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Five tips for financial fitness in 2017


Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

(Family Features) If a commitment to improving finances is among your resolutions for 2017, you’re not alone.

A survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) shows that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults will make a financial resolution this year.

However, one out of three Americans said their financial quality of life is worse than they expect, as saving money and debt concerns top the list of stressors. Additionally, almost two-thirds of respondents experienced a financial setback in 2016, with transportation issues, housing repairs and medical care cited as the leading causes. For the nearly 50 percent of those who admit they’re living paycheck to paycheck, significant unplanned expenses can add up.

“To be successful with your financial resolutions in 2017, set thoughtful, realistic goals,” said Paul Golden, spokesperson for NEFE. “If your goal is to build an emergency savings, start with a small amount like $500 dollars to show yourself you actually can achieve that mark then set the bar higher. It’s not uncommon to be hit with an unexpected expense, so be prepared.”

These five tips can help get you on the path toward tackling your financial goals:

1. Get debt under control. Take a hard look at what you owe. If there are warning signs of too much debt, take action. Set a goal to reduce your debt next year by 5-10 percent. That might mean reducing impulse shopping, which six out of 10 people admit to doing, and 80 percent regret the purchases later. When you face temptation, walk away for at least 30 minutes to make sure you still want the item.

2. Start saving now. Ideally, you should have six to nine months of income set aside, but achieving a small goal can provide a sense of security and reduce stress. The rules of retirement have changed: Review your long-term savings and ensure they are appropriate and on target.

3. Shop for better services. Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value in the services you use. How long has it been since you shopped your insurance policies? Is there any chance you can save money on your cell phone, internet or utilities? Visit current providers and ask, “What’s the best deal?” Be sure to understand your policies and services so that you are comparing fairly and accurately.

4. Understand what’s behind your financial decisions. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel good about spending money on vacations but avoid saving for retirement, the answer may lie in your unique values and how they influence your financial decision-making. Take the LifeValues Quiz at SmartAboutMoney.org.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Recruit a “financial buddy” and share your resolutions with a trusted family member or friend who can provide support in helping you meet your financial goals. Find someone who will hold you accountable and set a good example for you to follow.

For more help getting your finances in order, visit SmartAboutMoney.org.

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New Year new you!


scaleAre you setting some New Year’s resolutions? We want to help you succeed! Whether you are looking to lose weight, get debt-free, get fit, healthy, improve your looks or relationships, we are bound to have some hints that can help. All month long, starting in today’s issue, you’ll find articles in our special sections to help you along the way. We’d like to hear what types of goals you have, and any tips you can give to others! Log on to our website at cedarspringspost.com and click on “comment” to let us know what you are doing. Let’s get a community conversation going and help each other out! In the meantime, click here for this week’s “New Year New You” section.

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Settling your credit card debts


(NAPSA)-Consumers with overwhelming credit card debt may be tempted to seek help from companies that promise to erase their debt for pennies on the dollar, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, urges caution.

Debt settlement companies claim they can negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount you owe. Some say they can arrange for your debt to be paid off for a much lower amount -anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of the balance you owe.

But there is no guarantee that debt settlement companies can persuade a credit card company to accept partial payment of a legitimate debt. Even if they can, you must put aside money for your creditors each month and pay the hefty fees that debt settlement companies charge before they settle any of your debts. On top of that, you may have to pay a final fee to a debt settlement company that’s a percentage of the money you’ve supposedly saved. Meanwhile, it may be months-or even years-before the debt settlement company negotiates with your credit card company to settle your debts. And, if you stop making your payments in the meantime, the credit card company will usually add late fees and interest to the debt each month. That can cause your original debt to double or triple.

When You’re in a Hole…

The FTC suggests that the first thing you should do if you are having trouble managing your credit card debt is contact your credit card company and try to negotiate a settlement, even if you have been turned down before. If at first you don’t succeed, be persistent.

Another option is to contact a credit counselor. A new law requires credit card issuers to include a toll-free number on their statements that directs cardholders to information about finding nonprofit counseling agencies. Reputable credit counseling organizations advise people on managing money, bills and debts, help them develop a budget, and usually offer free information and workshops.

If you decide to pay a company to negotiate your debt, do some research. Consider other people’s experiences. One way to do that is to enter the company name with the word “complaints” into a search engine. Read what others have said.

Red Flags

The FTC suggests it’s best to avoid any company that promises to settle your debt if it:
•    touts a “new government program” to bail out personal credit card debt;
•    guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away;
•    tells you to stop communicating with your creditors;
•    tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits;
•    guarantees that your unsecured debts can be paid off with pennies on the dollar;
•    requires that you pay the full fee within the first few months.

To learn more about getting out of the red without spending a whole lot of green, read “Settling Your Credit Card Debts” at www.ftc.gov/MoneyMatters or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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