No one likes to talk about it. It’s like a dirty little secret we all hide in our closets hoping it will vanish on its own. For many of us this is the first time we’re dealing with such a daunting financial burden, whether it’s due to student loans or credit card misuse. However our financial experts say sweeping it under a rug isn’t going to make it go away. Here’s how they suggest dealing with debt.
“The first thing you want to do is start putting aside money for debt repayment. Get rid of the ones with the highest interest rates first,” says financial coach and chartered accountant Robin Taub. Credit cards usually have the highest interest rates.
“Credit cards should just be for convenience because it’s not always convenient to carry cash. Never use it to buy things you can’t afford,” Taub advises. “Always pay your full balance, ignore the minimum payment altogether.”
“Develop the habit of saving, not using a credit card for bigger expenses, right away,” recommends money coach Nancy Zimmerman. With the compounded interest the item ends up costing you a lot more.
Damien A. Denny, 28, is currently paying back his student loans and shares what he has learned.
“Perhaps most importantly, don’t panic. Repaying a student loan is nothing to fear; with enough discipline, you can do anything,” he says. “The absolute worst thing a new grad can do is ignore an uncomfortable situation due to fear and then let it ruin their credit rating.
“I’ve been in the same place where many new grads are going — hoping to repay student loans without defaulting, but not really knowing what to do other than cover the monthly payments.”
Denny is currently repaying his student loans and working full time. “Thanks to my budget spreadsheet, an idea inspired by my first full-time salaried job, I have much better control of my loans, spending and disposable income than I did when I graduated in June of 2003.”
Also, for those who qualify, Denny suggests seeking assistance available if you can’t make your payments. Learning about your options is empowering.
“Pay attention to your money while in college,” suggests Sharman Lawson, financial coach and trainer. “The way you manage or mismanage your money in college will affect you for years to come.”
Maintaining your financial progress isn’t easy. Keeping track of your spending is an ongoing process. Many people make their budget and just stop there. “Continue tracking your spending,” advises Taub.
“You should be able to prepare a statement of cash flow at a moments notice.”
It doesn’t have to be time consuming. There are many great software programs out there that can help you stay on track.
Money matters don’t have to be complicated. Learn how to have an open dialogue about money with your bank or your parents and be willing to listen.
“I think there are a lot more people struggling than we realize,” says Taub. “It’s not taught in school and if parents don’t make it a point and sit down with their kids and have an open discussion about it, it becomes a cycle of financial illiteracy.”