Have you checked your credit score lately? Is the information contained in your credit report accurate? Did you know that you have the power to change your credit score?
Gwen’s Helping Hands, LLC provides complimentary, confidential Credit Counseling to members of the credit union. This service is designed to help you understand your credit so you can gain or maintain control of your finances to plan for a better financial future.
A trusted business partner of the credit union, Gwen’s Helping Hands is run by Gwen Hawkins, who is a Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor. Gwen has worked with the credit union for over 25 years, and she specializes in working with individuals in law enforcement.
Gwen’s services include:
In previous articles on Scott’s Spot on Patrolmen’s Dispatch, we have outlined the steps that you can take to improve both your understanding and the quality of your financial situation. No step, however, is more important than the one that involves your willingness to communicate with your spouse, trusted friend/mentor, and/or financial advisor.
The fact of the matter is that the act of communication itself leads to a plan, and a well-organized and executed plan leads to a resolution. Together, these actions form the basis of Credit CPR.
Forms of communication have been at the heart of all human interaction for as long as mankind has been in existence. Despite having had several thousand years to perfect the ability to communicate, however, none of us have become expert communicators. Every single one of us can improve or refine our efforts.
Despite its imperfections, communication remains vital to the success of any effort involving more than one party. It is especially essential in situations that can easily lead to problems such as confusion, misunderstanding or a lack of understanding, and stress. Your credit standing and the state of your finances are perfect examples of the types of situations that often create these problems.
Whether you are an individual who has an excellent handle on their own financial situation or someone who is struggling to manage your day-to-day needs, it is important to discuss your thoughts and concerns with those either in the best position to assist you and/or those most impacted by your financial understanding and the decisions you make based on that understanding. Expressing your ideas or asking questions will almost always lead to a clearer picture of your situation and a stronger basis from which to proceed toward a plan and a resolution.
If you and your spouse discuss all pertinent financial matters up front and you take the time to understand each other’s needs and expectations relative to your finances, you will immediately take a potential source of stress and frustration off the table.
If you decide that both of you need to work in order for you to meet your financial goals, then support each other in your respective careers and take time to appreciate your respective efforts. Divide up the list of household chores between the two of you and develop a system for managing your household that works for both of you. This will help you to develop expectations that are proportionate to your situation.
If you decide that one of you will stay home to assist in raising your family, be sure to focus on understanding what each of you is bringing to the table. Just because one of you is not earning an income does not mean that the one who brings home the paycheck is the only one who is contributing to your collective financial goals.
A stay at home spouse covers a lot of expenses that would otherwise be incurred if he or she was working outside of the house. Expense reduction can be just as helpful in achieving your financial goals as increased income.
If you understand these things and each other on the front end, your time and your effort will be expended more efficiently and you will not experience the added worries that confusion and misunderstanding between you and your spouse can create.
Examples of credit related topics that are worthy of discussion and dialogue include investment strategies, retirement planning, mortgage options, cash flow enhancement, borrowing needs, budget requirements, debt management, spending habits, major purchases, and anything else that has the potential to have a positive or negative impact on your state of mind and stress level.
There are a variety of steps to take and details to include when you form a plan to address your financial objectives.
Start by prioritizing your financial needs. In doing so, you will find that each one of your needs may very well require its own detailed plan, each with a different set of action steps. There are common threads, however, in the construction of a usable plan. When you prioritize your needs, don’t forget to include anyone else in your household who will be impacted by these priorities.
The plan that you devise must be tailored to you and your skill set, which means that it should only include a methodology that is consistent with your characteristics. As an example, if you are not typically an organized person you should not develop a plan that relies on your ability to be organized at all times. You may want to start by just designating a specific place to store all relevant information and a commitment that you will review that information at least once a month or once a week as needed. If you do develop realistic objectives, you will increase your chance of following your plan and achieving the related goal.
Your plan should include reasoning as to why the plan is important to you. This will also increase the likelihood that you will continue to follow the plan after implementing it. You are always more likely to do something if you know why you are doing it.
Your plan should include a designated measurement to ensure that you remain on the intended course of the plan. For instance, if your goal is to get a better handle on your checking account balance, you should incorporate a weekly or monthly reconciliation between your record keeping and that of your credit union or bank.
Lastly, your plan should provide for longer-term goals beyond those identified as your primary objectives in the shorter term. Just as you are more likely to stay the course when you know why you are in pursuit of a goal to begin with, you are more likely to remain focused and disciplined if you know that the achievement of a goal will put you in a position to achieve a larger goal. Staying with the example of your checking account; better record keeping will almost always lead to reduced fees and overdraft charges, which leads to greater usable income.
By simply taking the time to communicate your thoughts and then to construct a plan designed to either enhance your understanding or reduce the possibility of misunderstanding or confusion, you have already put yourself ahead of about 95% of the rest of society. Now that you have a plan, however, you must act on it.
Your ability to achieve your personal financial goals will be determined almost entirely by a well thought out plan and shear determination. Reversing bad habits or learning new ones is never easy. You face your version of the daily grind and, because of that, you are subject to being worn down or side tracked with more immediate issues than improving our credit standing. In the end, as it always does, it will boil down to whether or not an enhanced understanding and/or improvement of your financial situation is worth it to you.
There are several reasons why it should be, starting with the fact that better credit and even a better understanding of how credit is granted puts money in your pocket in the form of lower interest rates on loans and a lesser dependence on borrowing.
When you become less reliant on debt as part of your overall situation, you will find that you have more options available to you and that you will gain a greater command of your own financial choices. Having the ability to make your own choices clearly reduces stress and improves the quality of your life. Less stress almost always leads to greater overall health.
Simply put, if you commit to performing your own Credit CPR, you will have more money and live a healthier life. What greater reasons do you need to buckle down and communicate, plan, and resolve to improve your financial awareness and overall financial standing?
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This article was written by Scott Arney, CEO, Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union. This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.