Ordinary Trip to the Grocery Store With Your Kid? Explain as You Go

We all know our kids are always watching and learning (even when we wish they weren’t). This applies to the way you use and manage money as well. Every day, you make decisions about money that might not be visible to your kids. For example, they may not know that you set a budget for the grocery store—and that’s why you didn’t get them that box of fruit snacks.

Next time you’re at the store, try something new: Think out loudand talk through what you’re doing. This helps your children see how you think about spending and helps them understand your decisions.

Here are three steps to turn your next shopping trip into a chance for your children to build their money skills.

1. Make your shopping list together

Making a shopping list might be a silent activity for you—you sit down at the table with pen and paper, or you open an app, and list what you need. Next time try talking through your list with your kids.

“I see we’re getting low on peanut butter, which we’ll need to make sandwiches for the week. I’ll also write down eggs and milk, which I buy every week since we use them to make breakfast and other recipes.”

You can also ask your kids to help you make the list. Let them check the cabinets or think about what things they use each week.

This is a perfect opportunity to introduce the idea of a budget. Spending can be invisible or mysterious to kids—they make up the rules if they aren’t told what they are. Talk about how you need to keep track of how much you spend on groceries so that you have enough money for other things, such as gas or the cable bill. Explain that making a list helps make sure you don’t buy things you don’t need and overspend, even if that means having to cut back on a few extra things you want. 

2. Talk as you shop

When you’re at the store, it’s time to talk. You likely already know which brands you like to buy or whether you’ll decide to purchase something if it’s on sale. Maybe you even choose which grocery store you go to based on its prices, what you need that day, or the coupons you have. Instead of just bringing your kids along for the ride, share your reasoning with them. At the store, each item you put in your cart is a chance to tell your kids why you’re buying it instead of a similar item at a different price point.

Older children can help you comparison shop and find ways to save by choosing a different brand or quantity. This is also a chance to explain why you may purchase things even if they’re the more expensive option.

I see that this other soup brand is cheaper but it’s worth it to me to spend an extra 50 cents on this one, because we all like it better. Let’s try to find another item where we can save 50 cents, to make up the difference.” 

As you shop, you can refer back to your budget. If your child asks for something not on the list, you can work together to evaluate if it’s okay to purchase. Maybe the item is on sale, or you have a coupon. Other times, you may need to wait to buy something.

3.  Explain your purchase

 As you approach the cash register, you might have a running total of the cost in your head so you aren’t surprised by the amount. What if instead you did the math out loud so your kids can hear?

“I think our total will be about $50—I rounded up each item a little bit in my head and added it up as we shopped. Let’s use the debit card since I don’t have enough cash with me. The debit card subtracts the money from our bank account right away.”

If you have young children, it may not be obvious that you’re trading money for the items in your cart—especially if they don’t see you use cash. Discussing the decision-making process helps your kids understand that even if you’re just swiping a card, you’re spending money you’ve earned on these groceries. 

You can also discuss whether you stayed within your budget, or why you needed to spend a little extra during this trip.

When you think out loud, you clarify what you’re doing and why. Whether you’re at the grocery store, paying bills, or online shopping with your kids, get into the habit of thinking out loud during your day-to-day money and time management activities so they can follow along.

Ways to keep talking

Check out some of our tools and resources for more ways to keep the conversation going:

  • What’s on a receipt: Show your child how you estimate the price you’ll pay at the register and practice rounding up to include sales tax.
  • Pretend play:  Explain what different people do at the grocery store—cashiers and customers—and play out different scenarios.
  • Conversation starters: Learn how to talk to your kids in early childhood, middle childhood, and teen years.

You can also join our challenge to try one new thing to grow your child’s money skills.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Baby Boomers Not Ready for Retirement


Consider the stereotype of stodgy old codgers, set in their ways. Unable or unwilling to accept changes and handle risk, these overly cautious folks allow opportunities to pass them by. Could this stereotype fit baby boomers in their approach to retirement? Perhaps, given that a new survey from Legg Mason suggests that boomers are falling short on their retirement savings goals due to an overly conservative investment approach.

The survey, conducted among baby boomers between the ages of 53 and 71, found that the average boomer expects to need $658,000 to be able to retire. Unfortunately, the average boomer only has $263,000 saved within their defined contribution plans (such as 401k plans). Social Security and other retirement income streams are unlikely to cover the gap completely.

