed and are constantly being improved by the geek reading all these science fiction novels.

Another article in supports the same idea. The article mentioned how books are oftentimes viewed to be a form of entertainment. While this is true, the ideas presented in the literary work, no matter how much of a fiction it is, can still influence the mind of the reader. When you read, you tend to focus on the material. This is one of the things that you cannot multitask. That concentration means you are more inclined to absorb the ideas written within.

Given this thought, we would like to tackle one of the most popular books in our time today. It is such a success that it had been made into a movie franchise – which in itself, is also very successful. With this popularity comes the opportunity to drive in some important realizations – specifically when it comes to finances. We have found that this collection of books actually teach us the core principles that can get you started on frugal lessons.

We are talking about the best selling novel written by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. It tells us a fictional story about a girl named Katniss Everdeen and her adventures in the nation of Panem.

Frugality lessons from the story of The Hunger Games

This is a great way for you to drive home the lesson into your kids. If they are fascinated by the movie and the book, it can be a great source of financial lessons for children. The Hunger Games holds a lot of frugal lessons. In essence, the story holds a lot of realizations about society itself. But to make this article as short and meaningful, let us focus on what it teaches us about frugality.

Here are some of the frugality concepts that we found in the book.

  • Have restraint. Living in a consumerist society has its ups and downs. For your finances, it is usually the latter. It teaches us to have everything in excess and that is a direct contradiction to what you need to learn in your frugal lessons. Just like Katniss is taught to not go straight to the Cornucopia as it raises the chances of her getting killed, that is also a lesson for all of us. We want to have everything at once but you have to consider what it will cost you. This is just like purchasing through credit cards. It allows you to have everything but it puts you in so much debt.

  • Sometimes, less is more. Still in the Cornucopia scene, the tributes all fight to the death to get as much as they can from this source of supply. However, a lot of them ended up meeting their demise. Katniss got one bag and it proved to be quite helpful. It had some useful thermal material to keep her warm at night, a water bottle and a rope. All of these helped her survive even if it was not a lot. The same is true for you. If you concentrate on the value of the bare necessities, you will realize that you can live without a lot of the things that you thought you needed. If you plan how you will get the excesses in life, you can still enjoy them but not at the expense of being under so much credit obligation.

  • Understand your strengths and the tools that will enhance it. Katniss is great at using a bow. She concentrated on getting this rather than the more lethal weapons like a sword or a spear. One of the important frugal lessons you need to learn is to know how to play to your strengths. You want to maximize what you are good at so you can make do without the excesses.

It is important to remember that frugality is actually a deviation of what most of us were used to. We spent a lot and we worked very hard to get the things that society deemed to be important. While there is nothing wrong about that, you need to stop trying to be like everyone else. Focus on what you really need and anything in excess must be planned. That is how you practice the frugal lessons that will keep you from being in a financial crisis.

Just like Katniss was not afraid to defy the rules of killing all tributes by saving Peeta, you need to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. Even if others are doing it, that does not mean you should too. With that practice, you can influence the people around you to implement the same frugal lessons that can save them from financial problems. Just like how Katniss sparked the start of the revolution.

Other bestselling novels that provide personal finance lessons

Apart from the frugal lessons that you will get from The Hunger Games, there are also other books that provide relevant financial concepts that will help you manage your money smartly. These books can turn you into a wizard at money management.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter is an orphan that lived the first 11 years of his life in misery. Although his Aunt took him in, he was deprived of a lot of things. But when he reached the age of 11 and he got accepted at Hogwarts, he discovered that he owned a small fortune in the bank of the Wizard world. If you think that he spent all of that at once, having been deprived all his life – that where you are wrong. In fact, he managed that money wisely so it will last him for the next 7 years of his studies.

