April is Financial Literacy Month, learn how to be financially healthy
CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – How well do you handle your money? Do you live paycheck after paycheck, have savings, bad or good credit, unpaid debts, pay your bills on time?
First, start with a budget. In one column, list your monthly expenses such as rent/mortgage, utilities (electric, gas, cable, oil), loans, auto and student loans, insurance, phone, gas/maintenance your car and any other bills you pay, as well as what you put aside for savings. In a second column, indicate your monthly income. If expenses exceed income, you are in trouble and need to find ways to reduce your expenses or increase your income.
It’s important to update your budget as expenses go up or down. Repay a loan? Maybe use that money to save or pay another bill. Got a new medical bill? Look for a way to reduce another expense, such as not eating out, going to the movies, or taking a vacation instead of going out of town.
When developing your budget, you should consider several factors, including: your family’s needs, your long and short-term financial goals, ways to lower your monthly bills, and creating a feasible expenses that you can stick to.
Most financial advisors agree that a credit card should not be used for day-to-day expenses, but reserved for occasional large payments for products or services and then immediately reimbursed. Accumulated interest on credit cards can have people stuck in a revolving door making payments for years and ending up paying far more than they originally paid for an item. If you’re young and building credit, start with a credit card with a balance limit. This will boost your credit rating and help you develop responsible spending and payment habits. Look for cards that offer rewards, low interest, and no annual fees.
Because many people live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes the savings just don’t seem feasible. But having savings for emergencies is necessary to avoid going into debt by borrowing through a loan or using a credit card. Start small if you must. Consider opening a savings account and withdrawing the money from your salary. If your employer offers a pension plan, claim a small amount. It’s never too early to start saving.
Your credit score plays an important role in your ability to get a loan or mortgage. Credit history can be a factor when looking for an apartment, even when applying for a job. Each year, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Carefully review the reports and check for errors or any changes and make corrections.
Credit reports also show whether credit cards, loans, or other financial accounts have been opened in your name. It’s identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2020 there were 1,387,615 cases of identity theft in the United States, up 53% from 2019. One way to reduce the risk of being victim of this fraud is to freeze your credit. reports that will block all access to them, preventing the opening of unauthorized credit accounts. Only you can authorize the lifting of the frost.
Below are the three major credit bureaus and links to get your free credit report:
If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, fraud or identity theft, file a report with your local police department and the FTC.
If you need financial advice, below is a list of professional organizations that can offer free advice and assistance: