Far From Alone, 1 in 3 Consumers Dealing With Debt Collectors

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In case you haven’t already seen it, a pretty scary statistic was released earlier this week:

1 in 3 Americans have debt…in collections.

More specifically, 35% of Americans have debt in collections. That means they not only have debt, but they have debt that they are unlikely to be able to pay off.

Generally, my first reaction to scary statistics like this is to want to avoid them. After all, what are we supposed to do with another piece of bad news?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Anyone who doesn’t have debt in collections can breathe with a sigh of relief and move on with their day. Or, they can participate in the dialogue. Why do so many people face debt that has gone to collections? And what can we do about it? And if you are one of this 35% who has debt in collections, how can you recover your finances?

Look around, if it’s not you, it’s someone you know. So let’s get talking about fixing this problem so everyone can face a better financial future.

The Top 7 Financial Podcasts For Millennials

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I love a good podcast. They’re free, they prompt thought, and most importantly, podcasts are what keeps me sane as I enter the scrappy subterranean of the metro and decompress from a work day. I’m that girl laughing in the corner with her earbuds on, or pulling epic “hmmm, interesting” faces. Once, I cried while listening to a particularly tender episode. Clearly, these listens can have a big impact – and not just emotionally. I’ve also learned tons from podcasts. In particular, I’ve learned a ton about managing my finances.

But here’s crazy thing: there’s no category for financial podcasts on iTunes. There’s business, there’s investing, but personal finance? The topic hasn’t hacked its way into the mix. What!? So it goes without saying, there’s no subcategory for “financial podcasts for millennials.” That’s exactly why I jumped at the idea to curate one. Since we millennials are pretty comfy with the idea of incorporating podcasts into our daily lives, what better way to learn about money than via some easy listening? Learning how to manage my money, grow my wealth, pay off debt – these are the things that have helped me to gain control over my financial present and future.

So without further ado, my countdown for top financial podcasts that’ll get you on track with taking control of your financial life. For millennials, from a millennial.

Reader Perspective Series

Lockdown Your Spending By Finding Your Perfect Budgeting System

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This is a guest post by Christina Brannan, a ReadyForZero blog reader and all-around awesome individual. You can read her previous post here and you can leave her a comment below. 

Budgeting: A Key to Paying Off Debt

Once you start getting into your debt payoff plan, you quickly realize that you need some sort of budget. After all, how else will you keep track of how much money you can comfortably shift toward paying off debt? The word “budget” frightens many people and I think it is because you usually hear it in conjunction with something negative. “You’ve spent too much money, so I’m going to put you on a budget!” or “I can’t go out with my friends because I’m on a budget.” It all sounds so sad. It sounds like someone’s being punished and put in time-out.

In reality, budgets aren’t bad things. They are just a plan. You wouldn’t go on a trip to someplace new without a map or your GPS would you? Of course not – you wouldn’t want to travel without your guide. Anyhow, think of a budget as showing you the way forward. After all, you are on a journey to become debt free and the budget is your GPS… your “Great Plan for Spending.” Okay, I know that is cheesy but if it makes budgeting sound positive I’m all for it. Bring on the cheese!

You don’t need any fancy software or computer training to make a good budget. There are many options out there for you if that is what you prefer, but honestly, a good, old-fashioned regular piece of paper and pencil can work just fine. I made a simple spreadsheet in Excel, and that’s what works best for me. Again, this is one of those areas where you should do whatever works best for you. You don’t even need to be great in math to do this exercise either. As long as you can add, subtract, multiply and divide (or have a calculator that can do it for you) you are good to go!

How to Send a Request for Validation of Debt Letter

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Most of the time, receiving a phone call is a painless and even fun experience. But every once in awhile what you hear on the other end of the line can plunge your heart into your throat. That’s certainly what can happen when a debt collector calls.

Here are a few things that may run through your mind in that moment…

…What?? I know I’m current on all of my debt payments!
…Er, huh? Did my identity get stolen??
…Holy crap, did I forget to pay something when I was younger?
…Ughhh. I knew this was coming.

What’s not so easy to guess is what happens next in the panic that’s sure to take hold. But, this is the most important moment for mental clarity. How you handle this moment will affect your financial situation for years to come.

Here’s what to do if you get a call from a debt collector – or rather, what you should not do:

Do not automatically agree that the debt is yours.

If the debt is yours, then you can agree to it after you’re sure the debt collector is legitimate. If the debt is not yours, saying that it is can lock you into a battle that makes it nearly impossible to expunge the debt from your credit report.

So, before you do anything else, you’ll need to gather some more information. This includes verifying that the debt collector is legitimate, deciding if you are able to repay the debt, and, if you don’t think the debt is yours, sending the collector a request for a validation of debt.

New Predatory Lending Directed At Military Families – What to Look Out For

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It’s summer time! What does that mean? Vacations! There’s nothing like falling off the grid for a few days while taking in some sun and sand or exploring a new place. However, it can sometimes take weeks to prepare for a vacation. Between making arrangements and making sure all of your bills are paid before you go, it quickly becomes clear that falling off the grid isn’t so easy.

Now imagine if you were in the service. Rather than a vacation, you might have to prepare for a deployment that can take you away from home for months or years at a time. But just because you’re deployed doesn’t mean you can forget about your responsibilities. Maybe you have a family back home, a mortgage to pay, and other bills that don’t go away just because you do. It’s not easy to manage a home and finances when you’re halfway around the world!

Now furthering that difficulty are companies that take advantage of the fact that service men and women overseas can’t protect their rights as easily as other consumers. Read on to find out more about this predatory behavior and how military families can protect themselves.

Stop Spending on Stuff: The Case For Funding Experiences

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I’ve brought this up before (perhaps more than I should) but I like to ask people a very important question upon meeting them.

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Truth be told, I’d be a squirrel. It’s not the most glamorous of animals but the comparison is pretty apt. I can be a bit… spastic. I also have a habit of “collecting” things that I almost immediately forget. Hence the 12 jars of cumin in my cupboard.

Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point, I promise (like I said, squirrel-spastic).

To be honest, I’ve never considered myself to be particularly attached to things. I don’t usually subscribe to the newest fashions so my closet remains pretty sparse. I don’t have a ton of furniture since I’ve moved frequently in the last few years. All in all, I’m pretty minimalist – that is I thought I was pretty minimalist until I recently did some light spring cleaning. It was then that I was confronted with the fact that even though I didn’t have much stuff… I still had an incredible amount of stuff!! Bags and bags of clothes to donate, a whole dish-set that I didn’t even use… 4 extra pairs of scissors! These were things that were just sitting quietly in my cupboards and drawers, not being used but also not being cut out from my space.

A squirrel indeed.

Seeing just how much I’d accumulated and noticing how much lighter I felt once I donated it was a huge eye-opener. Enough so that I couldn’t get a couple questions off my mind afterwards:

  • Why exactly is it that we feel the need to keep things we don’t use (and continue adding to these collections)?
  • Is there a way to get past the “must keep” mentality for a life that’s free from a habit of collecting?

Let me tell you, when a squirrel mind gets to thinking it doesn’t stop. Unless you write a post about it, that is. So let’s tackle these questions because squirrel or not, we’re definitely living in a consumer culture that makes collecting and upgrading the norm.

Can You Buy a Car With No Down Payment?

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Owning a car is basically a necessity these days. Most of us need it to commute to our jobs, take our kids to school and attend other social activities. But what happens if you need to buy a car right now but don’t have a down payment to put down?

The answer is that it can be tricky, but it’s entirely possible. The question is whether buying a car without a down payment makes sense for you – and whether you should even buy a car in the first place. Below, we’ll consider the pros and cons of buying a car with a down payment and highlight everything you need to know before making that kind of purchase.

The Surprising Link Between Birth Order and Financial Behavior

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What would you say if I were to tell you that I’m an only child? What assumptions would you make about me with this bit of information?

Here are a few stereotypes typically assigned to an only child: selfish, spoiled, needs to be the center of attention. On a positive note, some other stereotypes are: mature, independent, high achiever.

Rather than clue you in on what does and doesn’t actually describe me, I’d like you to think for a minute about your birth order. Are you an only child like me? Or are you a firstborn, middle-child, or last-born? What kinds of things have people assumed about you in life based on this status?

Whether we like it or not, our birth order affects pretty much every aspect of our lives – finances included. And not only that, it can also be a big part of what shapes our relationship with money. Not just how we spend our money, but also how we use it to position ourselves in the world.

(So if you find yourself constantly plagued with a desire to keep up with the Joneses’, know that there could be some environmental reasons as to why!)

Why does this matter, you ask? Because the more insight you can glean into your relationship with money, the better you can improve it. So, let’s dive into the world of birth order to find out its true impact.

Topics We’re Talking About: Eating Healthy on a Budget

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Hello readers, and happy Friday!

Today we’re talking about one of my favorite topics in the world: food. I love making it, sharing it with others, and most of all eating it. In fact, as I sat down to write this post I was so compelled by the image that I had to go grab an apple to snack on. My stomach is clearly impressionable.

What I don’t love so much about my food affection, however, is the budgeting aspect. I consider myself to be kind of culinarily adventurous which means I can to go a little wild with my food spending. Recipes that require a long list of ingredients don’t always come cheap. But that’s not to say you can’t eat well while on a budget!

This week’s roundup includes a free cookbook, top food budgeting tips, and an awesome example of staying accountable with your grocery spending. Read on for all sorts of good stuff to help you plan out a smart (and healthy) food budget!

The Conservative Generation? Recession Creates New Type of Millennial

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The “Me” Generation. We’ve all heard this less than savory nickname for Millennials. Illustrating the disdain some feel for current new grads and young professionals, they’ve been pegged to be lazy and whiny over extended stays in their parents’ homes and their vocal frustration with student loan debt. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. In fact, recent data would make it seem that a more accurate representation of this generation is The Conservative Generation.