The Thomas family eventually took a class at their church called “Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.”
“I’d love to say it’s easy to getout of debt.
“First thing we did was to get rid of our credit cards, and did a detailed written budget. Then we started paying oