The Road to Recovery: 5 Steps Towards Fixing Your Financial Problems
By Dorothea Bernique, Executive Director at Increasing HOPE
Owning up to your financial struggles is a lot like dealing with the plastic Tupperware full of last week’s lunch that has been sitting on your kitchen counter for days. You might do your best to pretend you don’t see the problem. You might tell yourself you’ll get around to it. But eventually, it’s going to start to stink, and someone has to clean it up.
First, it can be easy to ignore problems with your personal finances. Money troubles are so personal that those closest to you might have no idea that you’re going through a difficult time. You can avoid calls from creditors or lenders, get used to having your debit card declined, or lose your house or car. In the end, you have no choice but to face the problem and seek a solution.
There is hope. No matter how much trouble you might be in with your personal finances, there is a way out. After you’ve come to terms with a problem, whether it’s credit card debt, bankruptcy, or foreclosure, and after you’ve decided that it’s time to clean the mess up, here are five steps you can take to get started on your road to recovery. No matter your age, it’s never too late to act.
- 1. Say, “I Did This.” Taking ownership of your mistakes is the hardest first step anyone can take. The first step to recovery must be accepting full responsibility for your actions. This is one of those “it doesn’t go down easy” pills to swallow, but it’s vital to recovering from any problem that has gotten out of control. When it comes to messes that you have had a hand in creating, no matter how large or how small, taking ownership of your problems will better connect you with your results and the solutions.
2. Seek Help. You know you have a problem, but thankfully there are people who can help you fix it. When it comes to money struggles, seek a local organization or professional who can offer solutions and advice. Sign up for a class or consultation at the Financial Training Center. Turn to someone who is outside of your friends and family and can give you straightforward answers and get you started on the right path.
3. Arm Yourself with Knowledge. It’s important to find out exactly how much trouble you’re in – be honest with yourself, especially when it comes to credit card debt. Pull your credit score and find out exactly what it means. Buy a book on finance management. Start a budget to weigh your income and expenses and design a plan to get yourself out of trouble. Then, get to work.
4. Set SMART Goals. Having a concrete idea of where you want to be financially can be a good motivator, but goals don’t mean anything unless you give yourself milestones and steps to getting there. Make sure that your goals are SMART (there’s a reason this acronym gets used so much in the business and nonprofit worlds!) – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable/Rewarding and Time-Bound. Most importantly, write these goals down somewhere and hold yourself to them.
5. Don’t do it Alone. Old habits die hard, so find someone to hold you accountable for the changes you say you want to make. When you run up against a wall or find yourself slipping, have someone you can turn to for help, advice, encouragement, or a healthy dose of “Get Your Act Together” honesty. Community financial literacy nonprofits might be able to set you up with a mentor.
With these five simple steps, you can find yourself on the road to recovery and financial freedom!