How Financial Stress Affects Your Health

Would you be surprised if someone diagnosed your change of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and incessant headaches as symptoms of financial stress? It might be a hard pill to swallow, but your financial stress can have a tremendous impact on your health.  According to a survey published by the American Psychological Association in 2017, 62% of Americans reported being stressed about finances. Unbelievably, financial stress can cause companies upwards of $520,000 per year! You’re probably asking “why?”


Are you aware of the impact of stress on the human mind and body? You’re about to find out.


Financial stress, and many other kinds of stress, can have a negative impact on your health. There is a positive, temporary response to stress, and that is known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Preparing to run a race, giving a presentation, performing, and being involved in a dangerous situation are all examples of when your body is going to react with the “fight-or-flight” response, or adrenaline rush. Heart rate quickens, pupils dilate, brain functions heighten, and oxygen intake increases as your body reacts to the scenario. This is helpful in the short-term, but in the long run, on the other hand, it can become extremely harmful.

If these stressors are present over a long period of time, other health issues will manifest. Have you ever heard of heart disease? That’s a rhetorical question, since it’s the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Guess what? Chronic stress is one of the main contributing factors to heart disease (along with a poor diet and lack of exercise). Not only is heart disease intensified by stress, but migraines, sexual dysfunction, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, general pain, stomach ulcers and many other health complications are also correlated with stress – money worries in particular.

We know that when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to make decisions that aren’t always the best. But when you accidentally, or purposefully, make a choice that ends up being detrimental, stress will follow. For example, the fear of not being able to pay next month’s mortgage bill can initiate symptoms of depression or PTSD. In turn, this can lead to even more issues with budgeting and over-spending (like racking up your credit card balance to make yourself “feel better”), which only exacerbates symptoms.

In the same way that stress exacerbates physical issues, it can also aggravate psychological problems such as anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, anger issues, and hopelessness. About 10% of high-earning individuals experience 2 to 3 indicators of depression, in comparison with 23% of low-earning individuals. Pair together financial stress and depression, and you’ve got a crippling combination. It definitely isn’t a recipe for productive and satisfied employees. Each day it seems that employee health is worsening, so it’s crucial that employees, managers, and health care professionals work to decrease stress levels and improve coping skills.

Although many of us brush off money worries, the physiological effects actually make sense. How can your body thrive if it’s constantly being beaten down with the incessant worry of money troubles? Simply put: it can’t. The physiological response of the body to stress is so immense that physical and mental health quickly begins to suffer. The lower classes of America undoubtedly experience the effects of financial stress, but studies show that financial worries also plague middle and upper class individuals.

In the United States, approximately 75 to 90% of all doctor’s visits are stress-related medical issues according to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. We know that stress causes plenty of medical issues, but some of that can be attributed to unhealthy coping skills. When people are stressed, they tend to resort to unhealthy coping behaviors such as overeating, overconsumption of alcohol, etc., which only worsens other medical problems. Stress management techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are all effective ways to lower stress levels.

The heaviness of financial stress can weigh you down, but it’s important that you and those around you find successful ways to decrease stress levels and develop helpful coping skills. Lifting such a weighty burden requires intelligent money management and more important, stress management.

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How To: Overcome Financial Stress and Get Your Finances in Order

Before the Great Recession, financial stress was the number one worry of over 70% of Americans. Since the Great Recession, money issues have become increasingly depressing for some people. With the loss of a job or a decrease in income, many people can have a prolonged stress that sits like a ton of bricks upon their shoulders. This chronic financial stress is extremely detrimental to the body, and you will begin to affect the lives of those around you. Before you know it, you may start to rely on bad habits to relieve your stress. How can you get a foot in the door of overcoming your financial stress and straightening out your money matters? Well, it obviously doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep reading, you may gain some insight as to how you can begin.

Setting Goals. 

