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Planning for Your Financial Future

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Author: Nathan Dawson

Article source: http://marriedfinances.com/. Used with author's permission.

Two heads are better than one, so sit down with your spouse and plan out your financial future together. Prioritize your bills.

By determining which bills to pay in which order, you'll get in the habit of making sure your essentials are always paid first.

Be careful using credit. Sometimes a financial crisis will come not because of a layoff, but because you're overextended. Most people can afford to devote 10 percent of their net income (after taxes) to installment debt, not including mortgage or rent payments. If you pay out more than 15 percent, you need to cut back.

Establish an emergency fund. Open a savings account and start "paying yourself" 10 percent of each paycheck.

What happens if we run into an emergency and our emergency fund isn't enough?

Don't panic. When facing a financial crisis, stay calm. This will help you think logically and you'll avoid unnecessary arguments with your spouse.

Quit spending money. When faced with a financial challenge, it's easy to use your credit cards. But you may run up your balance to the credit limit and not be able to afford the payments, which will result in a poor credit rating—something you won't want during a crisis time.

Prioritize your bills. Pay essential, or survival, bills first: food, mortgage or rent, utilities. Next, pay car insurance, medical needs, child support, and any loans such as automobiles and furniture that are secured as collateral.

Then pay the nonessential bills—those debts in which no immediate consequences occur if paid late: credit and charge cards, attorney, medical, and accounting bills, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, life insurance, childcare, gyms, or clothing.

Communicate with your creditors. If you can't pay your bills or can only pay a partial amount, your creditors may be able to help you to establish a repayment plan.

Some lenders will allow you to defer one payment a year, meaning the payment for that particular month doesn't have to be made. The deferred payment is added to the end of the contract.

Take notes of any conversations with creditors, listing the date and person with whom you spoke. Whatever arrangement you make, get it in writing from the creditor before you send in money.

Know your rights. Many collection agencies are in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. To get a copy of this legislation, visit www.ftc.gov. If you feel you've been violated, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at their website.

Find outside help. Many churches and Para church organizations run programs to help you navigate through financial troubles.

A debt management company may also be able to help you reduce your payments, lower your interest rates, and pay off your debt faster than trying to do it yourself.

Such companies can also negotiate with your creditors to bring your accounts current if they're past due. Avoid bankruptcy. Bankruptcies should be your last resort. A bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Nathan Dawson writes for http://www.marriedfinances.com and http://www.successfulmarriageresource.com, great online sources for marriage and finance information.



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