We can definitely learn a lot from him. If you remember the stories about people who won the lottery, you will read about stories of money mismanagement and loss. Most of them ended up being in a worse situation before winning the lottery.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit does not really give frugal lessons but what it does teach us something about taking risk and growing your money. Hobbits are known to eat a lot and enjoy comfort. The protagonist in the story, Bilbo Baggins, is no exemption. But while he was in his comfort zone, he was bound to have only what he had at the moment. But when he grabbed the chance to venture out on an adventure with dwarves that he barely knew, he found riches that he never knew he could find.

Although a lot of us are intimidated by the concept of investing, this is something that you need to learn. There is a certain amount of risk involved but you may want to get over that fear. You will win and lose here but once you understand how to implement investing strategies, you can maximize the moments when you gain profit. The important thing is to just start investing. You will never know your potential to grow your money if you refuse to try it.

Using books to teach your children about money and even frugal lessons is one of the best ways to make them understand financial concepts. You may be surprised at how the simple books on your shelf hold valuable financial lessons. Here is a video from CNN that discusses how two economists raise their kids to have money smarts through ordinary children’s books.

How To Spot A Smart Spender From The Not

retailer cutting a credit cardAfter everything that we have been through, we all know the importance of financial management. This is a lesson that we need to learn if we want to keep ourselves from being in a financial crisis once more.

One of the most important lessons that we will learn in money management is how to be a smart spender. Your spending habits has the power to make or break you. Either it will bring you towards financial security or pull you down into a debt pit.

Like the holidays for instance. How can you rate your holiday spending? Did you successfully adhere to your budget or have you gotten yourself into some serious debt? If you were a smart spender, you should have been able to stay away from holiday debt easily.

But with all the marked down prices, the people going crazy over shopping and the bonus that you got from work – keeping a tight lid on your spending is easier said than done. We are living in a consumerist society after all. You can expect that everywhere you turn, you will be encouraged to buy, buy, buy!

Shopoholism explained

Compulsive buying is a real and dangerous addiction. It can ruin not just your life, but that of your family as well. Your past exploits can ruin your present and future endeavors. So you need to seriously consider if you or a loved one has the signs of not being a smart spender.

Consumer spending in the country have steadily gone up over the years. compiled a couple of statistics that show how spending have steadily increased over time.

  • Spending increased by $187 billion from Q3 of 2012 ($10.54 trillion) to Q3 of 2013 ($10.72 trillion).

  • Spending in every quarter of 2013 also showed a steady increase: Q1 $10.64 trillion, Q2 $10.69 trillion, and Q3 $10.72 trillion.

  • Growth from ten years ago (Q3 of 2003) is at $1.79 trillion. Consumer spending in 2003 was only at $8.93 trillion.

The only time that consumer spending declined was from mid 2008 to mid 2009 – which was during the height of the recession. But after that period, people started to spend more money on various items once more.

Even, an authority site on medical information, acknowledges that compulsive shopping is a real and dangerous condition. Coined as “shopoholism” medical experts know that this is as real as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

An article published on the site reveals that people who do not have control over their impulses are considered to be an addiction. If you do not have control over your shopping impulses, then you may be addicted to buying more than what you should. Here are some highlights from the article.

  • “In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping,” Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry, University of Iowa College of Medicine.

  • “Some of the new evidence suggests that some people, maybe 10%-15%, may have a genetic predisposition to an addictive behavior, coupled with an environment in which the particular behavior is triggered, but no one really knows why,” Ruth Engs, EdD, professor of applied health science, Indiana University. “Individuals will get some kind of high from an addictive behavior like shopping.”

  • “Impairment can occur because the person spends time away from home to shop, covers up debt with deception, and emotionally and physically starts to isolate themselves from others as they become preoccupied with their behavior,” Rick Zehr, VP of addiction and behavioral services, Proctor Hospital at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.


Here is where it all gets to be difficult. Being addicted means you cannot decide for yourself if you are a smart spender or not. Those addicted are usually in denial of their condition. Someone always has to step in to tell them that they are compulsive shoppers.

Signs you are not with a wise spender

Experts suggest that people should watch out for signs that a person is not a smart spender. Whether it is you or another person in your home, you need to be able to spot the telltale signs. It goes beyond paying in cash or credit. provided a compilation of statistics about compulsive shoppers in the country. Here are some of them:

  • Compulsive shoppers in 2008 reached more than 25 million in the US.

  • The Stanford University Landmark Study revealed that there were 17 million compulsive shopper in the US. Men and women are also equally compulsive shoppers. Overshopping is usually caused by poor budgeting and saving efforts.

  • Psychology Today reports that the number one reason for relationship stress is money. It oftentimes lead to separation.

  • Time reports that the credit card debt of consumers are mostly unnecessary purchases.


While it may be hard to spot, you can observe yourself for the signs that you are more of a spender than a saver. Here are some of the characteristics that you can observe about yourself or a loved one.

  • Having a hard time or intentionally not following rules.

  • Feeling pride when you just ripped off people.

  • Cheating in tax or financial forms.

  • Keeping purchases a secret.

  • Inability to answer a direct question without being evasive.

  • Preferring to make rules for others – but cannot follow it themselves.

  • Sense of self-righteousness.

  • Likes to hoard during sale events.

Probably the most important sign that you have a spending problem is when you spend more in credit than you do in cash. Credit cards will not give you as much guilt trip as it would when buying in cash. You need to consider these signs if you really want to end up being a smart spender and not the opposite.

These characteristics are not definitive of a compulsive shopper but you have to know the person to truly define if they are smart shoppers or not. Observe and look at other factors too. For instance, if it is keeping you from fulfilling your budget goals, then this needs to be explored further. And, being an addictive condition, it has to be approached carefully to avoid ruining any relationship.

Can you change a spender to be a saver?

The big question is this: is it possible to change a spender and make them a saver? If there are chance for them to stop being an impulsive shopper to be a smart spender?

The answer is yes. It will be difficult, but it is not impossible. Drug and alcohol addicts have success stories and shopaholics can still be saved to become savers. Here are some tips that can help you and your loved ones work through this problem.

  • Accepting the problem. This is ideally for the person with the bad habits but it goes for the rest of the family too. If there are debts already incurred, just let it go and stop blaming each other.

  • Supporting each other. Debt can drive you apart but only if you play the blame game. No matter who is at fault, you need to give each other a chance and solve this together. Fighting will only make things worse.

  • Get professional help. It can be a psychiatrist to help with the impulsive habits or it could be a financial expert to help fix your finances. Usually, the expert can give you insight and techniques that would never have dawned on you.

Solving the shopping habits will help you turn your finances around. Being a smart spender is where you can take a more action about this problem.

Here is a video from National Debt Relief that will help you lower your bills in your household – regardless if you have a spender in the family.

Financial Disaster Prevention: 3 Keys To Stay Away From Financial Ruin

paper bag with BROKE textWe all know that financial management as a debt solution can work. But did you know that it is more beneficial if you use it as a preventive measure? Instead of waiting for the financial disaster to happen, doesn’t it make sense to stop it from happening in the first place?

That is what we all need to do. To prepare for the uncertain future to so we can make sure that we stay away from a financial ruin. Since it is hard to predict what will happen in the future, that is all that we can really do.

Evidence that we are not financially prepared to survive a crisis

Despite everything that we have gone through in the past few year, it is evident that we are still not as prepared as we ought to be. With all the issues in the government (e.g. government shutdown and debt ceiling) that can lead to a financial disaster, we need to start acting and we need to do it now.

A 2012 report published by the CFP Board (Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc) and Consumer Federation of America revealed that American families are still trying to get over the last recession. The report entitled 2012 Household Financial Planning Survey discusses how the struggle lies in trying to meet all the financial obligations that multiplied during the recession. Of course, we are referring to the credit payments that exploded in the height of the spiking unemployment rate. A lot of people, being unprepared as they were, had to rely on credit to buy the basic things that their family needs. Now, as the economy is also struggling to give jobs, all these debts are catching on to us and trying to pull us from the financial recovery that we want to have.

