We’ve heard a lot of discussion about the toxic assets held by our financial institutions. Here’s what hasn’t been explicitly stated too often – in order for these financial institutions to have toxic assets, many of us must be carrying toxic debt.
We’ve seen government at all levels, corporations, and yes, individuals borrow more and more money over the past few years. Many people now have this sinking feeling that they will never get out from under it all.
So today we want to talk about what to do if you have that feeling.
The King and Queen of Personal Finance
Cash is king again and credit score is queen. In the coming years, people with cash and a good credit score will have more options, be able to take advantage of more opportunities, and will experience less stress. Isn’t that a nice place to be?
A Timeless Principle Makes a Comeback
It requires discipline. It’s amazing how we can rationalize our purchasing decisions. If I can’t afford to buy it now without credit, why would I think that I can afford to pay for it later along with an exorbitant interest rate?
So we need to pay cash or don’t buy at all. Eliminate purchases on credit, even ones that promise “no interest, no payments” for some period of time. Of course, if you already have the money, and you’re just using their money, and you need the item … really need it … then go ahead and enjoy!
Two Important Financial Moves
Perhaps more so than at any time in our lives, we need to build up our emergency reserves. Financial planners have been saying it all along, for the most part. Many of us weren’t listening. Keep six to twelve months of living expenses in a readily-accessible reserve account just in case you need it.
Pay off almost all of your debt. You may not pay off your mortgage. You may even keep a car loan for a time. Get rid of all other debt; it’s robbing you of your future.
Then you’ll be ready to start looking for the tremendous opportunities that will be available to anyone with cash to invest.
Drastic Steps to Dispose of Toxic Debt
Drastic times call for drastic measures. These steps will not be easy. In fact, they will be uncomfortable at best. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of your debt, they are necessary.
Sit down and logically determine how quickly you could get out of debt, given the two exceptions we noted above. If it’s more than five years, even after considering the steps we’re about to outline, it’s probably best to seek professional help. Here are the steps:
Look around for anything that you don’t need, never needed, don’t use, or never used. Get rid of it and use the money to build up your cash reserves and/or pay off debt.
Get a second income
Get a part-time job or find a way to make some spare money. Even if it’s only $300, $400, or $500 a month, plowing this money into paying off high-interest debt will pay you bigg dividends in the future. This doesn’t have to be something to do forever, just do it until you get your financial situation shored up.
Cut back on contributions to your retirement plan
We always hesitate to suggest this because you’re robbing your future. Talk to your financial planner before you take this drastic step. But even with an employee match, it may be better to pay off high-cost debt. You may earn 30% by paying off a credit card, for example, and give yourself more room to maneuver through tough times and unexpected events.
Reduce housing costs
With the price of houses down in many markets and the continued lack of buyer demand, now probably isn’t the time to consider downsizing. However, analyze your specific situation because you might be surprised.
Another option might be to rent part of your home. Or find other ways to cut costs on your existing house. For example, property tax assessments will be going out in January. Check your assessment and the price of houses that have sold nearby to see if you can protest the value you’re being charged for.
Cut transportation costs
Could you get by with one less car? Could you take advantage of public transportation? Could you car pool? All of these ways put money in your pocket that can be used to build up cash and pay off debt.
Stretch your dollars
We’ve covered the bigg ones, but it’s also important to look at all your other discretionary expenses. Many people have already cut back on dining out. Go even further – buy fewer prepared foods and cook meals yourself. Sure it will take more time, but it will save you money that can be used for stockpiling cash and knocking down debt.
Look for your recurring expenses – cable bills, cell phone bills, and everything else. Is there a way to make cuts?
Strive to stretch every penny you can out of every dollar you bring in so you get back on your feet and on track to being a bigg success!
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Next time, we’ll discuss the “must-haves” for your productivity tool kit. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!
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