San Mateo, CA (PRWEB) July 30, 2008
Despite the nation's cloudy economic outlook, Americans can take steps to improve their financial picture -- and Bills.com President Ethan Ewing has 10 things consumers can do now to paint a brighter financial future.
"Even in today's economic slowdown, the cloud has a silver lining," said Ewing. "Unemployment rates remain manageable, houses are more affordable for those in the market, and the economy continues to plug along. There is no time like the present to improve your personal financial outlook."
The nation's collective mind is attuned to thrift and financial savvy, Ewing said. "Harness this energy to take 10 steps to improve your financial picture."
1. Build a budget. Calculate income and expenditures every month. First, list ongoing monthly expenses (fixed expenses like rent or mortgage payments). Add variable expenses that are "must-buys" (food, gas, medicine). Subtract expenses from monthly net income (the amount left after taxes and other paycheck deductions such as health insurance and 401(k) contributions) to find cash flow. For help, check out a free online budget guide, such as the one found at http://www.bills.com/guide/.
2. Choose consciously. Carefully decide how to spend money. Take time to evaluate and decide upon personal and financial goals so they can work together. Understanding your finances is another big step. To check your financial fitness level right now, take the Bills IQ quiz at http://www.bills.com/IQ.
3. Pay on time. Promise yourself to always pay bills on time. You will avoid late charges, higher interest rates, credit-score problems and the dread of opening scolding letters from your creditors.
4. Save something. Everyone can save something. Even a small amount, like $1 a day, will add up. To make it easy, arrange for an automatic, weekly transfer from your checking account to a savings account.
5. Plan for retirement. Visit a financial consultant or, at a minimum, check online calculators to estimate how much you'll need to save to live comfortably after retirement. Then begin building savings to reach those goals.
6. Insure your assets. Insuring your property, auto, health and life protects finances in the event of unexpected disaster. Additional "umbrella" liability coverage defends against litigation in situations such as if someone has an accident on your property, or sues following a car accident.
7. Pay more than the minimum. Typically, minimum payments go primarily to interest and fees. Paying only the minimum will keep you in debt for years. If necessary, make minimum payments on debt with the lowest interest rates, and put all of your excess cash to the debt with the highest interest rate. Once that is paid off, pay as much as possible to the debt with the second-highest rate, and so on until you are debt-free.
8. Do not add debt. The first step to eliminating debt is to stop adding to debt. Revisit your budget so you can live within your means. Never charge more on a credit card than you pay off at the end of the month.
9. Guard your credit: Once a year, go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com and pull a free "tri-merge" (all three major reporting bu¬reaus) credit report. If you find errors in the report, send a letter directly to each agency requesting the item be corrected or removed. Guard against identity theft by shredding all documents that contain personal information, closing unneeded credit accounts, and never giving personal information to those who solicit it by phone or e-mail.
10. Seek help. For serious debt that you cannot pay, help is available, especially if the situation was caused by a short-term problem. You could borrow from relatives, borrow against life insurance or retirement funds, consolidate old debt onto a no-interest credit card, or, for more support, seek out a credible debt resolution advisor such as Freedom Financial Network (http://www.freedomfinancialnetwork.com).
"By taking these steps, you can ride the storms of the current economic climate," Ewing said. "Best of all, no matter your situation, you will consistently improve your personal finances and know you are taking care of your future."
About Bills.com (http://www.bills.com)
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. As the online portal to Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the company has served more than 40,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at http://www.bills.com/news_releases/.
In 2008, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Bills.com as the No. 3 fastest-growing U.S. company on its Hot 100 list. Bills.com also was named a finalist as "most innovative company" in the American Business Awards in 2008. Company co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh were named to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2008, and are recipients of the Northern California Ernst & Young 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.