The same report cited a study by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International that showed how even in a stable economic condition, Americans are already challenged to meet basic financial goals. These include retirement, college fund, emergency savings and staying out of debt. What more if the economy is not as healthy as it should be?

The other findings of the report from the Consumer Fed and CFP Board includes:

  • Meeting financial goals became even higher in as unemployment, income levels and personal net worth all went against the favor of the average consumer.

  • In 2010, the median family net worth is $77,300 – down from $126,400 in 2007.

  • Financial planning is a vital factor in separating the people who are able to meet financial goals and from those falling behind.

  • 31% of household decisions makers have a financial plan.

  • 35% of households have a plan for emergencies.

  • Those who plan feel more confident when it comes to financial decisions. They also save more and feel that they have better progress in reaching their goals.

  • Regardless of the income group, those who plan have a higher score in terms of being financially prepared, compared to those who did not bother to plan at all.

  • 38% of families are living from paycheck to paycheck while 30% feel financially comfortable (2012).

In another study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute specifically paints a picture of retirement planning. The highlights of the study includes:

  • 28% are not confident about their retirement – an increase from 23% in 2012.

  • Retirement confidence is low because of the daunting saving goal that consumers are forced to meet. 20% of respondents believe they need to save 20% – 29% of their income while 23% need to save 30% or more from their income.

  • 46% claimed to have calculated what they will need to retire.

  • Only 2% (workers) and 4% (retirees) think that retirement planning is the priority financial concern.

  • 55% of workers and 39% retirees are admitting to having problems with the amount of debt that they owe.

The list goes on and on but the bottom line here is that our financial life is still in chaos and not everyone is planning for it. Some of us may be going through debt relief programs to help deal with debt but beyond that, we have no plans at all. What you have to understand is that a financial disaster will not spare you just because you are already struggling with your debt and finances. You need to start working on some preventive measures before bad things start happening.

3 keys to prevent yourself from financially sinking

Fortunately for you, there are three factors that can help you avert a financial disaster. At the very least, it can soften the blow in case the crisis is initiated by something that is beyond your control (e.g. stock market crash, etc.)

Changing your bad habits

The first of them is changing the wrong habits that got you in a financial crisis. These include overspending unnecessarily, not living on a budget and taking on too much credit.

In the last few years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics have noted how the average expenditure in an American household have grown over the years. In 2010, the average expense is $48,109. It grew in 2011 at $49,705. Finally in 2012, the household expense is now at $51,442. You may argue that the cost of living is steadily rising too. Well here’s proof that we are not learning from our mistakes. In the category of food expenses, we are spending an average of $3,921 eating food at home and $2,678 eating outside. Instead of just skipping the meals outside, we could save more just cooking our meals at home. While there is nothing wrong with eating outside, you need to calculate carefully how that affects your overall financial standing and that goals you are trying to reach in the future.

If you want to prevent an impending financial disaster, you have to start correcting the habits that are wasting your limited resources.

Adapt a vigilant mindset

We do not want you to be paranoid or anything but we do want you to be prepared. Having a vigilant mindset will keep you from assuming that things will always be great financially. It is not like you need to be a pessimist but just keep in mind that things can go wrong and you need to be prepared for that possibility. In every financial decision that you will make, ask yourself how you can cope with any payment involved with it in case your finances turn for the worse? What are you willing to sacrifice to keep a debt from overcoming your life? It is okay to be risky especially when you are investing to grow your money. But always do it within reason. Balance being risky and conservative at the same time.

Draft a back up plan

This is a plan that you will have in case something happens. It will tell you what to do in case your job or business goes under. This plan will tell you the type of frugal lifestyle that you will have to adapt into so you can maximize what finances you have without resorting to credit. This will help protect you and guide you even as your emotions are swirling around you. This plan will help you take one step at a time towards recovery – even before you know it. Sometimes, events leave us dazed and it helps to have an emergency financial plan that is keeping us from financial disaster.

