With holidays over, now's the time to check your finances

Jim Ramey, FFSC Work and Family Life supervisor

Jim Ramey, FFSC Work and Family Life supervisor

Now that you’ve survived the winter holiday and all that comes with it, it’s time to kick off 2013 with a true financial plan.

There’s no need to make your annual resolution of getting your finances in order. Instead, let’s view this as an undertaking of commitment that all financial decisions will be well thought-out and non-impulsive in nature. If we are sincere in our aspirations to solidify our finances, we can not only survive this economy, but more importantly, we can thrive.

But first things first.

Let’s revisit the last few weeks of your spending habits. During the holiday shopping season, like many consumers, did you get caught up in the moment and maybe spend a little more than anticipated? If you did and you used your plastic, let’s address a couple of issues.

Please understand, if you are carrying a balance on your credit cards, the finance charges can eventually be much more of a cost than the original price. So if at all possible, don’t start a habit of making minimum payments; you’ll still be paying them over the next holiday shopping season.

You can actually call creditors and renegotiate your interest rates. They can say no, but they can also say yes if you make your case strong enough. Try “I’ve made all my payments on time,” or “My spouse is serving in the military and I’m wondering if you have any programs that assist during deployments?” You can even ask for a “hardship department,” and once connected, state your case. Bottom line: You won’t get a reduction if you don’t ask.

Second issue: “’Tis the season” — for identity theft. The holiday shopping season is the worst time of year for identity theft. Thieves know the plastic comes out in full force from Black Friday until mid-January when all the sales run their course.

It is highly recommended that you pull your free credit report mid- to late-January to ensure that your information is accurate. You can go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com and get free copies of all three credit reports. It should also be noted that children are 35 times more likely to get their identities stolen than adults. Thieves realize that most minors don’t use their Social Security numbers for many years, so they basically get a head start before anyone realizes it’s an issue. You can get a free child scan report from www.AllClearID.com. This company has an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau.

In terms of going forward with your financial spending, if you don’t have a current understanding of your overall finances, you are losing the battle. If you take the time to research, develop and implement a spending plan that truly fits your needs, you’re on track for success. You’ll also discover that spending wisely during the holiday season — or any season — isn’t as hard as we make it on ourselves.

A quick and simple “debt to income” ratio analysis is a great start. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Basically, it’s figuring how much is coming in and how much is going out. That’s it. This can be confidentially done at the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) with one of our skilled Personal Financial Management (PFM) counselors. If your schedule is hectic and you can’t make it to one of our FFSC sites at Point Mugu, Port Hueneme or Camarillo, we will e-mail you user-friendly software.

Afterwards, we can start on your next financial goal: a saving and investing plan.

If you find yourself at a financial “dead stop,” think baby steps. It really does work.

If you have any questions about your finances or any other concerns, contact the FFSC at (805) 982-5037 and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

— Jim Ramey is the Work and Family Life supervisor at the Naval Base Ventura County FFSC.

© 2013 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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