You may not realize it, but every time you enter a new phase of life – either starting college, a career or a family – you’re also venturing into a new world of money management. Here are ways to be prepared and maximize your DebitSavvy lifestyle.
Save money that could make your dreams a reality
- Put money aside for purchases you expect to make in the next few months or years.
- Create a budget that includes how much you earn each month, how much you pay for essentials like rent or transportation, and how much is left over for everything else.
- Arrange with your financial institution and employer to automatically transfer a certain amount each month to a savings or investment account.
Build a good credit record
- Always pay your credit card bills and other debts on time.
- Use your credit card only when you can afford to pay off immediately or within a reasonable time frame.
- Whenever possible, pay your credit card bill in full each month or pay as much as you can above the minimum amount due.
If you want a new car, consider the best way to pay for it
- Monthly lease payments are usually lower than monthly loan payments, but at the end of the lease you don’t own the car you’ve been paying for. If you buy, you have a vehicle you can sell or trade.
If you’re renting a house or apartment, consider if it’s time to buy
- Look at the costs of renting versus paying a mortgage.
- Buying a home includes paying real estate taxes and insurance, mortgage interest payments and the cost of maintenance.
- However, the upsides to buying a home are tax benefits, the potential for your home to appreciate in value and the satisfaction of having a place to call your own.
Set short-term and long-term financial goals
- Figure out how much money you can spend for “fun” and how much you should set aside for important goals, perhaps to buy a home.
Here are suggestions for staying focused and avoiding costly decisions during periods of change.
- Understand each other’s attitudes towards saving and spending money.
- Know about any major outstanding debts held by your partner.
- Set short-term and long-term financial goals.
- Understand the risks and responsibilities of jointly held accounts.
Buying your first home
- Ask questions and fully understand the fees, the interest rate, and when loan payments and interest charges begin.
- Shop around at multiple lenders and read all the fine print.
- Do your research and know up-front whether you are being offered a conventional or government loan, and whether the loan features a fixed rate, adjustable rate or some combination of the two.
A new addition to your family
- Get spending under control (preferably with a budget).
- Build your savings accounts for short-term expenses (especially if a spouse will be leaving a job) and long-term needs (including college tuition costs).
- Review and update your insurance coverage (life, health, disability) and wills to designate who will raise the child and handle finances in case of your death.
Death of a family member
- Contact the deceased person’s attorney and other financial advisors.
- Before committing to any funeral costs, consult with other family members and a lawyer about any prior instructions or arrangements.
- Locate important documents, such as insurance policies and the most recent will (an original, not a copy).
- Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate, which will be needed to apply for death benefits (such as through life insurance policies or Social Security) and to access the deceased person’s bank or brokerage accounts.
- If the family’s medical insurance is through the deceased person’s employer, review options for continuing coverage.
A medical emergency
- Carefully review all doctor and hospital bills and insurance payments/claim denials, because mistakes do happen and uncorrected errors can be costly.
- If you are unable to resolve a billing dispute with a doctor, hospital or insurer, contact your state consumer protection office or insurance regulator for guidance.
- Don’t allow the debt to be turned over to a collection agency, which could damage your credit score. Instead, contact the service provider’s billing department to try to negotiate a reduced bill or a payment plan with monthly payments.
- Ask about assistance from a government program or charitable organization.
- Consider turning to a credit counselor for guidance, but choose one carefully to avoid questionable or expensive services or scams.
A job loss
- Keep spending under control now so you could pay your bills using existing bank and brokerage accounts for the next three months.
- Avoid withdrawing or borrowing money from your retirement savings. If you anticipate problems paying debts, such as your mortgage or the minimum due on your credit card, contact your creditors immediately and attempt to work out a payment plan.
- Carefully review your employer’s severance benefits, including the temporary continuation of your salary and health insurance, and try to negotiate a better deal.
You can’t make your mortgage payment
- Contact your mortgage loan services department and find out if you qualify for modified loan terms or other options to help you keep your home instead of losing it to foreclosure.
- Seek help from a trained homeownership counselor. Find a reputable counselor; contact the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline at the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (888-995-4673 or www.995hope.org) or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a referral to a HUD-approved homeownership counseling agency (800-569-4287 or www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcc_home.cfm).
You’re having problems making credit card or other loan payments
- Be proactive and address the problem as soon as possible by contacting your lender to try to negotiate a long-term, workable solution.
- Consider asking an attorney, accountant or another trusted advisor to refer you to a reliable credit counselor who, at little or no cost, can help you develop a recovery plan.
The above information is an excerpt taken from a new Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) publication titled, “Money Tips for All Ages: Your Finances at Different Stages in Life.” The advice, in a special edition of the agency’s quarterly FDIC Consumer News, can be read or printed online here.