Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to ward off the financial boogeyman

Maybe it's just me or maybe it's the season. I love fall because I really get into Halloween. My kids love it because their birthdays are in September and October and they love Halloween too. They love the spookiness. They love the treats. And they dig horror movies...they're old enough or should I say at the right age for that. Even the 4 year-old is big into ghosts right now. I don't like horror movies and I don't read scary books. So why am I scaring myself every day by watching and listening to the news?

I once creeped myself out so bad while reading an Anne Rice book on October 29th by myself in a seedy New Orleans hotel that I slept with the lights on. And while I'd never go so far as to put garlic around my doors and windows I would suggest doing some things to ward off the financial monsters that seem to be lurking about this year.

First, start an aggressive strategy to pay off debt. No one really knows what's going to happen in the upcoming months and some of those scary fortune tellers (a.k.a. economic forecasters) are predicting that things will get worse. Don't get caught in carrying debt and don't just make a plan--act on it.

Don't roll credit card debt into a refinanced mortgage. If you are fortunate enough to refinance your mortgage into a lower rate don't throw your credit card debt into it. You could end up paying out more than you might with an aggressive payoff plan. That's because even though it's a lower rate, your stretching it out over a longer period. Do the math first.

Plug up the holes in your budget. Get rid of anything that's unnecessary such as: cut down on your cable bill, trim your groceries, cut down on iTunes or other electronic music purchase. Nipping away at the fat in your budget will help you save more--and that's a good thing no matter what happens on Wall Street.

Speaking of Wall Street. Now isn't the time to begin your trading hobby. Some analyst might speak of bargains, but this is only for those who can afford to take the risk. Don't play with your savings. It's best to stay with safe, insured deposits.

And finally, pay attention to what's happening. Don't put your head under the covers and hope that the boogeyman won't see you. Take some action to protect yourself. Or as one financial reporter suggested: Now is the time to take care of yourself first. A little self-centered but true.

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