Fix Your Finances in 2009

By Kathy Sweeney
As President-Elect Barack Obama and his team work on a plan to get our country out of a recession, local experts say this is a great time to take a good, hard look at your own financial situation.  Certified Financial Planner J. Derieck Hodges of Financial Planning Advisors, Inc.  in Cape Girardeau says, "the struggles most people have with money relates to years of poor money management and behaviors that make it easy to replicate poor choices." 
Here are some tips he suggests to help you start 2009 heading in a good financial direction.

Set a Goal
Hodges says you need to be clear about what is really important to you this year.  And, you should be able to write down these goals and review them on a regular basis.  An example might be "This year, I want to put $1000 in my savings account".   Hodges suggests you set measurable goals, so you can monitor your progress.  "Sharing them with others makes them more real", he also offers.

Write it Down
A latte here, a sandwich's easy to lose track of just how much you're spending.  Hodges suggests writing everything down for a full month.  He recommends using Quicken or Microsoft Money.  I went on line and set up a free account with Quicken.  In just a few minutes, I had a spread sheet of all my expenses taken from my checking account.  It also gave me a breakdown of my upcoming bills.  The only problem I noticed is that it automatically set all my upcoming bills at last month's amount due.....which works for some bills, but not for others.  But, I was amazed at how easily I could see what I spend on food, entertainment, and extras in the past month.  Hodges says you can also keep track by simply jotting everything down in a notebook.

Pay it Up
Hodges tells me he really likes the "pay it up" philosophy offered by financial writer and radio host Dave Ramsey.    Ramsey advocates laying out all your debt, then paying it off starting with the smallest bill/debt first.  "Debt can be an enemy to growth", Hodges tells me.  He suggests you "make a plan to reduce and eliminate your debt on the schedule that really works for you".

Hodges says fixing your finances can be as easy as following the directions on the back of a shampoo bottle....lather, rinse, repeat.  "Work on your plan, review your progress, repeat", he offers.  "Most people have good intentions, they just down't follow up and stay with it."