The Millionaire Next Door Book Review [6 Important Lessons]

You know that plumber who lives on your street and drives the beat up pickup truck? He’s much more likely to be a millionaire than the executive next door driving the BMW.

Don’t believe me? Well that was a common theme found in The Millionaire Next Door:The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by William Danko and Thomas Stanley.

The Millionaire Next DoorThe Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy

The authors surveyed thousands of real millionaires and their answers revealed many surprising lessons, such as:

1. The wealthy don’t always look wealthy and vice-versa.

People who look rich may not actually be rich.

They spend more than they can afford on symbols of wealth but have modest portfolios. Some are living paycheck to paycheck, heavily in debt with little or no savings.

Conversely, real millionaires usually live in middle class neighborhoods, drive cars they own outright, and don’t spend extravagantly on material things.

2. They don’t spend a lot of money on cars.

The authors point out that cars are the second biggest material expense in our lifetime.

If you add up all the money you’ve spent on cars over the years it can be really eye-opening.

Even if you’re young, the amount you’ve spent on cars compared to how much money you’ve earned is usually pretty high.

According to their survey results, most real millionaires buy a nice car, like an Acura or Lexus. They buy it with cash, or make payments until they own it, and ultimately hold on to the car for at least a decade.

Forbes backs this up, stating 61% of those earning at least $250,000 a year are driving Honda, Toyota, Acura and Volkswagens.

3. They save and consistently invest.

In America, our average household savings rate dipped into the negative in 2005, for the first time since the Great Depression. The savings rate has improved but is still only 5% currently.

Which brings us back to your original question; What are the secrets only the wealthy now and the middle class is unaware of?

Now, we all know saving money to acquire wealth is not a secret. But clearly this is an area the middle class can improve in

Compare that negative savings rate to that of the average millionaire, who invests nearly 20% of their income.

In its simplest form, that’s really all wealth is; earning more than you spend and investing the difference — consistently.

Consistently investing means you are fully capitalizing on compounding interest.

It means you are turning small contributions into large sums over time.

4. They adhere to a budget.

The majority of millionaires stick to a budget.

Even among those who don’t budget, they pay themselves first with money directly to their savings and investment accounts. They then work from the remaining funds.

But the majority do take the time to budget, even if they don’t want to, because the know the long-term benefits first-hand.

5. They spend a lot of time managing their money.

managing money

managing money

The wealthy spend a lot of time budgeting, goal setting and managing their portfolios.

According to Danko and Stanley, the wealthy spend nearly twice as many hours per month managing their finances as those without wealth.

The good news?

You don’t have to earn a big six-figure salary to accumulate wealth, as long as you plan for it.

In their survey of 854 middle-income workers, the authors found a strong correlation between investment planning and wealth accumulation citing; “Most prodigious accumulators of wealth have a regimented planning schedule. Each week, each month, each year, they plan their investments.”

6. They own their own business or work for themselves.

Not everyone that gets rich owns their own businesses.

But in The Millionaire Next Door, they discovered a lot of folks who ran their own service businesses such as landscapers, plumbers, electricians, commercial cleaners and so on.

One of the key takeaways of this book for me is many millionaires attributed their dedication to financial planning as a requirement of doing business.

Because their business finances and personal finances are so closely intertwined, they really have no choice but to consistently examine their finances in order to survive — and thrive.

There’s many more lessons in the book but I wanted to mention some of the biggest takeaways for me.

Thumbs Up

I initially read The Millionaire Next Door around the year 2000.  I don’t remember the exact year.  But it was very impactful in my life, so much so that I’ve read it several times since then.

It’s a mindset book as much as it’s a nuts-and-bolts how-to book.  Much of the advice is tried and true stuff your parents or grandparents would tell you.   You’d be wise to listen to it, as tried-and-true tactics provide the best template to follow for proven success.

At the same time, the data from their surveys also uncovers many surprising similarities among millionaires.   Tendencies and habits that challenge conventional wisdom and make you rethink your employment, lifestyle and personal finance decisions.

It’s definitely one of my favorite personal finance books, which is why I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned from it here.

The Millionaire Next Door is a must-read, no matter where you are in your personal finance journey.  It really provides the proper mindset needed to successfully manage your money.

It sets the right foundation for your money goals.  When you see the common habits of hundreds of millionaires, along with the logic behind those habits, it’s becomes painfully obvious the personal choices you need to make to become a millionaire yourself, or at least improve your personal finances significantly.

Have you read The Millionaire Next Door?  What is the biggest lesson you learned from reading it?

<!– –>

Source: incomist.com

What Is Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)?

What Is Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)?

Tap on the profile icon to edit
your financial details.

Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) is the process businesses use to prepare budgets, generate forecasts, analyze profitability and otherwise inform senior management decisions of how to implement the company’s strategy most effectively and efficiently. The FP&A functions can be accomplished by an individual or a team working alongside other finance professionals such as the controller and treasurer and reporting to the chief financial officer (CFO). While FP&A is often performed by people with an accounting background, it differs from accounting by focusing primarily on forward-looking information as opposed to historical data.

Typical members of an FP&A team include financial analysts and one or more FP&A managers charged with coordinating the work of the analysts. In larger organizations, a director or vice president of FP&A oversees the overall process and strategic direction and communicates with the CFO, CEO and members of the board of directors.

FP&A Functions

To fulfill its function of providing information and insight connecting corporate strategy and execution, FP&A performs a wide range of activities. These can be divided into a few broad categories including planning and budgeting, forecasting and management reporting.

The central output of the FP&A process consists of long- and short-term plans. The job requires using financial and operational data gathered from throughout the company. A key part of the FP&A process is collecting and combining a wide variety of figures from operations, sales, marketing and accounting departments to produce a unified view of the entire business that can guide strategy decisions by senior executives and board members.

Producing budgets is a big part of the FP&A planning function. Budgets describe expectations for the timing and amounts of arriving income, cash generation, disbursements to pay bills and debt reductions. Budgets may be monthly, quarterly and annually. Often FP&A creates a rolling budget for the following 12-month period that will be reviewed, adjusted and extended at the end of each quarter. FP&A also creates income statements and cash flow statements.

One of the performance reporting functions of FP&A is identifying variances when actual numbers reported by business units don’t match up to the budgeted amounts. In addition to identifying and quantifying variances, FP&A can offer recommendations for strategies that could be used to bring actual results in line with expectations.

Reports and forecasts from FP&A may be presented to the board of directors, to the CEO or other senior executives or to outside stakeholders such as lenders and investors. At a strategic level, decision makers use these analyses to choose how best to allocate the company’s resources.

Public companies reply on FP&A to provide shareholders and analysts with guidance on revenue and profits for upcoming quarters and fiscal years. The accuracy of the guidance supplied to the markets can have a sizable effect on stock prices.

Decision Support

Along with the ongoing responsibility to produce budgets, plans and forecasts, FP&A may also be called upon to support specific management decisions. For instance, it might analyze a merger or acquisition proposal to enable management to decide whether to pursue it or not. Other special projects delegated to FP&A could include analyzing internal incompatibilities and bottlenecks and making recommendations about how to improve the company’s processes.

Initiatives to find ways to trim costs and make a business more efficient are also likely to involve input from FP&A specialists. Because it is in constant communication with all areas of the company in order to gather data for its budgets and plans, FP&A is well suited to optimization efforts.

FP&A’s responsibilities could extend to nearly any department in the company, from operations to marketing to finance. For instance, FP&A may conduct internal audits, research markets or evaluate individual customer profitability. FP&A could also be called upon to provide risk management insights or assess the financial impact of tax policy decisions.

Bottom Line

Financial planning and analysis involves gathering financial and other data from throughout a business’s various departments and using that to generate projections, forecasts and reports to help executives make optimum business decisions. Annual and quarterly budgets and forecasts, profit-and-loss statements, cash flow projections and similar decision-making tools are all produced by FP&A.