According to the survey, boomers definitely have a conservative portfolio on average. Cash and fixed-income investments make up the majority of fund allocations (30% and 22% respectively). Only 24% of assets are assigned to stocks. The remaining 14% of assets are divided up among real estate, gold and precious metals, non-traditional investments, and other unclassified investments. Many financial advisors would suggest a larger holding in stocks, even when entering retirement.

What should boomers be doing instead? There is no single right answer – and the above strategy may well be the proper one for you based on your expected retirement goals and risk tolerance.

Low risk tolerance may explain the conservative boomer approach, especially given that the Great Recession hit many boomers hard. They may have been partially scared out of the market, thus missing the subsequent rebound and suffering a double whammy. Boomers lost out on recent gains, knocking them off pace to reach their goals – and now that retirement is even closer, they fear another bubble could strike. It’s difficult for them to shift their portfolio to the higher-risk stocks required to close the gap.

If you fall in the fearful category, there’s no reason to make yourself miserable with riskier investments – but you may have to adjust your retirement goals downward or work longer than you would prefer to meet that goal. However, assuming you have a higher risk tolerance, you should review your retirement asset trajectory to make sure that you are on track to meet your goals and adjust your investments accordingly if you are not.

Start by re-evaluating your retirement goals. Have your plans for retirement changed? How much should you save to retire as a generic target, and how much will a change in plans affect your retirement target? Let the free Retirement Planner by MoneyTips help you calculate when you can retire without jeopardizing your lifestyle.

Fidelity offers a rule-of-thumb approach based on average salaries. They suggest aiming for a scaled factor based on your salary. At age fifty, you should have saved 6x your actual salary. The factor is seven at age 55, eight at age sixty, and ten times your annual salary by age 67. This assumes that you maintain your pre-retirement lifestyle. Unless you alter your expected retirement age, the savings factor must be adjusted up or down depending on your goals.

The classic balance between aggressive growth investing (stocks) and conservative investments (bonds) is 60% stocks and 40% bonds, with declining stock holdings as you reach retirement. If you are short of a goal, you will need to shift your investments further toward equities, but do so with care. Plenty of resources are available online to help you decide. If you are uncomfortable with online advice – as stodgy old codgers might be, we say with a smile – seek face-to-face advice with a qualified financial advisor.

Regardless of your approach to retirement finances, you should periodically review your retirement goals and your likelihood of reaching them. Make your adjustments earlier and more often, and avoid nasty economic surprises as retirement approaches.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/kupicoo

This article by Moneytips.com first appeared on moneytips.com and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

When Expenses Exceed Your Income

Sometimes we can take an idea from one field and apply it to another. For instance, there’s a concept that successful small business people know. That is that you need to focus on covering monthly expenses before you begin to pay yourself. In some circles, it’s known as covering your monthly nut.

It’s a key issue. Before you open your doors for business on the first of each month, you know roughly how much you’ll be spending on rent, utilities, insurance, wages, and licenses. You’ll have those expenses even if your sales are zero for the month.

Your first monthly goal is to earn enough for covering monthly expenses. After that, you can worry about paying suppliers and still later about paying yourself.

The same concept applies to the average person. You have a monthly nut, too. There are a certain number of expenses that occur each month just like clockwork. Regardless of your activities that month, you’ll face those bills. For most families, the monthly nut includes rent/mortgage, utilities (electric, water, phones), a car payment and insurance.

Many of us have added other things to that monthly nut like Missy’s ballet, Junior’s kung fu lessons, Mom’s yoga class at the gym, and Dad’s monthly golf game.

Then there’s the minimum payment on the credit card accounts. And, the 26 months of boat payments still due. All those expenses pretty much happen automatically.

Ever wonder where your money goes? Take a few minutes now and list the commitments on a piece of paper. Total your monthly nut. It’s not uncommon for families to have $1,500 to $2,000 or more per month already spent before the month starts.

OK, so now that everyone’s depressed, what’s the advantage of knowing about a monthly nut? What can we do differently?

The first exercise is a “what if” game. For instance, what if I lost my job and had to live on unemployment compensation? After covering monthly expenses, would I still have enough left over to feed myself? Or, what if my company went on a 30-hour work week? Create your own variations.

The next exercise asks the question “Is that still true?” Circumstances change. Sometimes the product or service that we needed yesterday is not necessary now. For instance, there was a trend to drop the home landline as more people got cell phones. In this game, you look at each item in your monthly nut and ask yourself do you still need it.

