Am I okay financially?

Do you ever wonder if you need help with money? Things are tight, sure, but they’re probably tight all over, you might be saying. Reaching out for help is easier than you might think, but knowing when to reach out can be tricky. What’s the difference between “normal” struggling and the kind of struggling that could really benefit from professional assistance?

In 2013, more than 1.5 million consumers decided that they did need help and reached out for assistance from one of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s member agencies. By aggregating that information, we’re able to create a picture of the typical consumer who reached out for help last year. Every situation is unique, but this may help you understand where you stand as compared to others who decided that enough was enough and made the move to bring their debt and their finances under control.

Some of the more concerning characteristics of consumers who sought financial counseling in 2013 include:

  • The number one reason given for seeking counseling was “poor money management,” eclipsing “reduced income” which had held the top spot since 2009. This would seem to indicate that an improved economy may put more money in people’s pockets, but without the knowledge to manage that money properly, finances will remain a daily struggle.
  • The age of consumers seeking assistance was evenly divided - young adults (25 to 34 years old) made up 24 percent; 35 to 44 year olds represented 23 percent; and 35 to 44 year olds accounted for 21 percent. The interpretation here is that financial problems can occur at any stage in a person’s adult life. You’re never too young or too old to benefit from professional financial assistance.
  • The average household take-home income was $35,081, with an average unsecured debt of $17,548. This means that the average consumer seeking credit counseling assistance last year had a debt-to-income ratio of nearly 50 percent. That’s way too high. Check your own debt-to-income ratio – your ratio is over 40 percent you should seriously consider reaching out to a certified debt counselor.
  • Consumers seeking help carried an average of 5.7 credit cards. That’s a lot. If you have too many open lines of credit it may begin to adversely impact your credit score, not to mention the fact that juggling that many different debt responsibilities can easily lead to missed payments and defaulted accounts. Having any more than four credit cards is a potentially dangerous red flag.

If any of this looks like you, you may benefit from professional financial advice. The worst thing you can do is wait too long and let a little problem because an enormous problem, so call today and get back on track.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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