Managing Money Problems

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I’ve worked really hard in school to try to make sure that my future is secure, but I worry about money anyway. I come from a family that has a history of money issues–my parents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings seem to have a knack for spending themselves into debt. I’d feel a bit more secure if I knew what to do if and when I run into money trouble. Any advice?


You probably already know the best advice for money troubles: avoid them by cultivating responsible money habits ahead of time. But, assuming you already know that, we can offer some insight into how folks can undo financial damage.


For starters, getting out of a financial dilemma is going to mean a change in lifestyle. Short-sighted spending and the accumulation of short-term debt like credit card debt are often factors in financial problems, so changes need to be made there right way. During a financial crunch, you’ll need to develop a budget–probably a very strict one–and concentrate on paying off debt. Depending on how dire the situation is, you may want to focus on debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. If you eventually declare bankruptcy, you may regret focusing on paying off the wrong debts!


It’s important to know what to do when you’re in dire financial straits, but it’s even more important to know what not to do. Above all, avoid predatory short-term lending like payday loans and too-good-to-be-true get-out-of-debt schemes. You can make up some cash by selling your valuables to reputable buyers–you could sell diamonds and jewelry from Tiffany & Co. for instance, or musical instruments, or any other valuable property that you feel you can get a fair price for.


If necessary, seek legal help. An attorney who specializes in bankruptcy can help you do everything from discharging debt to halting foreclosure. Bankruptcy is rough on your credit, of course, but it’s an important tool for extremely rough situations.


We can’t let this answer stand without reiterating the most important advice for those who are not yet in a rough financial situation: do everything you can to avoid such a situation in the first place! Responsible money management can protect you from all but the most unlikely financial crises. Remember to save regularly for retirement and to put that money–along with other savings beyond your emergency fund–in places where it will earn interest. That means savings accounts or, better yet, a diverse portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Keep short-term debt to a minimum and pay off your credit card in full each month. Make a budget and live within your means. Make sensible decisions like these, and you can feel a whole lot more secure about your finances!


“Never spend your money before you have earned it.” — Thomas Jefferson