A third question for this game is “Have my needs changed?” We still pay for basic cable but determined we weren’t viewing most of the channels within the more expensive tier we originally subscribed to. Dropping that tier saves a few dollars each month. Or carrying collision insurance on an old car might be a mistake. Look at each monthly nut item and see if you would buy a different package today. If so, talk to the supplier about changing it.

The final question is “Has the competition changed?” I may still need the product or service, but competition could mean that I’d save money by moving my business to another company. Insurance and some utilities are prime examples.

Remember that any savings will drop your nut each and every month. This is not a one time saving. Your effort will be repaid every month.

There’s one last tool that we can use because we understand the monthly nut. We’ve all seen it. The salesperson says, “It’s only so much per month.” And, the payment, taken alone, doesn’t seem big compared to your income. But a more accurate evaluation would be to think of that amount added to your existing nut. You’ll have a much better perspective of the payment. And, probably be more resistant to it.

Evaluating your monthly nut is important today. Many families are running into trouble because their commitments are higher than their income can support. Reducing monthly expenses before trouble occurs is the best way to avoid trouble later.

This article by Gary Foreman first appeared on The Dollar Stretcher and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Are You Plagued by the Serial Get-Out-of-Debt Disorder?

Michelle Singletary from the Washington Post wrote a great piece about people who constantly cycle through debt and regret. It’s worth a read here.

“Here is how you can tell if you have this disorder:

— You stay in debt, mostly with credit cards. But it could also include personal loans or frequent borrowing from your retirement plan.

— You are rarely without a car loan. You repeatedly trade in your car for an upgrade because you feel entitled. Or because you’re tired of fixing your car even though the repairs are still far less expensive than buying another vehicle — new or used.

— You feel remorse about amassing more debt than you can handle.

— Your regret creates anxiety, weight loss or weight gain. You can’t sleep at night.

— If you’re married, you fight about the debt with your spouse, putting a strain on your marriage — which can manifest in more spending.

— You can’t take the stack of bills anymore, and you declare that you’re ready to be healed.

— You hunker down, aggressively cut expenses and maybe even get another job or work more hours to get out of debt.

— You finally pay off the consumer debt. You’re in remission. But because you haven’t dealt with why you got into debt, you’re right back in trouble.”

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Review: Honeydue — a Personal Finance App for Couple

I know we’re an outlier in this sense, but my wife and I have never had problems talking about money. In fact it’s something we discuss quite often, whether it be determining if we can afford a large purchase, deciding what retirement accounts to contribute to, or delegating who should pay what bills. Of course not all couples are so lucky, which is why I was interested to hear about a smartphone app called Honeydue.

Honeydue is a personal finance app designed for couples and bears the tagline “Outsmart Money, Together.” Like with similar — if not as specifically-minded — apps, Honeydue allows you to link various bank and credit card accounts, monitor spending, and set reminders. However what sets it apart is that you can share all of this info with your significant other and ensure you’re on the same financial page. While Honeydue does meet that goal for the most part, there are a few pros and cons to the app itself.

Before we get too far, let’s go through the set-up process and take a look at the different sections of the Honeydue app.

Getting Started with Honeydue

If you’ve tried out other personal finance apps before, you know that it does take a while to get your accounts connected and have everything set up. Honeydue is no different in that aspect, although the process was pretty painless in my case — I was able to select my bank, enter my information, and have the app pull the appropriate data. As you add accounts, you can also label them as personal or joint accounts. Finally you can select from a number of privacy settings, allowing your partner to see everything, balances only, or completely hide an account’s info from them.

One extra step you’ll want to take with Honeydue in order for it to function as intended is to add your significant other to the account. This is done by entering their e-mail address and inviting them to join you. The app does recommend that you make your profile picture a photo of you before inviting your loved one, just so they know it’s really you when they get the e-mail. Once both of you are set up, you’re ready to explore the rest of the app.


The first page you’ll encounter on Honeydue is called Balances. As that name implies, this is where you can get an at-a-glance overview of all your different bank and credit card accounts. You also have the choice of viewing all of your accounts, just those you’ve labeled as “mine,” or just those you’ve labeled as “joint.” Tapping on any one account will also let you browse recent transactions.

Viewing your transaction activity is actually the first place where Honeydue sets itself apart. See, in addition to the ability to re-categorize any transaction, you can also label them with emojis or make additional notes. Assuming you’ve selected the correct option in your notification settings (more on that later), your partner will then be alerted to your notes or reactions and can respond accordingly.

