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Consumers need to learn to track their spending, protect their identity and take the time to understand what credit is and how to build it.

Financial fitness isn’t achieved overnight. Establishing a healthy financial lifestyle takes time, knowledge and dedication. Now American Consumer Credit Counseling is offering a guide to help consumers achieve better financial health.

“Getting organized is one of the keys to achieving lifelong financial health,” said Steve Trumble, President and CEO of the non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling, which is based in Newton, MA. “Consumers need to learn to track their spending, protect their identity and take the time to understand what credit is and how to build it.”

According to a recent Fox Business report, the average savings rate in the United States is 5.5 percent, dramatically lower than the recommended 10 to 15 percent. Still, there is also encouraging news. Bankrate’s June 2017 Financial Security Index survey found that only 24 percent of American adults now say they have no money at all for an emergency. And 31 percent of those respondents say they have enough savings to cover six or more months of expenses should an emergency occur.

“Getting in the habit of saving money every month is really important,” said Trumble. “But there’s a whole host of important steps to achieving true financial health.”

Here are American Consumer Credit Counseling’s 20 steps to financial health:

1. Pledge to change how to feel about money – examine your attitudes about money and decide that you are ready to change your financial situation.
2. Get organized – organize income and expenses to see your whole financial picture.
3. Get copies of your credit report – Review for accuracy to identity errors or fraudulent activity.
4. Dispute any erroneous information on your credit report – write to the credit reporting agency disputing the item and include any supporting documents.
5. Set financial goals – goals should be specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely.
6. Set short-, mid- and long-term goals – goals differ in length of time needed to achieve them.
7. Track your spending – it is important to determine where and how your money is being spent in order to achieve financial health.
8. Create a budget – a budget shows the flow of money in (income) and out (expenses) of the household.
9. Reduce spending – reducing daily, weekly and monthly spending is crucial in achieving financial health and an instrumental step to successful budgeting.
10. Determine your net worth – knowing your net worth allows you and measure your progress over time. The more you save, the greater your net worth.
11. Pay down debt – calculate your monthly payoff amount and date of completion by using a debt payoff calculator.
12. Eliminate unnecessary credit cards – the best number of credit cards depends on your ability to manage your debt and credit card payments.
13. Start a savings plan – consumers should plan on committing to a 10 percent savings plan.
14. Protect your assets – review your health insurance policy, auto policy, life insurance and disability insurance to ensure there is adequate coverage.
15. Manage major purchases – before making a major purchase review your financial goals, budget, cash flow and accessibility and availability of credit.
16. Secure your financial future – investing is one way to potentially grow your net worth. Take advantage of employer-sponsored investment plans such as a 401k.
17. Financial checkups – periodically check-in and make sure you are on track as it is easy to let things fall by the wayside once a routine is created and things can change.
18. Understand the cost of credit – be sure to weigh your options before making a credit decision.
19. Protect your identity – check your credit report for signs of identity theft, errors in reporting or other red flags.
20. Watch out for the warning signs of financial trouble – some signs include paying bills after the due date, skipping a credit card bill to pay another or ignoring credit card statements.

ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:

  • For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
  • For bankruptcy counseling, call 866-826-6924
  • For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
  • Or visit us online at http://www.ConsumerCredit.com

About American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management through credit counseling, debt management, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling and financial education concerning debt solutions. To help consumers reach their goal of debt relief, ACCC provides a range of free consumer personal finance resources on a variety of topics including budgeting, credit and debt management, student loan assistance, youth and money, homeownership, identity theft, senior living, and retirement. Consumers can use ACCC’s worksheets, videos, calculators, and blog articles to make the best possible decisions regarding their financial future. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to ConsumerCredit.com or visit http://www.consumercredit.com/financial-education.aspx

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