Stay Within Means for Peace of Mind Over the Holidaysviernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011

By Phil Baldwin, President and CEO of CredAbility

Chances are you know someone who is broke, but is still planning to go all out this holiday season by charging gifts on a credit card, spending their emergency savings or dipping into a retirement fund.

I hope you will share what I am about to say with that person.

I lead the largest nonprofit credit counseling agency in Georgia, so I’m well aware many people in our community are hurting right now.

Georgia’s families rank as the fourth-most financially distressed in the country in the CredAbility Consumer Distress Index state rankings we published this month. (Information about the index is at: www.credability.org)

Since the economic crisis began, families who come to us for counseling often have drained all of their assets trying to hold on to a lifestyle they can no longer afford.

Our simple message to people for decades has been to spend less than they earn. It sounds elementary, but many people are in trouble because they were optimistic that this rule of thumb didn’t apply to them.

The reality is the “spend less than you earn” rule applies to all of us. That holds true for a person of modest means and the middle-class families who are calling us more often now than ever before.

If you know someone who is struggling to pay their bills and is in an unsustainable financial situation, please urge them not to set the problem aside.

The time to address a financial setback is as soon as you see it coming. Even in these times when resources are stretched, social service agencies and community resources can help people at risk of losing everything. Someone you know may need your encouragement to ask for that help.

If you know someone who is in financial trouble this holiday season, please show them compassion. Remind them that the pressure to keep up appearances is self-imposed.

People who care don’t want loved ones and friends to hurt themselves in order to receive a gift. There are other ways for people to show each other they care.

When we adjust the way we live to match what we can afford, we give ourselves peace of mind. This holiday season, encourage your friends, neighbors and relatives take care of their financial health first. Getting healthy is the best gift they can give.

Phil Baldwin is president and CEO of CredAbility.