By selecting a single transaction, you’ll also be provided with a few more selections. The first option is to share the expense with your partner, which is another feature we’ll get into a minute. Here you’ll also have the choice to add a bill reminder. Tapping that option will then allow you to choose a frequency option (monthly, weekly, one time only), who the reminder should go to, and when you’d like your notification to be sent.


Given how much you can do from the Balances section, Activity may seem a bit redundant. In actuality it’s really just a question of how you like your transactions to be organized. While Balance displays your spending for each account, Activity breaks it down by category. It also includes a color-coded circle chart, providing you a visual look at what categories you spend the most on. Other than that, the functionality is similar to Balances: tap a category to see transactions and add reactions, tap that transaction to share expense or set-up a reminder.


As you set up bill reminders, they’ll appear in this section in both a calendar view and as a list. Naturally you can also add reminders from this section. Lastly, from the list view, you can edit upcoming reminders, mark them as paid, or select to skip a reminder until the next due date.


Something I forgot to mention up front is that Honeydue is free to use. Thus, like many apps in its field, it monetizes by suggesting credit cards, bank accounts, and other services. In my case it’s currently suggesting I look into a new bank account since I spent $6.38 in fees over the last two months (those were thanks to my Toronto-bound road trip, for the record). If you’re looking for a loan, online bank account, new credit card, or ever foreign currency then, by all means, feel free to hit up this section. Otherwise it’s easily skippable.


The final section simply titled “More” is actually home to a number of features. The first tab you’ll come across in More is a list of notifications. Speaking of notifications, you can also tap the gear icon in the top right and then select Notification Settings to adjust what types of transactions and updates push through to your phone.

Next to the notifications tab is “Your Banks,” where you can view what banks you’ve linked to your account. Incidentally this tab can come in handy as one of my accounts was recently unlinked for some reason. To repair it, all I had to do was tap and reenter my info — easy as pie.

Perhaps the most interesting section of More is the Split Expenses tab. Here you’ll see a list of transactions that you or your partner have labeled to split and also has the option to post more unpaid debts. This section will keep a running tally of who owes who and provide an overall balance. Should you choose to “settle up” this balance, you can then launch either Venmo or PayPal to do so. Sadly these options don’t really integrate with Honeydue, so you’re really on your own to send the money and then just “mark as paid” when you get back to the app.

My Thoughts on Honeydue

Let me start by saying there’s a lot I like about Honeydue. More than anything I like that it encourages couples to talk about money and makes it easy to remind each other about upcoming expenses. But, at the same time, does it really get partners to talk about finance? For example, I’ll admit I do find it a bit off putting that it allows you to hide bank accounts from your significant other — transactions I understand (especially for gifts), but hiding accounts seems dubious. Similarly, although there are certainly times my wife and I elect to move money between our various accounts, the Split Expenses feature seems a little out of place in an app seemingly intended for serious couples. Then again, being married is different than cohabitating so perhaps committed couples who haven’t quite merged their financial lives entirely might have reason to use some of these features that I question.

Another nitpick I have with Honeydue is that it doesn’t allow you to create custom spending categories. Furthermore, while it does show how much you’re spending in each category, it doesn’t allow you to set an actual budget. For that functionality, I’d recommend trying Mint.

With all that said, I have found Honeydue to be helpful. Sure my wife and I pretty much have our respective billing schedules down at this point, but it’s always nice to get a reminder. Additionally there have already been transactions I didn’t understand, so it was nice to easily reach out to my wife and ask for her help figuring it out. For those reasons I foresee myself continuing to use Honeydue even if it’s not as comprehensive as some of the other personal finance apps out

This article by Kyle Burbank first appeared on Dyer News and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Things to Consider Before Borrowing a Reverse Mortgage to Delay Collecting Social Security

For most people, the amount of money you bring in each month decreases after you retire. Yet your expenses, particularly for health care, may not follow suit. So the question on the minds of many approaching this life stage is: how do I replace or supplement my monthly income when I retire? 

The most obvious answer might be to claim your Social Security retirement benefits. If you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, it’s important to think about the best time to claim your benefits. For most people, eligibility for full benefits is between age 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born. Alternatively, you can start to collect benefits as early as age 62, but if you choose to claim early, your monthly benefits may be reduced as much as 30 percent. You can also delay and claim at age 70 to get your maximum monthly benefit.   

