Wisconsin Collectors Association: Personal finance tips for Wisconsin’s young adults

Contact: Mark Schiffman, (952) 259-2124, [email protected]

MADISON – Heading off to high school, college or the military is an exciting time and an important gateway for Wisconsin young adults to become more financially independent. In addition to hitting the books, learning essential personal finance skills can help along the road to success.

“Good financial habits begin early in life and can help ensure a sound financial future,” said Wisconsin Collectors Association President Tina Hanson. “Learning is a lifelong journey and we are never too young or old to start.”

Set and maintain a budget. Effective planning and budgeting is a cornerstone to positive financial health. Set goals, create a budget and keep track of what you spend. Good budgeting and spending habits last a lifetime.

Start saving today. A sound savings plans may help ease financial stress. Even if you begin with a nominal amount, pay yourself first and put the money in a separate account so it can build over time. If your employer offers a 401 (k) or retirement plan, take advantage of it. The sooner you start saving, the better.

Take responsibility. Getting a loan, obtaining credit or using a credit card can be very helpful but it comes with an immense amount of personal responsibility to live up to your obligations in paying back a debt. On the other end of the credit is a creditor expecting repayment. Maintaining healthy debt levels and repayment practices provides significant positive or negative impact on your ability to get credit in the future.

Understand credit and use it wisely. When used properly credit can be helpful. If not, credit can become a difficult burden. From student loans to credit cards to auto loans: know the terms and conditions; shop for low interest rates; make payments on time; and understand the ramifications of making a late payment or missing a payment. Know the ins and outs of credit reporting and its impacts on building a good credit score, which is used to determine eligibility for future credit including auto loans and home mortgages.

Communicate. If you are in debt or need to miss a payment, don’t ignore the issue. Be proactive and contact the creditor or debt collector to discuss the situation and seek a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you are contacted by a creditor or debt collector, do not ignore them. Remember, they aren’t the enemy and communication to discuss the account, verify its accuracy and work on a plan for resolution can be very helpful. For more information about working with a debt collector visit www.askdoctordebt.org.

Protect your personal and financial information. Be careful about giving out information including a credit card, bank account, or Social Security number over the phone and online until certain of the authenticity of the other party. Monitor accounts and immediately report any suspicious or unauthorized purchases to your bank or credit card provider. Importantly, consumers should also monitor their credit report. If you believe your identity has been stolen, contact your local police department and visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft for information on what you should do.

Active military have special privileges. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows active military and, in a few cases, non-service members, to suspend or postpone certain civil obligations. A lender, creditor or insurer is prohibited by law from taking any adverse actions against military personnel because they exercised their rights under SCRA, which can only be exercised while engaged in active duty; including full-time training; annual training duty; and attendance at a service school while in active military service.

The Wisconsin Collectors Association is a State Unit of ACA International (www.acainternational.org), the comprehensive, knowledge-based resource for the credit and collection industry. Founded in 1939, ACA brings together nearly 5,000 members in the United States and abroad, and their more than 300,000 employees, including third-party collection agencies, asset buyers, attorneys, creditors and vendor affiliates.