In truth, surviving a financial crisis may be difficult but it is not impossible if you are well prepared for it. You never know what happens tomorrow so stop making excuses for yourself. You have to act now and start making these preparations.

Here is a video from National Debt Relief that we hope can help you provide a safety net for your family.

How To Be Financially Responsible In The Midst Of Debt Relief

shocked man looking at documentsIn your life, you will encounter a lot of experiences and it will not always be positive. But even the most difficult of situations like a financial crisis can end up as something positive. The key lies in how you will react to the event that you are currently in.

Being in debt can either bring out the best and the worst of you. Some people lost everything while some people use it as a primer for financially success. It is true that choosing among the debt relief programs will be one of your important decisions that you will make. However, you also have to consider how you can be more financially responsible because that will keep you from getting yourself into another debt pit. You need to make a decision to correct all the irresponsible financial choices that you made in the past to avoid repeating the same problem.

Debt relief lessons that will teach you to be responsible with money

There are a lot of lessons that you can pick off from any debt relief program that will teach you positive money management habits. Of course, the different programs have different processes so you can expect the lessons to differ from each other too. But in terms of habits, these are the various practices that you can learn in general.

  • Defining the difference between luxury and necessity. When you are striving to be financially responsible, you need to be able to distinguish the necessities and luxuries in your life. Debt has no room for luxuries so you need to get rid of them and get used to living without them. This will help establish the basic principles of smart spending that will really allow you to maximize the limited income that you have. This is very important because you need to conserve you money from your usual expenses so you can allot more for your debt payments.

  • Organizing your monetary transactions. This is the simplest goal of budgeting. If you want to be financially responsible, that will always include a budget plan. It will help you identify your income and the various expenses that you use it for. Money management is all about controlling your money and a budget plan is the best tool to help you. By knowing your finances, you can make better decisions about how you will spend it so you will not end up in debt. If you are unsure about how to create a budget, you can look at various templates from Google Drive. Make sure that you learn to revise your budget every now and then so it will suit the changes in your lifestyle too.

  • Choosing your expenses even when you are can afford it. Another lesson that you need to know is saying no to expenses that you know you do not need – even when you can afford it. Instead of using your extra money for unnecessary expenses, you may want to just save it instead.

  • Growing your savings. By choosing to save instead of spending, you are not only being responsible with you money you are also setting yourself up to be financially stable. In the long run this is the most important goal that you must try to reach – more than just growing your money. By saving, you are preparing yourself for unexpected expenses and even planned ones. It will help keep you from incurring more debt.

  • Learning to invest your money. Being financially responsible is not just about getting out of debt. It is also about learning how you can grow your limited resources so you can put in more money towards your debt payments.

  • Keeping your neighbors from influencing your spending decisions. Keeping up with the Joneses is a habit that got a lot of us in debt. If it is something that you do not need, then do not spend for it – even when the whole neighborhood is doing the same.

All of these lessons will help you get out of debt and not only that, will also teach you to be financially responsible.

Why financial responsibility is very important

Maybe you are wondering, what is all the fuss about financial responsibility? We have mentioned how important it is to set up your future to be financially stable. This will keep you from debt and also allow you to create a comfortable future for you and your family. But before you can achieve this stability, you need to be financially responsible first. That is the catalyst for what you will be aiming for.

In the end, it is not really how much money you have. It is more of how it will support you and the lifestyle that you want to live without getting you in debt. With financial responsibility comes the willingness to be deeply involved in where you money goes to. It enables you to make better financial decisions that will contribute to your personal wealth.

As you learn how to do this, you will also be more adept when it comes to borrowing money. You no longer have to fear debt. There are instances wherein getting a loan is necessary (e.g. buying a home or setting up a business). Do not let your irresponsible behavior keep you from opportunities that can grow your wealth. If you are financially responsible that will help you manage your debt well enough to keep it from being a financial crisis.

