Tips for Surviving Life's Financial Curveballs

Financial problems

It's possible to rebound from financial setbacks, and by making informed moves now, you may be able to get back into the swing of things sooner than you think.

Follow these tips to help get out of four common types of money trouble:

Coping With Job Loss

  • Cut expenses. Take care of your absolute needs first -- things like groceries, mortgage and utilities. Then, temporarily cut out or cut back on nonessential expenses. You should also delay any new major outlays until you find work again.
  • Save your savings. Instead of using your savings to pay off debt, make all attempts to preserve it. Use cash to make minimum payments until you're back on your feet. If forced to tap your nest egg, draw from your savings and nonretirement investments first.
  • Control credit card use. Resist putting expenses on credit cards; you could create a debt obligation you can't repay.

Overcoming a Divorce

  • Dive into the details. If you weren't deeply involved in your married finances before, now is the time to get educated. Quickly figure out the details of your investments, insurance, and savings for retirement and education goals.
  • Preserve your credit score. Track your credit history to make sure your name isn't associated with debt that is not yours.
  • Make it final. Pay off or cancel joint accounts, and change beneficiaries on investments, retirement accounts and insurance policies. Be sure to update your will.

Keeping Afloat in Foreclosure

  • Talk to your lender. Call your lender immediately if you see a future problem keeping up with payments. Sometimes, you can negotiate to adjust the terms of your loan before foreclosure.
  • Focus on your credit. Pay all remaining bills on time, every time. Seek opportunities to rebuild your credit, perhaps by responsibly using a credit card or secured card.
  • Be patient. Rebuilding your post-foreclosure financial life takes time, but it's possible if you're persistent. Bankruptcy and foreclosure can stay on your record for seven to 10 years, but consistently paying your bills on time can get your credit back to adequate levels in just a few years.

Taking Control After Bankruptcy

  • Pare down expenses. Although you might have relief from debt payments, you still have to pay for life's necessities -- food, utilities, housing, transportation and taxes, among them. Make a budget that includes these and limits all extras.
  • Have cash on hand. To avoid falling back on credit, establish an emergency fund. Start automatically transferring money into a savings account monthly, working up to a short-term goal of $1,000. Then increase it from there, eventually amassing three to six months of living expenses.
  • Clean up your credit. As you improve your money management skills, keep tabs on your credit report. Bankruptcy remains on your credit history for seven to 10 years, but you still could be eligible for loans -- though likely at a higher interest rate.
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