Getting a Financial Check-Up

Mar '13 NC web banner-2

By: Heather Murray

                Getting an annual physical is usually a routine part of good healthcare.  It’s typically a good way to maintain your health and prevent issues before they get out of hand.  Everyone should consider a financial check-up for the same reasons.

                When was the last time you evaluated your expenses to see exactly where your money is going?  Taking the time to evaluate and assess your financial situation may help you figure out ways to better manage your money and put your money to better use.

                Thinking about every aspect of your finances is overwhelming and most aren’t sure where to begin.  Advantage CCS, also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Western Pennsylvania, can help.  The Agency has a state of the art, online credit counseling system that will provide a thorough financial check-up that you can do from your home and at your own pace.  The system requires no personal identifying information or account numbers. 

                             The free system is simple to use and accessible through the Advantage website, www.advantageccs.org.  Before you get started, it’s a good idea to gather some information.  Think about how much your income is, both before and after taxes and other deductions are taken out.  The system will easily calculate your net monthly income by asking you how much your paycheck is and how often you get paid. 

                Next you’ll evaluate monthly expenses, including housing expenses, like mortgage or rent and utility expenses, like electric, gas, phone and cable.  The system also helps identify periodic expenses.  If your water and sewage bill is something you pay quarterly, the system determines how much you should be setting aside each month for this payment.

                Other expenses to consider are car payments, if any, food and clothing and miscellaneous expenses, like dining out, entertainment, and gym memberships. Evaluating how much you’re spending in these areas may give you some ideas on how to spend your money differently. 

                You will also consider debt payments to creditors, like credit cards or loans.  You’ll be asked what are your balance, monthly payment and interest rate.  If you’re burdened with credit card debt, the system may suggest an Agency debt management program for you and will detail for you how long it will take to pay off your debt and the total amount of interest you’ll pay.

                After your information is complete, you will receive a customized budget analysis and an action plan.  This includes a complete breakout of expenses and assets and liabilities based on information inputted into the system. 

                The action plan provides 20+ pages of information and education on how to better manage your money.  It also includes links to resources that may be applicable for your situation and that may useful for better money management.

                Evaluating financial health is an important process that can be cumbersome.  Using the free online credit counseling system available at www.advantageccs.org removes the guess work and provides the education needed to improve your financial well being.