National non-profit gives consumers tips on how to organize their financial lives, create budgets, and how to look for savings/retirement increase opportunities as 2015 nears
Boston, MA – December 17, 2014
As the end of 2014 quickly approaches many consumers will begin to think about the year ahead and what goals they have for their financial future. According to a recent survey by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, 40 percent of Americans have identified managing money as their top goal for the coming year. But before those consumers start looking to 2015, there is still time this year to tackle that end of the year financial tasks and help to ensure a New Year’s resolution success. To help with the process, leading financial education nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling has revealed the top 5 money must-do’s that every consumer should consider before closing the books on 2015.
“The start of a new year provides consumers with the unique opportunity to set new goals or recommit to old ones, and this is especially true when it comes to finances,” said Steve Trumble, President and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “Unfortunately, many consumers wait until the last minute, which may result in poor planning and missed opportunities to kick off the New Year right.”
ACCC offers these smart and easy tips on five things to do with your money before 2015:
The start of a new year is often accompanied by a renewal or new enrollment into employer benefits, including retirement savings accounts, healthcare reimbursement, and wellness savings.Be sure to enroll in an employer sponsored 401k if available and, if you are already enrolled, look for ways to increase your weekly contributions, especially if your employer matches your contributions. Does your company provide a health or transportation reimbursement program? What about a flex-spending account to cover co-pays and other medical expenses? Dedicating money to these can save you hundreds over the course of the year, and the best part is that they are pre-taxed dollars. Meet with your HR department to walk through any company benefits that you may not be taking advantage of.
Think now about your budget for the coming year so that on day one, you can start an emergency fund for ‘just in case’; you never know when you are going to be impacted by an unexpected event like a job loss or medical expense. The best way to plan for this is to review your monthly expenses and develop a plan to save for at least 6-9 months of expenses. This can be one of the most challenging goals to obtain, but it is also one that you will not regret if a financial disaster strikes.
Check Your Credit:
Given that, according to a FTC study, one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports, and five percent of those with errors endured less favorable terms for loans, this is a must-do for all consumers. Remember that every consumer is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit reporting agencies. We recommend www.AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free copy of your credit report. Once received, review to ensure the accuracy and if there is any erroneous information work with the credit reporting agencies to get this corrected.
Pay off What You Can in 2014:
Reviewing your credit report also provides the opportunity to review your outstanding debts and develop a plan to get any of your credit cards paid off. There are different methods of paying down/off your debt and it’s a personal choice; the Debt Avalanche or the Debt Snowball methods, for example. The avalanche method suggests you put more money towards the account with the highest interest rate, and then make minimum payments on any other accounts. Once paid in full, apply more funds to the next highest interest rate, and so on. The snowball method approach is when you disregard interest rates and pay off the debt with the smallest balance first and so on.
The best way to organize your finances and paint a clear picture of your financial situation is to get it all down on paper or a spreadsheet. Identify your total monthly income and expenses. Break it down into categories so you know how much you are spending in each area (rent, utilities, car payment, groceries, dining out, cell phone bill, clothes shopping, etc.). If you don’t know how much you’re spending, then track yourself for a month or two. Once you can identify how much you spend on everything, you can identify areas to cut back. This will also help you find more money to apply towards your debts, or add to your savings.
American Consumer Credit Counseling’s certified and experienced counselors offer various financial education, counseling and debt management services to help consumers achieve long-term financial health and stability.
ACCC’s certified and experienced counselors offer a variety of financial education, counseling and debt management services to help consumers achieve long-term financial health and stability. These financial education programs help consumers to better understand and manage their finances. ACCC’s holiday spending poll is the first in a series of planned monthly polls related to budgeting and spending habits, intended to help consumers recognize their budgeting needs. ACCC plans to post these polls and the results on their website and Facebook page.
ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization, that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:
- For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
- For bankruptcy counseling. call 866-826-6924
- For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
- For more information on financial education workshops in New England, call 800-769-3571 x1980
- Or visit us online at ConsumerCredit.com
About American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial health through education, counseling, and debt management. ACCC provides individuals with practical solutions for solving financial problems and recognizes that consumers’ financial difficulties are often not the result of poor spending habits, but more frequently from extenuating circumstances beyond their control. As one of the nation’s leading providers of financial education and credit counseling services, ACCC works with consumers to help them with the best plan of action to reduce their debt and regain financial stability. ACCC is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and holds an A+ rating. It is also a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. For more information or to access free financial education resources log on to ConsumerCredit.com or visit TalkingCentsBlog.com.