Tips for Small Business Owners

  • Financial planning and analysis is a job best handled by an experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • The 80/20 Rule can help businesses gain insight into issues and opportunities so they can respond more effectively and efficiently. By identifying elements contributing most to a given outcome, businesses can better target resources to remove obstacles and exploit openings.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/kali9, ©iStock.com/Maica, ©iStock.com/Korrawin

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
Read next article

Categories

Source: smartasset.com

What to Know Before Taking Out a Subsidized Loan

div#contentdisclaimer {background: #fff;padding: 1.5em;line-height: 1.25em;max-width: 500px;}
Advertiser Disclosure

Disclaimer

Attending college or university is a dream for a ton of people. Yet higher education can be expensive, seemingly putting that dream out of reach for many students and families.

Tuition at American schools has steadily increased for decades, so it can be hard for your average student to afford it. But it’s not only tuition costs that you need to consider: fees, room and board, off-campus living, meal plans, textbooks, living essentials and other supplies all cost money.

Fortunately, there are many different types of financial aid available to help you meet the total costs of attending school.

Grants, scholarships and government programs can all be used to aid your pursuit of higher education. Student loans, including private and federal loans, are also commonly used to fund college. But taking on debt requires more financial planning than other types of aid.

If you’re ready to find the right loan for you and your unique financial situation, we’ve got you covered. We’ll go over everything and anything we think you need to know about subsidized student loans—the basics, how they’re different from unsubsidized loans and much more. 

Student Loans and Rising Education Costs

Having a plan for how you’ll pay for college is pretty important. That’s mostly because the tuition continues rise: 

  • According to The College Board, tuition and fees for a public four-year institution in the academic year of 1989–90 were $3,510, in 2019 dollars. 
  • For the academic year 2019–2020, those costs exceeded $10,000. In the same time span, tuition and fees for a private four-year institution rose from $17,860 to nearly $37,000. 
  • In the last 10 years alone, tuition and fees for four-year public schools have increased $2,020, while costs for four-year private schools have grown $6,210. 

But as we mentioned, total costs include a lot more than tuition, and these other cost items have shown the same upward trend:

  • Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows college textbooks costs increased 88% from 2006 to 2016.
  • Average dorm costs at all postsecondary institutions were $6,106 in 2017, per data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Boarding costs, including meal plans, were $4,765. A decade earlier those costs, respectively, were $4,777 and $4,009.
  • Costs rose 24% for students living off-campus at public four-year universities between 2000 and 2017, according to The Hechinger Report.

The growth in college costs has occurred rapidly, outpacing wagegrowth. This has made a degree unaffordable for many. That’s where student loans come in.

The biggest source of these loans is the federal government. According to Sallie Mae, more than 90% of student loan debt today is tied to federal student loans. While the government offers several loan types, often based on financial need, private lenders such as banks and credit unions also make student loans available.

What is a Subsidized Loan?

To better understand your loan options, let’s explore the specifics of one of the government’s most popular offers: the subsidized student loan.

Officially, a subsidized loan is a type of federal loan offered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program and referred to as a Direct Subsidized Loan. They are made exclusively to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and can be used to pay for college, university or a career school.

Subsidized loans work like most other student loans. They allow college goers to borrow money as they learn, paying the principal and interest back later. Most loans don’t require repayment while you attend school, and provide a grace period of six months after graduation for you to find a job. 

The most notable feature of subsidized loans is that the government pays the interest while you attend school at least part time. This is a quality that’s pretty much unique to federal subsidized loans. 

The government will also pay the interest during the grace period and during periods of loan deferment. You eventually assume responsibility for paying the interest, and principal, once you enter the repayment plan. 

The bottom line for subsidized loans is they carry a lower lifetime cost, because the government pays interest while you’re at school.

Who’s Eligible to Take Out a Subsidized Loan?

Subsidized loans aren’t available to everyone, however. In addition to meeting basic requirements for getting a loan from the federal Direct Loan Program, applicants for subsidized loans must:

  • Demonstrate financial need.
  • Be an undergraduate student.
  • Be enrolled at least half time.