Though you can’t control all of your circumstances, you can initiate steps towards improving them. One of the most important first steps is setting a goal. This might sound simple, but that’s because it is! Before you can even think about your goals, you need to take a step back and review your finances. Doing this on a monthly basis could be beneficial for you, and don’t forget to check out your budget to know where exactly your money is being delegated.

Once you’ve had a chance to look over and get really familiar with your debts and income, set some goals. We are always setting goals in life – (financial, fitness, education, etc) and this goal is just like the others. It should have a purpose and a particular plan of action that will help you to attain the goal. Rather than setting a broad goal, attempt to set specific goals. Maybe your goal is to have $5,000 in your bank account within the next 2 months. You can break that broad goal down into smaller goals, like making yourself more valuable to your employer or improving your business plan. No matter the goal, review your financial state, set a goal, and clearly define the parameters and steps needed to reach it.

Make it measureable.

As covered in the last paragraph, clearly defined goals will be of more benefit. A goal such as “having a lot of money” does not have clear parameters. Some financial professionals suggest keeping 3-6 months of expenses in your bank account. Rather than setting a goal of “I want to always have 6 months of expenses in my account, sit down and put an actual value to that 6-month amount. This will focus your mind on a specific number instead of a vague sum.

Realistic and Reachable.

When you are setting your goal, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s one that you can actually attain. If you don’t have a good chance of reaching the goal, what was the point in setting it? Since you’ve already reviewed your finances and budget, you know whether or not a goal is realistic. If the goal is realistic, in your mind, you know that it’s attainable. Maybe your goal is adding $500 to your savings account each month. If you’re currently struggling to pay rent and have a low income, that goal may be a little out of reach. Work with what you have.

Deadline.

If you have no time limit on your goal, it might take you forever to reach it, which in turn makes setting the goal a waste of time. Part of defining a goal is listing a deadline so that you are able to separate your one big goal up into smaller chunks. Focusing on reaching your goal week to week can be mentally easier than seeing a huge number in front of you and stressing about how to climb that mountain.

Financial stress can take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional state, which is why it’s so crucial to alleviate at least a small portion of that worry. Now that you have a few pieces of advice on how to overcome your financial stress, don’t wait until you find yourself in a desperate financial state. If you aren’t sure how to go about everything on your own, don’t hesitate to get in contact with a professional debt resolution/credit repair expert. They will be able to help you in setting a proper budget as well as raising your credit score and negotiating with any creditors to whom you may owe outstanding payments.

When to Break Up With Your Financial Advisor

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An important indicator of your overall financial wellness is how well you balance spending with saving and investing. You should always keep the end game (retirement) in view while simultaneously being able to enjoy life while saving for your children’s college education, if applicable. In order to coordinate all of the pieces of your financial puzzle most effectively, many people choose to work with a financial advisor.

Unlike many other professional partnerships you may form, your relationship with your financial advisor or financial planner can become more like a friendship. Because many people stay with the same financial planner for years, you can easily feel connected on more than a professional level. This feeling increases if you are also in the same circle of friends or live in the same town.

No matter how much you enjoy the company of your financial planner, if your needs simply aren’t being met, you have some decisions to make. You’ll either have to explain to your advisor exactly how he’s letting you down and what he can change to retain your business, or you can start looking around for someone new.

Reasons to consider leaving your financial planner:

  • Distrust – Being able to trust your financial advisor with your money is extremely important. If you’re asking questions and not getting answers that feel authentic, that’s a red flag.
  • Poor communication – While it’s true that financial planners are often very busy, if your phone calls and emails go unanswered for lengthy time periods, you’re paying for a service that’s sub-par.
  • Unclear expectations – The best financial advisors will lay out a plan when you first team up with them. The plan should include input from you regarding your specific goals for your assets and what you’d like to see happen. If your advisor never created an investment policy statement for you – it could signal that he’s skimping on his other duties as well.
  • No contract – As with any professional who provides you with a service that you will be paying for, your financial planner should present you with a clear contract at the beginning of your relationship that outlines his duties to you and what he needs from you as well. Without a contract, you have no way of knowing what to expect.
  • Distance – If you’ve been working with a financial advisor from afar and have recently decided to take a more active role in your finances, letting go may be your only option.
  • No fiduciary standard of care – In other words, if your advisor (or his firm) doesn’t put your interests ahead of their own, you have a very good reason for finding a new firm.
  • Fees – If you’re currently unhappy with your advisor’s fee structure and this is set by his firm, you may not be able to get the arrangement you’re looking for without finding someone new.
  • Additional services – Many people today are interested in working with a financial advisor who goes above and beyond making sound investments for them. Tax planning and basic budgeting advice are two services cited by clients who were unhappy with their current financial planning firm.

At Veitengruber Law, we pride ourselves on our vast network of professionals and we attend networking meetings every month to stay immersed in the financial, legal and real estate markets. We are more than happy to assist you in finding the NJ financial advisor that meets your needs. Give us a quick call [(732) 852-7295], or fill out the contact request form on our website. We’re always here to help!

Image credit: Nicolas Raymond

How the Business of Debt-Buying Affects Consumers

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Collectively, American consumers are currently over $12 TRILLION in debt. Out of that $12 trillion, more than $400 billion has been deemed ‘seriously delinquent.’ Outside of a library fine I once racked up because a book that fell into the crack of my couch, I get pretty panicked if someone tells me I’m seriously delinquent. Just the sound of the phrase rolls off the tongue in a negative way, doesn’t it?

As it should: debts don’t get earmarked as seriously delinquent until they are 90 days or more overdue. That may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of life, but in the world of debt, three months of failing to make a payment is long enough for lenders to get good and fed up.

What is debt buying?

Because of the whopping trillions of dollars of consumer debt in this country, an entirely new industry has spontaneously developed, and it’s more than a little shady. Lenders don’t want to wait to get paid. Seriously delinquent debts are often sold by lenders to companies whose sole purpose is to buy debt for pennies on the dollar in order to make at least a tiny bit of money rather than none at all. This process is part of the dubious debt buying industry – where debt is bought and sold, bought and sold ad infinitum, potentially transferring hands a veritable profusion of times.

Astoundingly, debt buyers can collect on the full amount of an original debt, even though they will have paid a supremely small fraction of that amount when they purchased it from the lender.

What does this mean for indebted consumers?

The debt buying blitz in the United States is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, many original lenders don’t supply debt buyers with much information about the debts that are switching hands. Compounding this issue is the fact that debt buyers are often unscrupulous about whether or not the debts they purchase are even valid. That means that they may purchase debts with missing or incorrect data that can lead to them harassing you for money you don’t even owe.

Ruthless debt buyers and collectors typically don’t care whether they’ve got the right person on the phone or whether the debt has been discharged via bankruptcy. They don’t even check to see if the statute of limitations to collect on a debt has passed. They’ve got a list of names and contact information, and often times millions of dollars they can potentially pocket if they can convince enough people to fork over the money.

Fueled by a strong desire for money, when debt buyers set out on their mission to collect, they’ll frequently go to unimaginable lengths in order to get you to pay. Threats, lies, scare tactics, cursing, impersonation, degradation, and humiliation are just a few of the strategies employed by people in the debt-buying and debt-collecting industry.

If you’ve experienced any of the above and feel that 1) you don’t owe the debt in question; or 2) a debt collector has acted illegally – you have recourse. Veitengruber Law helps people like you every day, and we’ve grown quite adept at dealing with distressing debt collectors. Want to find out if we can help you? Call us now: (732) 852-7295. We will not overcharge you and we’ll consult with you for a full hour free of charge. Best of all – we’ll put an end to your debt problem once and for all.

Image credit: Pat Pilon

Frugal Friday: Memorial Day Party on a Budget

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If there’s one thing that all of us here at Veitengruber Law all have in common, it’s finding ways to save money. Often this comes in the form of us working to help a client: apply for a loan modification, get a fresh start with bankruptcy, negotiate outstanding debts and learn how to budget so that their financial future looks bright.