How To Conquer 4 Common Financial Fears

man holding a dollar signAre you looking for financial freedom? There are certain habits, rules and techniques to follow to achieve this kind of life. More importantly, you need to remove the financial fears that keep you from the opportunities that you should be experiencing.

Some people may have adequate finances that will help them meet every day expenses but when they are saddled with all these fears, it is difficult for them to make the right decisions. While their fears may not be unfounded, there are ways to conquer them.

Like any other fear, you just have to face these money issues that you have and develop the right skills that will enable you to overcome them.

What are the 4 money fears and how to get over them

Let us discuss the four different financial fears that grip the hearts of most consumers and the corresponding ways you can conquer them.

  • Job security. A lot of us are scared of losing our means of income and that is because we lose the ability to finance most of our needs. In this consumerist society, money is the main element that will allow you to avail of the things that you need. May it be food, clothing, shelter or transportation, we all need cash to spend for them. This is a valid fear to have but it is also something that you can easily conquer. If you notice, the fear stems from having no income to spend. It is not really losing your job. So what you should do is to make sure that you have more than one source of income. That is how you can get over your job security fear.

  • Theft. The next of the financial fears is all about theft. Nobody wants to be stolen from – especially when it is your money. But when it involves your finances, you can be sure that scammers, crooks, thieves and other malicious people will be on the lookout for people whom they can steal from. If this is your concern, then you must protect yourself. There are ways like being careful when giving away your personal information, keeping your credit cards in a safe place and monitoring your credit report for any unauthorized transactions made under your name. You don’t have to be too paranoid about it but you need to take steps to make sure that you will not fall victim to any of it. That means keeping your eyes and ears open to the new ways that thieves use to take money away from you.

  • Debt. After the recession, people got a healthy dose of fear when it comes to debt. Some of them swore off this financial condition because of the hardship that it caused them. It is true that debt can dictate how you live your life and that is usually something that has a negative effect on you. However, that does not mean you should completely remove it from your life. There are debts that are good for you like student loans, business loans and home loans. You just have to learn how to identify which will benefit you. The key is to ask yourself – will this debt take money away from me or will it allow me to grow my finances? The answer should tell you whether it is a good or bad debt.

  • Bankruptcy. We are so scared of the word bankruptcy because we feel that it is the worst financial condition that you will ever reach in your life. While there is reason for that feeling, you have to understand that there are situations when bankruptcy is the only way out of your debt situation. Even if it can ruin your credit score, that does not mean it will stay that way. You can always rebuild your life and it will be much easier when debt is removed from the picture. Just make sure that you have a plan after you have your debts discharged. Make sure you learn the right financial management skills that will enable you to make better choices about your money.

Use financial planning and security to keep financial scares away

If you notice, the four financial fears can be solved by one or two of the following:

Financial planning. defines this as yan evaluation of your financial state so you can use it to make decisions about future cash flows, assets and withdrawal plans. When you are creating a plan for your finances, you want to make sure that you take into careful consideration your future goals, wealth plans and your expected expenses. It helps you setup your money so that you can pursue the kind of lifestyle that you want to live. By having a plan, you get to take control of your life and that, in a way, eliminates the fear that you have about your finances. Most of the time, we fear what we do not know and we have no control over. But if you exert some effort into planning, then you can have that feeling that you are prepared for any possibilities.

Financial security. Having a financial plan oftentimes lead to financial security. An article in the site describes how one frugal mom defines financial security. She said that it is all about freedom from the fear of financial ruin. It is being without fear even if their income is lost because they know that they can get income from another source. It means not having to worry about monthly bills. Best of all, financial security means you are in your happy place.

We all know that fear is far from your mind when you are happy and the combination of these two will certainly remove traces of financial fears in you. So work hard, be wise and have the initiative to educate yourself. In the end, your fears can only be overridden by your own mind and belief in yourself.