Anyone considering a subsidized loan must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is how the government will establish whether you demonstrate financial need that is sufficient for taking out a subsidized loan.

What Else Should You Know?

There are two other main points to discuss about subsidized loans—loan limits and time limits. Ultimately, your school will decide how much you can borrow. But there are annual limits to what you can borrow through subsidized loans, as well as a maximum for the entirety of your college career.

  • In your first undergrad year you can borrow up to $5,500 through federal loan, no more than $3,500 of that amount can be through subsidized loans.
  • In your second year you can borrow up to $6,500, no more than $4,500 through subsidized loans.
  • In your third year you can borrow up to $7,500, no more than $5,500 through subsidized loans.
  • The limits for your third year apply to your fourth year, and any year after that for which you are eligible to borrow through federal subsidized loans.

Factors influencing what you can borrow include what year you are in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student. 

Importantly, you can only receive subsidized loans for 150% of the published time of your degree program. That means if you attend a four-year bachelor’s program, you can only receive a subsidized loan for six years.

What’s the Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans?

Unsubsidized loans are the other type of loan the government offers. While unsubsidized loans and subsidized have some similarities, unsubsidized loans have some major differences.  

Interest rates for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans are controlled and set by Congress. This makes the interest rates for government student loans among the lowest you will be able to find.

While the federal government pays interest on subsidized loans, you’ll be solely responsible for paying interest on unsubsidized loans. You’ll have to pay interest while you’re in school and during the grace/deferment period.  Here are some other key differences:

  • Unsubsidized loans are available to undergraduate students, as well as graduate and professional students.
  • Students don’t need to demonstrate financial need to apply for an unsubsidized loan.
  • There is no maximum time limit for how long you can receive unsubsidized loans (compared to the 150% rule for subsidized loans).
  • Annual and aggregate loan limits are generally higher for unsubsidized loans.

Private Loans vs. Federal Student Loans

Interested in how private loans stack up to government loans? In a nutshell:

  • Private loans can have variable interest rates, which may make them lower in some cases than even fixed interest rates on government loans.
  • Annual loan limits don’t apply to private loans, as you and your lender will work out a package that is best for you.
  • Being approved for a private loan means submitting to a credit check, or having a parent as a consigner.
  • Often, private loans require payment while you attend school, and may not have the allowance for forbearance and forgiveness as government loans do.

Taking the Next Steps Toward Taking Out a Student Loan

If you or your child is nearing college age, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll pay for higher education. It’s a good idea to look into a few options, including student loans, scholarships, grants and other sources. 

If you want to get started on applying for a subsidized loan, get started on your FAFSA form. And if you’re taking a closer look at private student loans, you can find help here.

Infographic outlining what to know about subsidized loans, including their structure, requirements, and qualifications.


Sign up now.

Source: credit.com

The 8 Best Vanguard Funds for Long-Term Investments

If you’re busy and want to invest your money in the long term, you will love the best vanguard funds. They are cheaper.

They are high quality funds, well diversified, and professionally managed.

Thus, vanguard funds are a favorite for long-term investments and for retirement.

Vanguard mutual funds, like any mutual funds, are money invested by investors. They are pooled together in a single investment portfolio. The mutual fund is then managed by a professional manager who then use the money to buy a bunch of stocks, bonds or other assets.

With Vanguard index funds, they are passively managed. That is, they are managed by a computer with its only job is to track an index, such as the S&P 500.

Nonetheless, both mutual funds and index funds are cost-efficient and a huge time saver for a busy investor. And because of that, the best vanguard funds are superior investment vehicles for long term-investment. 

In this article,  we will discuss the 8 best vanguard funds that offer a high-quality, cost and time-efficient way to invest in the stock market.

Understanding the Advantages of the Best Vanguard Funds

Before jumping into the best vanguard funds, it’s important to go over the main reasons for investing in mutual or index funds rather than individual stocks, bonds, or other securities.