With that in mind, some financial professionals are
increasingly promoting that older homeowners consider borrowing a reverse mortgage loan at age 62 in order to delay collecting Social Security. This approach suggests that you use proceeds from the loan to replace the Social Security benefits that you would otherwise receive if you had started collecting Social Security at age 62 until your full benefits age, or later.  

We looked at different scenarios involving older homeowners for whom their home and Social Security are their main resources and found that generally they are better off if they take their Social Security benefits rather than taking out a reverse mortgage. This is true because, in general, the cost of a  reverse mortgage loan will exceed the additional amount of increased Social Security benefits you would collect over your lifetime. That’s because the interest and fees you pay increase each month, and over time those costs wipe out the additional benefit obtained by delaying.  

When you borrow a reverse mortgage loan, your home is used as a guarantee for the loan, like it is in a traditional mortgage loan. But unlike a traditional mortgage, a reverse mortgage loan is usually repaid  when the borrowers no longer live in the home. You won’t make monthly mortgage payments, but you must stay current on paying your real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance. There are other conditions of the loan that must be met too. If you don’t meet the conditions, the lender can foreclose on your home.

If you have the option, working past age 62 is usually a less costly way to delay claiming than borrowing a reverse mortgage loan would be. The additional years of work often provide you more time to save and pay off debts. It may also result in an increase in Social Security benefits by replacing years with low or no earnings, if any, from your earnings record.

For those who can’t continue to work, it may be better to accept a lower Social Security benefit amount, rather than owing on a reverse mortgage loan in the future. In addition, the effects of using a reverse mortgage loan to delay collecting Social Security benefits would likely reduce the equity in your home. This loss in equity could limit your options for moving to a new location or handling a large financial shock in the future.

New resources

We released three new resources to help older homeowners learn what a reverse mortgage is and decide whether borrowing a reverse mortgage is right for them: 

  • An issue brief that explores the tradeoffs of borrowing a reverse mortgage loan in order to delay claiming Social Security
  • A discussion guide designed to be used as a primer on reverse mortgages and to help homeowners considering a reverse mortgage prepare for their discussion with a HUD-approved housing counselor
  • A short video that provides key information about the features of a reverse mortgage

If you have a problem with a reverse mortgage, you can submit a complaint online or call us toll free at (855) 411-CFPB (2372), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

A Nationwide Look at How Student Debt Impacts Older Adults

In January 2017, we released a snapshot on older Americans and student loan debt. We are now providing additional data regarding the scope and growth of student debt among older borrowers (ages 60 and older) in each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These new data further demonstrate the significant growth of student debt among the older population in each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, and the proportion of older borrowers struggling to make their payments. 

The state-level data show the changes between 2012 and 2017 in the number of older borrowers, the median amount owed, and the proportion and number of older borrowers in delinquency. Here are some particularly noteworthy findings.

  • The number of older borrowers increased by at least 20 percent in every state, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and the number of older borrowers increased by 46 percent or more in half of all states.
  • In more than three-quarters of states, the median student loan balance of older borrowers increased by more than $1,000, and the total outstanding student debt held by borrowers over age 60 increased by more than 50 percent. 
  • In all but five states, the proportion of older borrowers in delinquency increased. 

These new data on older borrowers reinforce our recommendations from January and a continued cause for concern as an increasing number of older adults are asked to shoulder student debt. Consumer complaints show that older borrowers who are repaying loans for their own education, co-signing loans for someone else’s education, or borrowing on their children’s behalf, may struggle to repay these loans while living on fixed incomes during retirement.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Charges Debt Collection Operation Took Consumers’ Money for Phantom Debts

The Federal Trade Commission has charged a North Carolina debt collection operation with using intimidation and deception to take money from consumers for debts they did not owe, or that the defendants had no right to collect. A federal court temporarily halted the scheme and froze its assets at the request of the FTC, which seeks to end the practices.

According to the FTC, the defendants used a variety of trade names that sound like law firms, such as Lombardo, Daniels & Moss; Barron, Gibson & Phillips; and Cohen, Daniels & Moss, to attempt to collect debts that consumers did not owe. The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants’ collectors claimed that consumers were delinquent on payday loans or other debts, and threatened them with arrest or other formal legal action if they did not pay. Their collectors also allegedly called consumers repeatedly and regularly used profanity. Many people paid – more than $2.1 million in total – because they believed the defendants’ false claims or just to stop the harassment.

The FTC also alleges that the defendants illegally disclosed purported debts to third parties, failed to disclose that they were debt collectors calling to collect a debt and that any information consumers provided could be used for that purpose, and failed to send consumers legally required written notices with the debt amount and the creditor’s name, giving consumers an opportunity to dispute the debt.