How To Get A Handle On Your Finances In Three Easy Steps

businessman managing financesHave you not been able to get a handle on your finances because you just think it’s too complicated and time-consuming? On the face of it getting control of one’s finances can seem very daunting. This is especially true if you have lots of bills to pay and mouths that need to be fed. However, when you strip it down to its bare essentials getting control of your finances is not all that difficult. In fact you could probably get a handle on them this weekend.

Step #1: Learn how to budget

Some people are lucky. Money management just comes easy to them. They don’t need a budget because they don’t spend much, pay their bills on time and can enjoy the experience of living a responsible financial life. However, this is not true for most of us. We like to spend our money and we want things. We try to find that subtle balance between saving for the future and enjoying what we earn. If you feel that you fall into this category, you probably need a budget. If you’re not familiar with budgeting, here’s a video featuring financial ex[ert Dave Ramsey that could help.

A good place to start is by breaking down your spending into categories and then allocating your money to them. You will have both fixed costs such as rent and utilities and money you set aside for saving and investments. You should also have some spending money. The important thing is to figure out how much you need for your fixed expenses and how much you want to save and then use the rest as you please. Naturally, if you want to be really responsible you would have a high savings percentage. But you do need to account for your lifestyle and how you enjoy yourself. In other words, don’t avoid buying things you want from time to time or taking vacations. And there are tools available that can help you with your budgeting. One of the best ones for the iPhone is Jumsoft Money while Moneywise is a great budget-tracking app for Android phones.

Unfortunately, flexibility isn’t for everyone. If you fall into this category you may need a stricter approach to your budgeting. In this case, consider using a zero-sum budget. This is where you have to decide where every cent of your money goes so that you cannot make irresponsible choices. You might feel suffocated by this level of strictness or you might find it helpful.

Step 2: Make a savings plan that will work for you

Savings plans don’t have to be as complicated as a budget. What you really only need to do is regularly dump some amount of money into a bank. Even if you can’t deposit much each month, it will eventually add up. Assuming that you have a job and a reasonable salary you should be able to save some of your money each month. Do you find that you have a hard time saving money? Then there are ways to trick yourself into saving. For example, you could use direct deposit to automatically put money into a bank account that’s hard to access or withdraw from. Or you could divide your savings into several different accounts so that getting it all would requite a lot of work.

If you have trouble with your spending, shred your credit cards and make it hard to reach your cash. Some people have found that prepaid debit cards are a good way to cut spending because you can’t spend any more than you’ve deposited on the card. For example, if you were to deposit $500 on a prepaid credit card and spent it down to $0 you would have to either quit spending or deposit more money onto the card.

Put time on your side

Another way to save money is to put time on your side. If you find an item you want to buy just wait until it goes on sale as almost everything ultimately does. There’s nothing wrong with buying stuff used, either. For example, we buy all of our Apple stuff as used and refurbished and generally save at least 50% off its original cost. And there’s practically no reason in the world to buy furniture new. If you watch the listings on Craigslist, you should be able to buy almost anything you need at a deep discount.

Step 3: Eliminate your debtEraser side of pencil next to word Debt

If you’re wallowing in a swamp of debt such as student loan debt you can’t manage, you need to make a plan to fix this. In the case of student loan debt, there are a number of tools available to help you. You should check out Student Loan Hero or for everything else, get ReadyForZero. This is a smart phone app that can help you do just that – which is to pay all your debts down to zero. Just don’t try to pay off debt without having a plan. If you do this you are almost bound to fail. Other good options for paying off debt you might explore include using the strategy of “snowballing” your credit card debts or getting a debt consolidation loan. If you have high-interest credit card debts you should be able to get a handle on them by transferring those balances to a credit card with a lower interest rate or, better yet, a 0% interest balance transfer card. Many American families have also found debt relief through debt settlement. Companies such as National Debt Relief have helped thousands of Americans get their debt settled for pennies on the dollar and become debt free in just 2 to 4 years.