When it comes time for us to leave the office each evening, we then turn our attention to our personal lives, and part of that involves how to best keep our own finances in order. We are constantly on the lookout for money-saving life hacks, which we love sharing with our clients and blog readers.

As we approach the end of May, many people have started planning for Memorial Day parties. A day to remember and memorialize those who died while serving our country in the armed forces, Memorial Day has also become the unofficial start to summer. Although summer doesn’t technically begin for several weeks, the last weekend in May now sees a plethora of pool openings, family gatherings, cookouts and beach trips.

This year, if you’ve been nominated to throw a Memorial Day party at your house (voluntarily or not) – why not see just how frugal you can be while hosting an unforgettable party at the same time? Try implementing some of these party hacks to see just how little of your own cash you have to part with this year:

Avoid the “party store.” Buying pre-made party supplies and decor adds up fa$t. Making your own patriotic decorations and party favors is not only a great way to lower your party costs; it can be a lot of fun, too! Check out this site for some really cool money-saving patriotic decoration ideas.

Prepare your own food. It is undoubtedly a lot more convenient to fill up a shopping cart at the warehouse store with pre-packaged food – from burgers and buns to snacks and desserts. Just like the “party store,” however, you’ll pay a premium for that convenience. Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars at BJs or Sam’s Club, roll up your sleeves and get cooking.

In addition to putting your own culinary skills to good use, enlist the other party attendees to each bring a food item with them. This will enable you to focus only on the main dish(es) yourself, while your friends can bring sides, snacks and desserts. Consider making it into a challenge to see who can bring the tastiest goodies.

Make it a BYOB shindig. You may be thinking: “But I already asked them to bring a food dish. Now they have to bring their own drinks, too???” Well, sort of. As the host, you should have the basic bar necessities on hand (if you plan to serve alcoholic drinks). If you don’t already have them stocked, consider a visit to the liquor store for an affordable bottle of: vodka, gin, scotch and rum. Add in a few mixers and you’ll be able to stock your home bar for around 50 bucks.

Alternatively, you could come up with one signature drink for the party that fits in with a patriotic theme, and serve only that drink. For example, a drink called the firecracker settles into layers of red, white and blue. Let party-goers know that if they want to drink wine or beer, they can bring their favorite bottle(s) along. This alone will save you a significant amount of money.

BE the entertainment. The merriment of any good Memorial Day (or any summertime) cookout should center around good conversation with friends and loved ones. If you’re looking for something a little more organized – toss out some brain teasers or get several card games going. Alternatively, crank up the volume and turn your picnic into an instant dance party (talent not required).

One of the keys to living a life free from debt is to plan ahead for special events just like this. Waiting until the last minute will give you little choice but to swipe your credit card more times than you’ll want to admit in order to acquire the party supplies you need.

Proper planning, budgeting, and getting help when you need it (in this case, asking your friends to contribute food and drinks) will keep the cost of a party from getting out of hand. Aside from a slight headache from too many firecrackers or wine, you won’t have any regrets the morning after you throw a penny-pinching Patriotic party.

Image credit: JD Hancock

What is Credit Counseling? Is it Right for Me?

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All of the terms associated with getting out of debt can get so confusing that you may end up not even understanding which service(s) you could benefit from. That’s why we’re putting out a Back to Basics series, explaining many of the most common terms we use regularly. Look for a new Back to Basics post every week.

What is Credit Counseling?

Just as a marriage counselor sits down with a married couple in order to evaluate the state of their relationship, a credit counselor takes a good look at your finances. He will then work with you to design a plan of action that will see you paying off your debts faster, spending less money on non-essentials, and putting more money into savings.

Typically, you’ll be seeking credit counseling when you’ve found yourself deep in debt with no end in sight, but you can also seek this kind of help if you don’t have a lot of debt but want to save for retirement, pay for your child’s college education, refinance a loan, and more.