Lombardo, Daniels & Moss LLC, Dion Barron, and Charles R. Montgomery III are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The FTC appreciates the assistance provided in this case by the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division, entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on August 24, 2017.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

A 50-State Look at Complaints About Student Loans

Over the past five years, student loan borrowers across the country have turned to us to submit complaints about the struggles they face when repaying their student loans. We have handled more than 50,000 student loan related complaints describing servicing breakdowns, debt collection hurdles, and “debt relief.” These complaints help us to recognize and work to stop industry practices that harm consumers and can serve as the first step in a process that halted industry practices harming some of the most vulnerable individuals, saved hundreds of millions of dollars for tens of thousands of student loan borrowers, and strengthened aspects of the student loan repayment process to protect millions of consumers.

Student loan borrowers collectively owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. 

We’ve released a state-by-state snapshot showing how this debt is spread across the country. It also breaks down the complaints we handled from student loan borrowers in every state. 

If you are experiencing problems related to student loans or debt collection you can submit a complaint online or call (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

We also have tips to help student loan borrowers navigate problems with their student loans. If you are having problems paying your student loans, visit our Repay Student Debt tool. This interactive resource offers a step-by-step guide to show borrowers their repayment options, especially when facing default. 

Seth Frotman is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about our work for students and young consumers, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Did the Recent Hurricane Drown Your Finances? Here is What to Do Today.

If your income has been disrupted by the recent big storm there are things you can do right away.

Generally, creditors are understanding in times of these major natural disasters. Their courtesy generally will extend to giving borrowers a few months of a payment holiday to get things regrouped. This payment holiday will most likely continue interest to be charged and will increase your balances owed, but it will keep your credit report clean and relieve you of having to make payments temporarily.

The financial storm created by a hurricane will extend far out from where the big blow made landfall. Not only are there millions of people not working at the moment after the storm leaves but businesses located in the storm area who used outside suppliers and contractors will not be calling on them.

Once you start to dry out and get in a safe and dry place, I want you to do this:

1. Get a Pen and Piece of Paper – You are going to need to make some telephone calls and it is imperative you keep a record of who you called and what they will agree to. Do not lose this paper.

I want you to write down the creditor you called, the telephone number, the date and time, and the person you spoke with. Also write down what temporary payment plan they put you on. The date, time, and number are especially important in case a recording needs to be later pulled to support your claim an allowance was made for you.

2. Pull Out Your Wallet – Take a look at your credit cards in your wallet. This is one of those times a credit card is going to be substantially more valuable than a debit card. Make a mental note which credit card has the largest available balance and prepare to use that card to get you through the weeks ahead. Don’t call them yet. We don’t want them putting a freeze on the card if you are going to need to use it. This is the true definition of the kind of emergency you have a credit card for.

For the credit cards you are not going to use, turn the card over, get the telephone number, and call those creditors to ask for a payment holiday or whatever they are calling their special storm deferment program.

3. Pull Out Your Memory – Start calling your car lender, mortgage company, student loan servicer, and other secured property lender. You will want to let them know as soon as possible that you’ve been impacted by the natural disaster. They may have a program in place to give you a payment holiday to prevent falling behind on your obligations. Don’t worry about the fact your property may be damaged and totaled at the moment. Just get payment holidays in place right away so you can take a deep breath to regroup.

4. Cash is King – Your resources will not be unlimited so don’t over commit to what you can’t afford. For example, don’t agree to make any payment that will lead to draining your cash or emergency saving balance to a dangerous level. It is better to be behind and miss a payment than it is to be broke and homeless.

5. Once You Are Safe We Can Come Up With a Plan – After you made the initial calls and wrote all that information down, just focus on slowing the drain on your cash, and getting your life stabilized so we know where you are going to live.

If you don’t have the cash to pay for something necessary, use that credit card you did not call but use it before cash but manage expenses wisely. You can deal with that later.

6. Options Exist – Your car may be totaled and your home blown away and your finances may be a total wreck as well after the storm clears. It’s not the end of the world. Legal options like bankruptcy specifically exist to give you a fresh start quickly and bankruptcy is there especially for situations like this. And don’t worry about your credit score, it’s easy to rebuild better than before.

Get out, get safe, regroup, and then move forward. It’s a winning plan to let you have a better future and reduce your stress as your develop your new post storm life.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.