How to Keep Financial Nightmares at Bay

Nightmare

Come Halloween night, you may be haunted by visions of goblins and ghouls, but a financial fiasco could be the real nightmare. Even if you think you're on solid financial footing, don't let these scenarios pull you into the spooky finance zone.

Screams in the Night

Unexpected emergencies abound year-round -- not just on All Hallow's Eve. Like when someone in your family suddenly falls ill (read: vampire bite) and you have to fly cross-country immediately. That's an expensive ticket and a bona fide emergency.

But having cash stashed keeps you from going to the dark side and using credit cards. According to Bankrate's Financial Security Index, 28 percent of Americans have NO money saved for emergencies. Don't let those screams of frustration at being caught short be yours.

Deadly Debt

Don't let credit card balances creep up on you. It can put your financial future six feet under. And paying only the minimum balance makes matters worse -- you could be paying for today's purchases for years to come. Kill off those debts quickly.

According to credit card.com, new card offers come with a whopping 14.98 annual percentage rate. At that rate, you'll be buried quickly, so beware.

Blood Suckers

Identity vampires lurk to trick you out of your financial information. Scare them away by checking your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com. Use anti-virus and malware programs, and consider signing up for a credit monitoring service.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans reported about a million identity theft cases last year. A little garlic and some precautionary steps may be all it takes to fight off those leeches.

House of Horrors

Earlier this year, Zillow reported that 31.4 percent of borrowers owed more on their home than it was worth. Being held captive by your home mortgage is scarier than any haunted house attraction. When you're upside down, you may not be able to tell which way is up ... or out. If you plan to live in your home until the Grim Reaper calls your name, don't be afraid. If you have to get out, consider becoming a landlord. Or face your fears, and let your bank know you need help.

Dead Man Walking

Don't spend your retirement years living like a zombie. Consider building a retirement bunker with a Thrift Savings Plan or a Roth IRA before it's too late. According to the 2012 EBRI Retirement Confidence Survey, only 14 percent of Americans are very confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. You've got to save to be confident and only 40 percent of uniformed service members are using a key retirement savings tool, the Thrift Savings Plan. Start saving today so you can live the retirement dream -- instead of a nightmare.

More dreadful than a ghost tour in a hearse, tales of financial doom aren't fiction. They're painful realities. But if you stay on the right path and build financial discipline, you can avoid those tricks and savor the treats.

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USAA, a diversified financial services organization, is the leading provider of competitively priced financial planning, insurance, investments, and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their eligible families. Rated among the highest among financial services companies for customer advocacy in a Forrester Research survey, USAA provides convenient and accessible financial products to its more than 9 million members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit usaa.com
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