During your credit counseling sessions, you will essentially receive an education about how to improve your ‘Money IQ.’ This means that credit counseling is not just a temporary quick fix; you will learn how to maintain financial stability for good.

Who Provides Credit Counseling Services?

Firstly, you should know that there are many credit counseling services in business today who use unethical and often illegal methods to attempt to get you the results you want.

It is important to choose wisely when looking for help with your finances. If you have a lot of debt and need assistance negotiating with lenders, look for a certified and experienced NJ debt settlement law firm.

Many credit counseling services will claim to be able to help you settle your debts in addition to providing you with credit counseling assistance. The truth is that they usually don’t have the ability and necessary knowledge required to negotiate with lenders or to help you file for bankruptcy. All too often, debtors end up even deeper in debt after working with a so-called ‘credit counseling company!’

When you work with a certified debt negotiation attorney, you’ll be in good hands. Look for a New Jersey credit counseling law firm that also specializes in debt restructuring, bankruptcy, credit repair, asset protection and real estate matters (especially if your debt has pushed you into or toward foreclosure.)

How Much Does Credit Counseling Cost?

While you may be able to find a company that will quote you a remarkably low price for their services, remember the saying: “You get what you pay for.” Also – keep in mind that these companies are routinely engaging in fraudulent methods (scams) that have them promising results to customers that they simply cannot, and will never, deliver.

Rather than paying an uncertified company for credit counseling services that’ll get you nowhere fast, consider paying someone who really knows what they’re doing and get a huge return on your investment!

It can be a knee-jerk reaction to balk at the thought of hiring an attorney, but when you find the right certified New Jersey bankruptcy attorney, he will always have valuable experience in the areas of credit counseling and debt negotiation.

Will you have to pay an attorney to teach you how to get out of your unfortunate financial bind? You definitely will – but it will be more than worth it when your debts are either completely discharged (via bankruptcy), negotiated down to much lower amounts, or refinanced and restructured.

Do you think you could benefit from some high quality credit counseling? Would your life be less stressful if your finances weren’t constantly on your mind? If you want to learn more about our credit counseling program – call today and we’ll set up your free consultation. [(732) 852-7295]

We are happy to consult with you in our offices or over the phone, and we look forward to helping you.

Image credit: Coalition for ICC

Friday Five: Cures for Your Holiday Spending Hangover

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Today on the Veitengruber Law Blog, we bring you another Friday Five. Our topic this Friday is getting out from under all of the debt that you may have acquired during the recent holiday season. Let’s face it: every year we vow to spend less next year, but when “next year” rolls around, it’s very difficult to resist showering our friends and family with prodigious piles of presents!

It’s great fun watching the excited expressions on our gift recipients’ faces, but come January, our own features scrunch into scowl lines and frowns as the credit card bills arrive in the mailbox. Rather than simply paying the minimum balances due and hitting the mental “Ignore” button, here are five proactive things you can do to pay off your holiday debt sooner rather than later:

  1. Suspend your spending: This has to be priority numero uno. Until you’ve paid your holiday credit card balances off, spend money only on necessities. Remember all of the gifts your friends and family showered you with, and enjoy them instead of buying more “stuff.” If it helps, set a goal and reward yourself: as soon as your holiday debt is gone, you can buy yourself something you’ve been coveting (within reason).

  2. Cut up your cards: For many people, getting those credit cards out of sight is imperative. If you really don’t trust yourself not to use them, by all means, cut them up and get back to using real money only. You might also benefit from simply taking the card(s) out of your wallet and putting them someplace safe in your house. This way, you’ll still have them if an emergency situation arises, but you won’t be able to make in-store impulse purchases.

  3. Make molehills out of mountains: In other words, focus on the card with the highest interest rate first. The higher the interest rate, the more you’ll end up owing on that balance, so it’s best to get it as low as you can, and quickly. Keep paying the minimum amounts due on any other cards while you tackle them in order of their interest rates.

