Have you thought much about your debt lately? The thing about debt is that it can creep up on you. You charge a couple of lunches here, a new coat there, and then an overnight stay at a nice hotel. You haven’t paid any attention to what these charges are doing to your total debt. Why not continue to ignore it?. After all, what you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?
Trying to ignore your debt is like trying to ignore your shirttail relations. Neither is going to go away and in the case of debt, things are only going to get worse.
Are you in serious trouble with debt?, Here are the signs to look for.
Your debts are growing
If your debts are not shrinking, the odds are they’re growing. As painful as it might be, you need to add them up, and then compare this total with where you were A month ago and two months ago. If you find your debts are increasing, there’s one simple reason. Your spending more than you earn. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this. You need to either find ways to increase your income, or you need to reduce your spending.
You’re getting hit with late payment fees
Late payment fees mean you’re not paying your bills on time. This is a sure sign that you’re having a problem with debt, plus it’s costing you money. Let’s say you’re being charged a late fee of $25 on your credit card payments. While that may not seem like much, it can add up over time. Get more than 180 days behind on a payment and you’ll be in default. The odds are that your lender will then sell your debt to a collection agency, which is something you definitely don’t want to have happen.
You have a “bad” credit score
Have you checked your credit score recently? If not, you absolutely need to. You can get your score free on-site such as CreditKarma.com or CreditSesame.com. You could also get it from one of the three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. If you find your score is below 600, you have at best a “poor” credit score. This is costing you money in the form of higher interest rates and higher insurance premiums. It’s also a big sign you’re having a problem with debt.
You live from paycheck to paycheck
When you’re two or three days away from a paycheck, do you wonder if you have enough money left in your bank account for a drive-through latte? Do you have to postpone having lunch with a friend because you’re close to flat broke? This means you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, and that’s never a good thing. It’s not only a sign you’re having a serious problem with debt, but it’s also just no way to live.
What happens if you pay off your debt?
Paying off your debt can be an amazing stress reliever. For that matter, the stress related to dealing with your debts can actually cause you to experience physical problems.
When you pay off your debt, you’ll no longer be required to pay interest fees and late charges. A second important benefit is that this frees up your future income. Whether you’ve thought of it this way are not, when you create debt you’re borrowing money from your future self. Stop running up debt, and you’ll have more money in the future and probably a better life.
Once you get your debt paid off, you should be able to use the money you now have to create an emergency fund. Most experts say your fund should be the equivalent of six months’ living expenses. However, that’s just not doable for most people. Try for three months of your net income instead. If even this seems out of reach, try to save at least $1000. Do this and you’ll have money available to help in the event you become ill, lose your job, or the transmission in your car falls out.
Finally, when you pay off your debt, you’ll have money to invest or to save for retirement. If your company’ offers 401(k), be sure to participate. If not, open either a traditional or Roth IRA and start socking money into it. If you have money left over after this, invest it in something safe like a low-cost index fund, and then never touch it.
If you find you are seriously in debt, you need to go to work and get rid of it. It’s not only the best thing you can do for your future self, it’s an easy way to get a raise without having to wait for your employer to give you one.