Stop Ignoring These 11 Financial Cries for Help

By Tim Lemke on 4 January 2016 0 comments

It's easy to delude yourself into thinking you have your financial house in order. You've got a roof over your head and food on the table, after all. But the truth is that many of us are living on the edge financially, especially when it comes to the use of credit cards.

If any of these seem to apply to you, consider taking a hard look at your finances so you get back on track.

1. You're Hit With Bank Account Fees Each Month

Getting charged by your bank for not meeting a minimum balance is annoying, but such fees should be avoidable if you're diligent about saving. If you find that you're constantly below the threshold where you'll be charged a fee, it's time to take some action. You can start by examining where your money is going and cutting out extraneous spending. (See also: Banks Still Offering Free Checking)

2. You're Over 30 With No Retirement Savings

If you've gone the first decade of your work life without putting a single penny aside for retirement, you're putting your future self at financial risk. While it's not too late to build a large nest egg, you don't want to wait much longer. Consider these numbers: A person who sets aside $10,000 a year at age 25 will have about $2.3 million, assuming a market return of 8% annually. If you start at age 30, you'll have $1.5 million. But if you wait until you're 35, that number dips to barely over $1 million. Start saving as soon as you can.

3. You Rarely Pay More Than the Minimum on Your Credit Cards

If, at the end of each billing cycle, you find that you never pay your credit card bill in full (and often pay nothing more than the minimum), that's a problem. You can't get rid of debt by adding to it, but that's what happens when you only pay a portion of what's owed. To stop this cycle, begin aggressively paying down the credit cards with the highest interest rates and work from there. (See also: When Should You Do a Balance Transfer to Pay Off Credit Card Debt?)

4. You Keep Borrowing From People to Make Ends Meet

At first, it's $50 from your folks. Then a little more. Then you keep asking people to "spot you" a few dollars, but rarely pay them back. It's no shame to seek financial help if you're going through a tough spell, but if this is a routine part of your life, it's time to assess your overall situation. Your friends and family are there for you if you have an emergency, but they're not going to keep lending or giving you money just to help you get through each day. Next time you ask them for help, ask for help in finding a better paying job, or for some budgeting tips.

5. Your Credit Cards Get Declined

Perhaps you're at the supermarket and try to pay with one credit card, but it's declined. So you simply pay with another one and act like it's no big deal. But it is a big deal. Often, it means you are over your credit limit, which means you've maxed out what you can borrow that month. And simply getting another credit card isn't solving the problem. If you've had a card declined due to high spending, perhaps it's time for some serious budgeting work.

6. You Frequently Ask for Increases to Your Credit Limit

It's not necessarily bad to ask for a credit limit increase, but once you reach a borrowing limit of a few thousand dollars a month, there should be no need to raise the ceiling further. If you are frequently calling credit card companies to raise that limit, ask yourself whether you have a debt and spending problem.

7. Creditors Keep Calling

You may feel like bill collectors are your enemy, and your instinct is to hide from them. But the only way to get them off your case is to pay what you owe, or at least negotiate to pay a portion so they'll leave you alone. Every call from a creditor should be a warning bell that you don't have your financial act together. Now is the time to develop a plan to pay your debts and avoid letting this happen in the future.

8. Your Credit Score Is Low

Don't ignore the score! Perhaps it's just a number, but it's an important number. If your credit score is below 700, you may find it hard to secure a loan with a solid interest rate. Anything under 650, and you may find it difficult to borrow at all. Work to get the score higher by using credit cards responsibly and paying bills on time. This will have an enormous impact on what you pay for a home, car, or other major purchases.

9. You Can't Wait for Payday

When you have savings and are keeping your spending under control, you should be only vaguely cognizant of when your next paycheck is coming. If you are paying bills at the last second — or late — because you need to wait for payday, that's a red flag. And if you're taking costly advances on your paycheck, that's even worse. You must work hard to earn more and spend less to stop the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

10. You Can't Wait for Your Tax Return

We all like getting a little money back from Uncle Sam each spring, even though it's always been our money and we've been loaning it to the government all year. If you are desperate for that tax return check to come, that's a sign that you're living too close to the financial edge. What if you don't get as much back as you expect, or even owe money?

11. You And Your Partner Are Constantly Fighting About Money

Even financially stable couples have arguments about spending and saving. But if you're having these kinds of fights all the time, that's a red flag. Perhaps you can't get your partner to keep their spending under control. Perhaps you don't agree on what the saving priorities should be. This is not just a financial red flag, but may be a red flag for your relationship, as well. You and your partner should work together to tackle the biggest sources of financial stress, particularly when it comes from high levels of debt. If you can't get on the same page, an independent marital or financial counselor might be able to help.

What financial cries for help are you failing to heed?

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