  4. Return and be refunded: It may not be the most socially acceptable thing to do, but if you were gifted anything that you simply don’t like or won’t use – find out if you can return it! Even if the gift-giver didn’t include a receipt, you can often find out where an item was purchased, in which case many stores will give you gift cards rather than cash. Use these gift cards to buy things you need, which will free up more of your money for paying down your credit card balances.

  5. Bang out a budget: While it may seem like common sense, it’s often the simplest ideas that succeed. As you get close to paying off last year’s holiday spending debt, look ahead to the next holiday season. Something as easy as buying one gift card every time you get paid can make a big difference. (And who doesn’t like receiving gift cards these days?)

By putting these five simple tips into action, you will be able to get your holiday debt paid off in a reasonable amount of time, freeing up that money for living life! Planning ahead will mean that next year at this time, you’ll hopefully be able to pay off your holiday spending in a much shorter time frame.

Image credit: Quint Cobb

Why Do I Need an EMV-Enabled Credit Card?

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Although it may seem impossible, credit card fraud still continues to be an ever-increasing problem, and more than 50% of the entire world’s credit card fraud happens right here in the good ol’ US of A.

Credit card companies have stepped up to address this problem by creating a technology that will make it much more difficult for your personal information to be stolen. The technology comes in the form of a small chip that is implanted into consumers’ newly issued credit cards, called an EMV chip. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa because these were the companies that initiated the new technology.

Many Americans have heard about the EMV chip and may feel a lot more secure now; however, it’s important to know the whole story before you let your guard down. Simply having a card with a security chip won’t help you at all unless the stores you patronize have upgraded their credit card machines to be able to actually use the chip.

Swiping your credit card through a retailer’s card reader is like dangling your personal information in the face of a data thief. Magnetic stripe card readers are easy to bug and, in turn, easy to commit fraud through. It has been predicted that credit card fraudsters are in the process of targeting as many magnetic stripe payment machines as possible, while they still can.

Those retailers who have switched their payment terminals over to include a card reader will benefit greatly. If any data breaches occur in stores with card readers, the stores will not be held responsible. This is a huge incentive for retailers to get with the program and update their payment machines.

If a breach occurs while using an EMV-ready machine, the bank (who owns your credit card debt) will be responsible to remedy the situation. Luckily, data breaches are much less likely on EMV-ready machines because the consumer’s credit card is inserted into a card reader that will generate a code that is totally unique to that shopper.

This all sounds like a fantastic step toward lowering the amount of credit card fraud that is currently taking place in the US (and around the world). The problem is that stores are not required to implement the EMV readers. Magnetic strip cards will still be processed the same as before – by swiping.

What you should know:

As a consumer, you should protect yourself by using only credit cards with data chips installed. If your bank has not issued you an EMV card yet – get on the phone and request demand one. Once you have received a new card, try to do all (or at least most) of your shopping at stores that have updated their sale terminals to be able to read EMV chips. Insert your card into the card reader; avoid swiping at all costs!

Naturally, you’re never going to be 100% safe, especially if you do a lot of online shopping. The best way to protect yourself online is to limit web-based purchases to sites that have a solid reputation. We will delve into how to safely shop online in an upcoming blog post.

Image (used with permission) by Aranami

How to Recover from Identity Theft

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Although we strongly believe that the best defense against identity theft is a (virtually) impenetrable offense – if you let your guard down even for a second, your personal information can be stolen.

Some behaviors that will increase your risk for identity theft include: shopping online, using an public wireless internet connection, putting pieces of mail that contain personal info into the trash bin, and giving out your personal information to anyone  you don’t explicitly trust – whether over the phone or in person.

I suspect someone has accessed my personal info. What now?

If you have reason to believe that your private, financial or otherwise personal information has been stolen, there are some things that you can to do lessen the damage to your finances and credit report.

