Q: “I do not have credit cards, but I do have loan obligations: monthly car note, insurance payments, rent and outstanding debt that I would like to get cleared up. I need help in getting my finances back on track and getting out of financial ruin. I am in debt trying to start over because I would like to retire peacefully in just the next few years.”
A: Well, my advice to you as you enter the pre-retirement phase would really be the same advice that I would give to somebody who is 20-something, 30-something or 40-something. And that is, you really do have to take a good hard look in the mirror and think about overhauling your total financial picture.
Sometimes people say, “Ah, you know, I don’t have these problems. I don’t have credit card debt like you just said.” But, they have a whole litany of other financial obligations, which basically makes it impossible or next to impossible to save money and to invest at the level they would like to.
So the fact that you have other outstanding debts, other loan obligations, car notes, etc. and of course those insurance payments means that you really do need to look at what exactly is going out the door and how much you have coming in the door.
Unfortunately, the average U.S. household spends about $1.22 for every $1 that it takes in. And obviously if you keep deficit spending like that, that’s going to keep you in debt. So take a good hard look at your budget and really try to itemize what exactly you are spending your money on.
Is a lot going towards entertainment? Is an inordinate amount going towards clothing? How much is going towards your housing cost; can that be cut? Can you get a better deal on property and casualty insurance, life insurance, or auto insurance you might be paying for?
Be prepared to shop around and to get online as well and to leverage the power of the Internet, because you really can do a lot of comparison shopping online. There is a great resource I would point you to as well for budgeting purposes called Mint.com.It is a free online budgeting software program, and it really will help you to not only keep your budget on track, it will send you alerts. It will let you know that some payments are due and that are upcoming. It will tell you if you have overspent in a certain category.
So do take a look at that budget, do get some online free assistance via a place like Mint.com, and that should help you to get your finances back on track.