While debt is a topic that most would sooner forget than deal with head-on, it has become a fact of life for many people, with national statistics revealing that Canadians now live with record levels of debt (claiming approximately 163.7% of the nation’s disposable income).
So, how do you buck the trend and avoid a life of multiple creditors and staggering repayments? Most often, the financial habits you develop in your 20’s and 30’s are the habits that you will carry throughout your entire life, which is why it is invaluable to practice strong budgeting and debt management skills from the onset.
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Here are ten tips to navigate your money and debt to set yourself up for success:
1. Say no to “keeping up with the Jones’s”. A significant factor of severe debt for people in their 20’s and 30’s is the incessant need to ‘keep up’ or put on a show of wealth by constantly updating, upgrading and splurging on material items that lie outside of their means. Resist that flashy splurge by being practical about your limitations and sticking to the budget.
2. Set financial goals. Where do you see yourself in 20 or 30 years? How are you going to get there? By aligning your personal aspirations with your finances, you can understand where your priorities lie and map out practical steps to achieve those long-term dreams. Don’t forget to set short-term financial goals too, as achieving those small steps along the way will give you an added boost to keep going.
3. Invest smartly in your RRSP. While any RRSP investment is better than no investment at all, take the time to educate yourself on the types of investments available to you and consider which one is right for your personal situation.
4. Face your debt! It’s tempting to pretend you didn’t see that credit card statement in your letterbox… but you can’t hide from it forever. To ensure there are never any nasty surprises, stay up to date on your personal debts, outstanding repayments, interest rates and the terms of your loans. Knowledge is power!
5. Say no to payday loans and multiple credit cards. Excuses come thick and fast when you’re applying for that payday loan or second credit card. “I’ll pay it back in no time!” “It’s for emergencies only!” However, this mentality often creates a slippery slope to severe debt. Assess your finances and ask yourself, “Do I really need another credit card or small loan?” If the answer is yes, it may be time to look at your lifestyle and consider that you are living outside of your means.
6. Understand ‘good’ debt versus ‘bad’ debt. Many people assume that all debt is bad, however that is simply not the case. Student loans, mortgages and RRSP loans are all considered ‘good’ debt because, in one way or another, they are investments that will contribute to your future financial wellbeing. On the other hand, credit cards and personal loans are generally considered ‘bad’ debt because they cannot be considered as investments; rather, they serve to inhibit your financial security.
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7. Have fun! While creating a strong savings habit in your 20’s and 30’s can set you up for great financial success, you also need to enjoy your money! Setting a realistic budget that divides your earnings between expenses, savings and life’s little luxuries will help you to get enjoyment from your money while keeping you on-track to achieve your financial goals.
8. Prepare for the speed bumps of life. It pays to keep a portion of your income ‘off-limits’ for use in the case of emergencies only. Unexpected costs are a fact of life, so be prepared for that plumbing disaster, doctor’s bill or job redundancy and you won’t have to reach for another credit card when those speed bumps come along.
9. Talk about it. It’s easy to think that you are the only one struggling under a crippling student loan or multiple credit card debts. If you’re experiencing stress or anxiety over your debt load, talk about it with close friends or family members. By opening up to loved ones, they can share your burden, talk about their own experiences and offer advice to alleviate your personal situation.
10. Know when to seek professional help. Sometimes you need to call for back up. If personal debt is overwhelming you and creditors start to come calling, seeking professional counsel will help you to confront your debt in a private and non-judgmental setting, fast tracking you to a manageable repayment scheme and regaining your financial security.
By Richard Goldhar
Founded by insolvency expert Richard Goldhar, Goldhar & Associates is to helping individuals and businesses find fast and effective ways to relieve the burden of debt and achieve lifelong financial stability. The fastest growing insolvency firm in Ontario, Richard Goldhar has seen first-hand the crippling effects of serious financial distress on families and small business owners. His sensitivity to the personal ramifications of insolvency has set Richard apart from his peers and mentors, and earned the trust of the clients he assists.
Goldhar & Associates now has nine locations across southern Ontario. To find out more about Goldhar & Associates or to book an appointment with Richard and his team, please visit www.shedthedebt.ca