Remember, once someone accesses your personal information, they can then proceed to act as you, making a huge mess for you to clean up. The important thing here is to have a quick reaction time.

In order to stay organized during this stressful time, start writing down  everything you do that relates to the identity theft. Write down phone calls you make, including who you speak to and what was said. Make note of any discussions with the police, your bank(s), and your NJ attorney.

Keep track of all of the time you spend and any money you have to spend in order to clean up the mess, because expenses related to identity theft are tax deductible.

Place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit report with the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This alerts them to the fact that any financial activity that occurs while the fraud alert is in place is not done with your permission.

Just as important as contacting the credit bureaus is talking to your bank and any credit card companies. You must move as quickly as possible to alert your banking institution to cancel your debit or banking card. As soon as your bank knows there has been a theft of your information, you won’t be held responsible for anything the identity theft does thereafter.

If you realize your financial information has been stolen because of strange activity on your credit card or debit card, you once again must act fast to protect yourself. You’ll need to report the fraudulent activity within two business days of the date that it took place. This is why it is always a good idea to stay on top of the activity in your bank account and credit card accounts. If you check your activity online every day, you’ll be sure to spot an identity thief before much (or any) damage is done.

Next, you’ll want to make this event official by creating a report of the identity theft with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). By reporting the identity theft, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting any negative marks removed from your credit report that were caused by the fraud artist. This action will also stop a company from coming after you for debts that were incurred by your identity thief – not you.

You may also wish to file a police report and contact a local attorney. Your attorney can help make sure that you’ve covered all of the right bases regarding the information breach, and will help you take legal action against any creditors that attempt to collect money from you that was part of the identity theft.

Image credit: Sebastien Launay

 

Preparing Your Child for Financial Success in College

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If you blinked and that little baby of yours is suddenly a junior or senior in high school, chances are good that both of you have started giving some thought to whether or not college is in the cards. If it is, there are a wide variety of fun and exciting new experiences right around the corner. Even if college is a year away, now is an appropriate time to start thinking about how your child handles money.

While s/he will most likely still rely on you for a large percentage of any money needed, college will be the first time s/he will have to make independent spending decisions. So, even though it’ll be your money, your child will be using it to form (hopefully) good financial habits that will last a lifetime.

There are many things you can do at this time that will either help or hinder your child when it comes to being financially successful. Here are a few tips:

  • Be ready for mistakes – As with anything our children do, making poor money choices in college is yet another learning experience. As a parent, be prepared to watch (from afar) your child goof up a few times at first. S/he may very well over spend and come crying to you for more money. If this happens, don’t come rushing to the rescue. Let your child feel just a little bit of the struggle that comes from making bad money choices. It is from that struggle that s/he will learn to make the right choice the next time around.

 

  • Put limits on those mistakes – While it is most definitely a good learning experience for college students to (for the most part) handle their own finances, as parents who are funding that experience, you can help them avoid utter disaster. Help your child obtain a low spending limit credit card or a debit card attached to an account that you share with him/her. Sit down with your child and review his or her spending habits periodically to go over any good and/or poor decisions.

 

  • Don’t be too generous – Although your instincts may tell you to load your college student’s bank account with plenty of money so they never have to want for anything, doing so is actually a really bad idea. Faced with open access to a large (to them) sum of money for potentially the first time in their lives can lead to an overwhelming urge to spend too quickly. Learning how to spend modestly is a skill that comes with time. Come up with a plan that will have you depositing spending money into their account more frequently, and in smaller increments. You can increase the amount of time between deposits along with the dollar amount gradually, as your child progresses and shows that s/he can handle more financial responsibility.

It’s also a good idea for your child to take on a very part time job during college, as long as s/he is able to do so without interfering with classes. While s/he will still need financial help from you, having an income of his or her own will further aid in solidifying the overall lesson you want them to learn: Budgeting is a life long skill that is just as important as all of the other information they’ll learn throughout their entire college experience.

 

Image credit: College of DuPage