Showing posts with label financial health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label financial health. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Financial Health

In the face of all our concerns over physical and mental health, finances as a contributor to overall health are easy to overlook. However, with the significant changes in our economy over the last decade, many of us have taken a financial hit from which we’ve not completely recovered. Whether it’s been a toll on your retirement, your savings, or for some of us, our ability to earn a living, it affects your entire life, not just your bank account.

Debt is one of the contributors to mental illness. A study by Northwestern University found that it could also affect your physical health, from increased stress levels to higher blood pressure. And it can be brutal on our relationships, often leading to breakups and divorces. Debt can include a house loan, auto loan, personal loans, or credit card debt, to name a few.

So how do you combat this intense stressor and protect your overall well-being?

Calculating budget and expenses

  1. Get real about your finances. Many of us hide from the reality of our debt, rather than face it head on, and it can be scary. But you can’t tackle an unknown enemy effectively. The truth of what you owe and how you can start to pay it off is often less intimidating than you think. Create a spreadsheet in Google docs and list all of your creditors. Not sure if you even remember them all? No problem! Grab a free copy of your consumer credit report here. Next, contact all your creditors to get the total amount due or payoff amount. Now you will need to create a budget and a plan to funnel all extra funds to pay off each creditor, while still making all your monthly minimums to keep your credit in good standing. If you don’t think you can tackle it alone, contact a credit counseling agency for help. Be cautious, however, as you want to work with a credit counselor who has a good reputation, so do your research before agreeing to work with one.
  2. Know that you aren’t alone. Many people have been in your shoes before, and they’ve gotten out of debt and are living their lives with financial stability. So join a forum where you can talk to others who can share their stories, advice, and suggest reputable resources as you get your financial portfolio back into shape. It also doesn’t hurt to read up on others’ journeys out of the quagmire of debt. There are support groups for those focused on getting out of debt, such as this one. See if you can find one in your area, or start one yourself (talk about keeping you committed to getting out of debt!)
  3. Involve your loved ones cautiously. If you are married or in a relationship, you both need to be working on getting out of debt together in order for any plan to be successful. But not everyone in your family, friends, and extended network needs to know about your money issues. At times, loved ones can mean well, but can get a bit too involved in your personal business, which will make it difficult for you to feel comfortable around them. So share your trials – at least while you are working with them – with only those you trust to support and encourage you.  While your children can join you in finding creative ways to save money and live frugally, you may want to share only what they need to know, lest they become caught up in the intense stress that they may not completely understand, depending on their age and maturity level.
  4. Forgive yourself and move on. We all make mistakes and poor choices. But we can also move past them and come to a place of wisdom and knowledge. Just because you got into debt once (or even twice) doesn’t mean you are destined to make the same mistake again and again. Acknowledge the lessons you’ve learned, put them to work consistently in your financial life, and give yourself credit for making the change. And then lend a helping hand – and a listening ear – to others on the same journey.

Are you ready to get out of debt? In the next installment, we’ll discuss tips and tricks others have used to put their financial woes behind them.

If you’ve struggled with financial stress, share your story below – how did you get out of it? What have you learned?

Contributing Writer

Monday, October 7, 2013

Getting Financially App-y

In a recent post, we talked about how financial health can affect your over health. (If you’re not sure where you stand financially, here’s a quick quiz to help you figure it out.) While facing the reality of your financial health can be a little overwhelming, there are effective tools courtesy of the worldwide web and smart phone apps to make it a bit less daunting. Between helpful financial budget calculators and consumer credit report tracking, there are plenty of options to help you get on the right track and get financially happy.

Saving money in a piggybank

If you are just starting out with creating a budget, check out Mvelopes. It’s an in-depth budget creator that works on the basis of envelopes. You fill each virtual envelope after your payday with what you can/need to spend. As you buy your groceries and pay your bills, the money is automatically subtracted from your envelopes, regardless of whether you use your credit cards or bank accounts. They also offer a free version if you don’t have many financial obligations, or if you do, they have a reasonably priced paid version as well. They offer online access and smartphone apps.

Smartypig is a fun way to save for an upcoming vacation or purchase. Set up an account, select your goal, and Smartypig will automatically transfer funds from your bank account into an FDIC-insured, interest-bearing account. You can receive gift deposits from friends and family via Facebook, earn rewards via “cash boosts” and cash rewards, and when you’ve reached your goal, you can withdraw your funds plus interest. You can also withdraw your funds at any time without penalty. Smartypig offers both online and smartphone app access.

For an all-in-one money tracker, check out Mint. They offer a free money and spending tracking service that can show you your trends over time. Color-coded spreadsheets, easy to understand charts, and simple language allow you to grasp where you can allocate more funds, and where you can tighten up a bit more. Not sure where to go to save more money? Mint offers suggestions from their affiliates to help you save money, but never in an intrusive, obnoxious way. Mint offers a robust smartphone app and website for your financial needs.

Saving money

Credit Karma houses all your consumer credit report information in an easy-to-understand format. Not sure about your credit score? Credit Karma tracks that as well, for free, via soft pulls on your credit report (the kind that won’t drag your score down). They also offer credit report tracking. While they have monthly monitoring for a price, you can utilize their free services to find any flags on your credit report and find better choices for your credit and financial services, from credit cards to utility companies. They have apps for both smartphone platforms (Android and iPhone) and a website.

Becoming a financially-savvy spender doesn’t happen overnight, but using tools that help organize your money and debt help. Studies show that while financial stress has intense negative effects on our health, lessening the guilt and improving your financial health (even if it’s only opening a savings account) can turn that around. So why not give it a try? Let us know how you make out, and what tools work best for you!

Contributing Writer