The easy steps everyone should take to get out of debt, according to a certified financial planner
Getting out of debt can feel overwhelming. The first step is to organize yourself so that you can plan out exactly how to get yourself to financial stability. Lauren Lyons Cole, a certified financial planner and senior editor at Business Insider, explains the first steps you should take to attack your debt. Following is a transcript of the video.
Lauren Lyons Cole: My name is Lauren Lyons Cole. I'm a certified financial planner and a senior editor here at Business Insider.
I've helped a lot of clients get out of debt, and it's actually a lot of easier than it seems when you're staring at a pile of credit-card debt or student loans that you just don't know how to get ahead of.The first step to take is to get organized. That's the part that a lot of people are afraid to tackle. So take a Saturday morning, make yourself a really nice brunch, and make a list of all of the different debts that you need to pay off. What I mean by that is, make a list of exactly how much you owe to each different place. So if you have a Visa that you owe $2,000 to, put that first on the list. You also need to know your interest rate, the minimum payment, and the due date for that debt. Keep doing that for all the different things you're trying to pay off. That way you can prioritize which debts you want to tackle first.
Once you can see a full picture of everything you owe, you can create a plan. But before you create a plan, it's important to take a step back. There are a few things that you have to be aware of. No. 1, be realistic when you are creating the plan. You don't want to set yourself up to fail. Paying off debt can take a long time. Two years, three years, even longer. So this isn't something you're going to fix overnight. And that's OK.
The other important thing to be aware of, though, is that this is temporary. We are not talking about forever. So any sort of lifestyle adjustments that you make now to pay off your debt will eventually end. And you absolutely can pay it off. I've seen so many people do it.
To tackle your debt, at the bare minimum you have to make all of your minimum payments on time. That's very important for your credit score. So you can set up automatic payments to make sure those payments will go out on time and in full. Obviously, you'll have to pay more than the minimum payment to put a dent in your debt. But exactly how much will vary from person to person, and it could even vary from month to month. A good rule of thumb is to aim to pay double your minimum payment to any of your debts. That might be hard in some cases. So even paying $20 or $50 more can speed up the process of getting out of debt.
I've had luck with clients who have paid the debt that had the highest interest rate first. Some people would recommend paying the smallest debt first. So if that works better for you, great. The point is to gain momentum so that you begin to see your debt balance decrease. It might take a little trial and error to see which one works best for you.
The hardest part about paying down debt is that it really does require a lifestyle change. Again, it's just temporary, but you'll have to cut back on certain areas of your spending if you are going to free up money in your budget to put toward paying down your debt.Once you have a plan in place, it's important to stick to it. But if extra cash pops into your bank account from a tax refund or a really generous gift, there's nothing wrong with putting that toward the debt as well to fast-forward the process.
Paying down debt is a temporary goal and one that is very achievable. All it takes is getting your plan in place, sticking to it, and watching it happen.