WARNING SIGNS OF DEBT
1. Using credit for items that used to be purchased with cash.
2. Getting a loan to pay existing debt.
3. Charging more each month than you make in payments.
4. Making only the minimum required payment.
5. Juggling rent or mortgage and other large bills to pay debts.
6. Rotating bills: paying half one month and half the next.
7. Using a checking account overdraft feature to pay bills.
8. Using credit card advances to pay living expenses.
9. Writing post-dated checks.
10. Taking out a new loan before an old one is repaid.
11. Being chronically overdrawn at the bank.
12. Borrowing frequently from friends and relatives to make ends
13. Using savings to pay bills that used to be paid by cash or check.
14. Depending on overtime or moonlighting to make ends meet.
15. Borrowing against life insurance with little chance of repayment.
16. Being at or near maximum credit limits.
17. Being chronically late paying bills.
18. Increasing the percentage of take-home pay spent on consumer
19. Having late penalties assessed on outstanding obligations.
20. Receiving calls or overdue notices from creditors.
21. Receiving threats of repossession or legal action.
22. Accumulating negative information on a credit report.
23. Being denied credit due to negative remarks in a credit report.
24. Hiding credit-card statements and bills from others.
25. Worrying about money and financial distress.
Experiencing any of the above signs? Having trouble paying your bills? Getting past due notices from creditors? Are your accounts being turned over to debt collectors? Are you worried about losing your home or your car?
You’re not alone. Many people face financial crises at some time in their lives. Whether the crisis is caused by personal or family illness, the loss of a job, or simple overspending, it can seem overwhelming, but often can be overcome. The fact of the matter is that your financial situation doesn’t have to go from bad to worse.
If you or someone you know is in financial hot water, consider these options: realistic budgeting, credit counseling from a reputable organization, debt consolidation, or bankruptcy. How do you know which will work best for you? It depends on your level of debt, your level of discipline, and your prospects for the future.
Developing a Budget: The first step toward taking control of your financial situation is to do a realistic assessment of how much money comes in and how much money you spend. Start by listing your income from all sources. Then, list your “fixed” expenses — those that are the same each month — such as your mortgage payments or your rent, car payments, or insurance premiums. Next, list the expenses that vary, such as entertainment, recreation, or clothing. Writing down all your expenses — even those that seem insignificant — is a helpful way to track your spending patterns, identify the expenses that are necessary, and prioritize the rest. The goal is to make sure you can make ends meet on the basics: housing, food, health care, insurance, and education. See our Brochure on What is a Budget?
Your public library has information about budgeting and money management techniques. In addition, many universities, military bases, credit unions, and housing authorities operate nonprofit counseling programs.
Contacting Your Creditors… Contact your creditors immediately if you are having trouble making ends meet. Tell them why it’s difficult for you, and try to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a more manageable level. Don’t wait until your accounts have been turned over to a debt collector. At that point, the creditors have given up on you.
Dealing with Debt Collectors… The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal law that dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you. A debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or at work if the collector knows that your employer doesn’t approve of the calls. Collectors may not harass you, make false statements, or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. Debt collectors must honor a written request from you to cease further contact. See our Brochure on Fair Debt Collection