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Feature Article: Make 2005 the year you get on the right road to prosperity and financial peace of mind

It's that time again - time for New Year's resolutions, and also, unfortunately, the time of year when consumer debt is usually at its yearly high. Most of us make resolutions dealing with our finances - to earn more, save more, use our credit cards less. Whether you intend to tighten up and gain greater control, or you have significant credit card debt to deal with, the sooner you take action, the sooner your situation will improve. Wouldn't it be nice, when the next New Year rolls around, to feel in control and stress free when you think about money?

In order to improve your finances, you need two things: you need to know the right steps to take, and you need to be able to change your habits in order to implement those steps. If you have been able to change habits in other areas of your life, and just need to know what to do, you may be successful going it alone.

Going it alone

There are volumes of self-help resources out there if you want to improve your finances on your own. If debt is your primary concern, the Federal Trade Commission has a fact sheet "Knee Deep in Debt" ( that outlines the steps you should take when dealing with debt. Of particular value are the descriptions of the credit counseling, debt consolidation, debt negotiation, bankruptcy and credit repair options; pay particular attention to the risks you need to be aware of when dealing with organizations offering any of these services. Buyer beware!

Two keys to gaining control and reducing debt are 1) knowing where your money goes and 2) becoming proactive about spending and saving, that is, deciding where the money will go before it's spent. There are many budgeting options out there, from simple Household Budget notebooks available in the office supply section of most stores, to PC based systems like Quicken and on-line systems like Mvelope. If you've tried any (or all!) of these types of systems and can't seem to make them work for you, maybe knowing "what to do" is not enough.

Getting additional help

If you can't seem to change your habits with money on your own, some outside help can make all the difference. You may have some deep-seated issues with money - sometimes we are aware of them, more often we are not, and we believe we lack discipline or that we are "bad with money". The resulting self-blame and feelings of failure further undermine our efforts to change.

Or maybe over spending is not your problem, but instead you earn too little to cover basic expenses. Budgeting systems don't help with this part of the equation.

When you've tried to change your habits with money and not been successful, financial counseling can help. Working with a financial counselor provides you with a structured process for learning what to do and applying it to your particular situation. Counseling is provided in a confidential and non-judgmental atmosphere. Usually for an hourly fee, you get a teacher, an expert in money management, a money coach, a cheerleader, an additional level of accountability, and the benefit of the experience of all the clients the counselor has worked with before.

If you want to explore whether financial counseling is part of your money solution, contact us to schedule a complimentary appointment. We offer a variety of counseling options to fit your particular needs and resources.

Whether you decide to go it alone or seek professional help, start now to make 2005 the year you take control of your finances.

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." - Lao Tzu