10 Books That Could Turn You Into A Wizard Of Money Management

Man fanning money next to earIs you’re typical your parents probably didn’t teach you much about personal finances. And the odds are neither your middle school nor your high school had classes in personal finances. We’ve always thought it was strange that schools have classes with titles such as “Dreams of Flight” but none titled “Smart Money Management 101.”

Again, if you’re typical, you’ve probably sort of stumbled around and learned some things about personal finances through trial and error. But you may still be in the dark when it comes to terms like the time value of money or loan to value ratio. You may also be totally adrift when it comes to investing and how to grow your money and become financially independent. Fortunately, there are 10 books that could teach you everything you need to know to become a true wizard of money management. They are:

1. Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey

If you’ve ever heard Dave’s radio show, you know that he’s all about using common sense, avoiding purchasing anything on credit, paying cash for everything possible, getting yourself out of debt and building an emergency fund. This book is not full of lightweight promises and feel-good anecdotes but instead offers solid basic advice for every man and every woman. It includes information about using the snowball strategy for paying off debt, which Dave is credited for having invented. This has received some criticism but his methods work. In fact, if you’re having a problem with debt, there’s probably no better a `starting place than this book.

2. How To Get Out Of Debt, Stay Out Of That, And Live Prosperously – Jerrold Mundis

This book is built around the principles of Debtors Anonymous. If you’re not familiar with it, DA is a 12-step program that was created in 1971 to help those who were having a problem with compulsive debt. You won’t find purely theoretical information here from some Wall Street financial whiz kid. It contains real stories and real tips from real people. The book is 20 years old but the information it contains is timeless.

If you’re struggling with debt, here’s a video that offers several strategies for dealing with it.

3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

This book makes the point that a person who dropped out of the eighth grade but spends less than he earns is smarter than a college professor who is unable to make ends meet. Furthermore, the book goes on to say that working for a steady paycheck can get you started as a good money manager but your best investment of time and money is to buy a business or property.

4. The Millionaire Fast Lane – MJ Demarco

This author preaches that it’s a fool’s game to work hard, save 10% your income and retire at 65. He believes this because financial markets are just too volatile and you’d be using a walker by the time you actually had enough money to retire. He feels that a better policy is to utilize the unpredictability of the financial markets to make money quickly and enjoy it now.

5. Your Money Or Your Life – Vicki Robins

This book centers on the idea that if you live more frugally this will increase – rather than decrease – your quality of life. The author cites numerous examples of what you should not do such as the practice of working in a job that generates less income than what you pay for child care and “time-saving” trips to McDonald’s.

6. The Millionaire Next Door –Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

These two authors did research into US households that had a net worth of $1 million or more. They identify most of us as “Under Accumulators of Wealth” (UAW) – or people who have a low net wealth compared to their income. The book also includes advice like taking skimpy vacations to help you achieve a higher net worth compared to your income.

7. The Money Book For The Young, Fabulous & Broke – Suze Orman

Instead of providing information for people who are about to retire, this book is designed to help younger people navigate the basics of the financial world such as coping with huge student loans and a job market that is nearly as dismal for young people as the Great Depression was for everyone.

8. Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind – T. Harv Eker5 Money Principles from (Part 1)

This author believes that if you’re poor it’s because you think like a poor person. Conversely, if you’re rich it’s because you think rich. Eker also believes that people who are poor basically program their children to be poor by giving them a worldview that makes it impossible for them to accumulate wealth. However, don’t worry. According to this book if you start thinking like a tycoon you can be one, too.

9. Think And Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

This book dates back to the 1930s when the author interviewed a number of millionaires and philanthropists, including the steel tycoon, Andrew Carnegie. As a result, this book is a perennial best seller of self-development that encourages the notion that “greed is good” – so long as you are willing to share your wealth.

10. The Richest Man In Babylon – George Clason

This book is built around psuedo biblical parables about attaining wealth. It has inspired investors since the early1920s. Like many of the personal finance books that followed this one, The Richest Man In Babylon stresses saving rather than spending. It also maintains that charitable giving is just as important as getting rich so long as you don’t permit the people you help to become dependent on you.