Diversification. You have probably heard of the popular saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Well, if so, it applies well to mutual and index funds. Diversification is when you have a mix of investment to help control the total risk of your investment portfolio.

Unless you have a lot of money, buying individual stocks yourself can be costly. But with a mutual or index fund, you’re able to buy dozens of stocks and invest in different types of stocks in a variety of industries, thus diversifying your portfolio.

Because you invest in multiple stocks across various industries, you are spreading your risk. If one stock plummets, the others can balance it out. Most Vanguard funds, if not all, are diversified.

Low minimum investment. Another benefit of Vanguard funds is that they require a reasonable investment minimum. Some Vanguard mutual funds require a minimum of $3000 to invest. They also offer a monthly investment plan, so you can start with as little as $20 per month.

Cost efficiency. The charges that you pay to buy or sell a fund can be significant. However Vanguard funds are known to cost way less than the average mutual fund.

Professional management. Even if you have a lot and you are an expert in investing, investing your money in a Vanguard mutual fund is a huge time saver. That means once you buy your fund and contribute to it monthly (however you chose), you can just forget about it.

A Vanguard professional manager takes care of it for you. Plus, vanguard fund managers are experienced, well educated. So you don’t have to worry about an inexperienced manager running your money.

These are the reasons why investing in the best vanguard funds is better than investing in individual stocks and/or bonds.

However, one of the drawbacks with vanguard funds, as with all mutual or index funds, is that you don’t have control over your investment portfolio. Leaving your money to someone who decides when and what to invest in can be difficult for you if you’re someone who likes to be in control.

So, if you like to be in control and things yourself, you may want to develop your own investment portfolio and not relying on these Vanguard funds.

Are you a long-term investor?

Think about yourself and your goals before choosing these best Vanguard funds.

What are your investment goals? Do you plan on holding these funds in the long term?

A long term investor is someone who puts money into an investment product for a long period of time.

If you plan on investing money to achieve some goals in 2 years, such as buying a car or going on a vacation, you should not use these Vanguard Funds.

That is because stocks and bonds can rise and fall significantly over a short period of time. That makes it possible to lose some or all of your money. Moreover, if you need cash in a hurry, a Vanguard fund is definitely not the right investment for you.

So you’re better off using short-term investments for these kind of goals.

But if you want to build wealth for the long term or your goal is to retire in 20 or 40 years, these Vanguard funds are for you.

Likewise, what is your appetite for risk?

A long-term investor should be aware of the risks involved in investing in the stock market. They should know their own risk tolerance. Some investors are more cautious than others. Some can take risks and are able to sleep well at night.

These vanguard funds carry different level of risks. Some are more conservative than the others. 

Therefore, before you start buying Vanguard funds, figure out whether you are a long term investor. In other words, don’t keep money in funds unless you plan on holding them for at least 5 years.

The 8 Best Vanguard Funds to Buy Now for Long-Term Investments

Now that you have a pretty good idea of why a Vanguard fund is a good long-term investment, and you are aware of your risk tolerance, below is 8 of the top and best Vanguard funds to buy now for the long term. If you have questions beyond Vanguard funds, it may make sense to work with a financial planner or financial advisor near you.

Vanguard Total Stock Market Admiral (VTSAX)

  • Minimum initial investment:$3000
  • Expenses:0.04%

The biggest and perhaps one of the best Vanguard funds is the Vanguard Total Stock Market. The fund was created in 1992. It gives long term investors a broad exposure to the entire US equity market, including large, mid, and small cap growth stocks. Some of the largest stocks include Apple, Facebook, Johnson And Johnson, Alphabet, Berkshire Hathaway, etc…

This Vanguard fund has all of the attributes mentioned above, i.e., diversification and low costs. Note this fund invests exclusively in stock. So it’s the most aggressive Vanguard fund around.You need a minimum of $3000 to invest in this fund. The expenses are 0.04%, which is extremely low. Note this is also available as an ETF, with an expense ratio of 0.03%.

Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)

  • Minimum initial investment:$3,000
  • Expenses: 0.04%

If you want to have your money invested only in American assets, this Vanguard fund is the right one for you. The Vanguard 500 Index, as the name suggests tracks the S&P 500 index.

This index funds gives you exposure to 500 of the largest U.S. companies, spreading across different industries, making it one of the best Vanguard funds to have. Some of the largest companies you might already know include Microsoft, Apple, Visa, JP Morgan Chase, Facebook, etc. It has a minimum investment of $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.04&, making it one of the best Vanguard funds to have. 

Vanguard Wellington Income Investor Share (VWINX)

  • Minimum initial investment:
  • Expenses:

If you’re aware of risks involved in investing in stocks and you have a low tolerance for risk, the Vanguard wellington Income is for you. This fund allocates about one third to stocks and two thirds to bonds, making it very conservative.

Another good thing about this Vanguard fund is that it invests in stocks that have a strong track record of providing dividend income to its investors. So, if you are one of those long term investors who has a low appetite for risks and who likes to receive a steady dividend payment without a lot of volatility in the share price, you should consider this fund.

Vanguard Star (VGSTX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $1,000
  • Expenses: 0.31%

The great thing about this Vanguard fund is that the minimum investment is relatively low ($1000), making it a good choice among new investors. Plus, it’s well balanced.

It is invested 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. For those investors looking for a broad diversification in both domestic and international stocks and bonds, this fund should not be overlooked.

Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX)

  • Minimum initial investment:$3000
  • Expenses:0.22%

Vanguard Dividend Growth, as the name suggests, focuses on companies that pay dividends and have the ability to grow their dividends over time.

If you’re an investor with a long term focus and likes to receive a steady dividend income, you may want to consider this fund. The minimum investment is $3000 with an expense ratio of 0.22%.

Vanguard Health Care (VGHCX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $3,000
  • Expenses: 0.34%

As the name suggests, Vanguard Health Care only invests in the Health Care Section. That’s the only downside. Apart from that, it gives investors a great exposure to various domestic and international companies within the health care sector, such as pharmaceutical firms, research firms, and medical supply and equipment companies.

If you’re considering this Vanguard fund, you should also have another and more diversified fund to reduce your risk.

Vanguard International Growth (VWIGX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $3000
  • Expenses: 0.43%

If you’re looking to build a complete investment portfolio and want to have more exposure to foreign stocks, the Vanguard International Growth is the one of the best Vanguard Funds to accomplish that goal. The fund focuses on non-U.S. stocks in developed and emerging markets with a high growth potential.

However, one thing to consider is the high volatility of this fund. Because it also invests in developed countries, the share price can rise and fall significantly. So you should consider this fund if you want more exposure to foreign stocks. But you also want to have another fund as well to balance it out. The minimum initial investment is $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.43%.

Vanguard Total Bond Market Index (VTBLX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $3000
  • Expenses: 0.05%

Bond funds may be appropriate and advantageous for long term investors who want a bond fund that invests US and Corporate bonds. If that’s your goal then the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index is the right one for you.

Just as any Vanguard funds, it’s cost efficient, safe and high quality. It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000 and an expense ration of 0.05%. Also note that this fund is also available as an ETF.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to invest in mutual or index funds, those are the best Vanguard funds to buy now and hold for the long term. They are high quality, low-cost, and are safe. 

Related:

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).

Source: growthrapidly.com

8 Essential Rules for Surviving Financial Hardship

If you’re struggling with a financial crisis, follow these eight rules to manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back. Acting quickly will help you understand solutions, limit the damage, and have more hope for the future.

By

Laura Adams, MBA
August 19, 2020

financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.

The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:

Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances

To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.

First, list your assets: 

  • Cash
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles 

Then list your liabilities:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt

Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.

When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.

RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief  

Rule #3: Understand your cash flow

An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.

Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses

As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.

For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors

If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.

You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.

Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.

Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully

Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.

Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized

Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.

Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.

Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions

Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.

Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.

If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.

Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits

If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.

  • FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
  • Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
  • Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid

Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.

Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.