Finance & Business articles

In Debt Over Your Head—These 5 Simple Steps Will Help

The next 5 steps are not difficult. They only take commitment. You can do it. The feeling of freedom and success when the bills are not hanging over your head will make this all worthwhile.

Ready to get stated? Let's go.

Step #1. Work out where you are now

You may not have looked at your financial position for a while. Maybe that's why you are suffering under a load of debt presently. But you need to take stock of your financial position now. Unless you know where you are now, it's hard to work out how to fix things.

Just get a pen and paper and all your credit card bills and look at the situation honestly. List out all your debts and their interest rates and the minimum monthly repayments.

Don't get worried about how much you owe. It's been said that anyone can get rid of all their debt within 5-7 years, including their mortgage. That means you too.

Step #2 Stop spending more than you earn NOW

This is the first thing that must be done to start the ball rolling for your financial success. This is most probably the reason you need to take action now. Look at your living expenses and cut out those things you can't afford.

Also cut up all the credit cards except one for emergencies and commit yourself to only spending what you can afford from your own income.

Step #3. Find some cash to pay down those debts

Once you have come to grips with Step #2, the next step is to work out ways to put some money aside every week or month to start paying down those debts, preferably faster than the minimum monthly requirement. Pay as much as you can. It's better to pay down these debts than to put the money in the bank. This is because the credit card interest is a lot more than you can receive from the bank for funds on deposit. The aim is pay down the highest interest debt first.

If you have 2 credit cards with the same interest rate, pay off the one with the smallest balance first. That will give you a boost and the resolve to keep on going.

Step #4. Build a Savings Fund

Once you have those credit cards under control it's time to think about putting some funds aside to start building some savings. You'll be surprised how fast your money grows if you religiously keep adding to the balance and don't touch it. If you really need to purchase an expensive item like furniture or car it is better to save for it than to borrow, if at all possible.

Step #5. Pay Down That Mortgage.

Since the interest rate on your mortgage is usually a lot less than credit card and store debt you can leave this item till last. Also it is increasing in value over time - unlike your car, TV, Video, furniture and boat. You will be surprised how many years you can cut off your mortgage repayments by just adding a few extra dollars each month to the payment.

These a just a few basic rules to help you get back on your feet financially. The main principle here is to work on reducing your credit card debt. Once that is done use those freed up funds to build your nest egg and pay off the mortgage. That's the plan that works.

Now get those documents out, do the sums and start on your road to financial freedom.

Juggling Retirement and College Savings

Most parents want to pay for their children’s college education, or at the very least help pay for college. While it would be great for your children to be able to start like after college without student loans to pay off, the cost to parents may be too high.

The average annual cost of a 4-year public college is $12,127 (source: The College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, 2005-2006), with 4-year private schools averaging $29,026 a year. College costs have been outpacing inflation by rising over 5% per year.

On the other hand, saving for retirement has become even more important as companies have started freezing or eliminating pension plans, and the future of Social Security continues to be uncertain.

Paying for both college and retirement will be challenging for most parents. Here are some suggestions to help you to achieve both goals:

• Have a plan. You should determine how much you will need for retirement and how much you anticipate your children will need for college.

• Start saving as soon as possible. Time is your greatest ally, whatever your savings goal. Figure out how much you are able to save each month, and setup an automatic plan as soon as possible.

• Prioritize – if you can’t afford to save for both goals, retirement should take priority over saving for college. Your children can always borrow for college or earn scholarships; you can not borrow money for retirement.

• Save for both. Ideally, you’d like to be able to save for both goals at the same time. If you’re able to, allocate money to both goals. You may wish to visit with a financial planner to determine how much should be allocated to each goal.

• Research – there are several different types of college savings accounts available. Find out which type of account will benefit you the most before you invest.

• Use retirement accounts to save for retirement and college. Retirement accounts can be tapped into to help pay college bills (IRA withdrawals can be taken penalty free for college expenses; Roth IRA contributions can be taken penalty and tax-free). However, you should only do this if it will not sacrifice your retirement savings.

The bottom line to getting the most out of your savings - prioritize your savings goals, have a plan in place, and start early.