May 23, 2014 2:00 am
“More than 1.5 million consumers reached out to an NFCC member agency last year for answers and solutions to their financial concerns around debt, housing, budgeting and bankruptcy. Examining their financial profile can provide guidance for others, helping them determine their own level financial wellness,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.
Consider some of the red flag characteristics of consumers who sought financial counseling from an NFCC member agency in 2013:
• The number one reason to seek counseling was “poor money management,” eclipsing “reduced income,” which had held the top spot since 2009. Why a red flag: An improving economy may put more money in people’s pockets, but if not managed properly, it can still result in financial distress.
• The age of the majority of consumers was fairly evenly divided between 25-54, with young adults in the 25-34 age group leading the way (24 percent), followed by the 35-44 range (23 percent), and the 45-54 group (21 percent). Why a red flag: Financial problems can occur at any stage in a person’s adult life which, if left unaddressed, can begin a negative spiral from which it can be difficult to recover.
• The average household take-home income was $35,081, with an unsecured debt of $17,548. Why a red flag: Owing too much relative to your income resulting in a high debt-to-income ratio not only makes it harder to meet all debt obligations, but can hinder future borrowing.
• Consumers seeking help carried an average of 5.7 credit cards. Why a red flag: The number of credit cards a person has is not as important as how they manage them. Whatever the number of cards, maxing out the lines of credit will likely harm a person’s credit score.
“Consumers are smart to contact a trusted organization for financial help,” continued Cunningham. “However, the one mistake many of them have in common is that they wait too long to reach out for assistance. Delaying taking action allows the problem to escalate, often causing financial damage that could have been prevented.”
Consumers who recognize similarities between their situation and those who sought assistance from an NFCC member agency should follow their lead and take action now. To be automatically connected to the office closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227, or for assistance in Spanish call (800) 682-9832. Inquire about the NFCC’s Sharpen Your Financial Focus™ program which has helped tens of thousands of people find solutions to their financial problems. To learn more about what the program has to offer, visit www.SharpenToday.org or www.agudicehoy.org.
Published with permission from RISMedia.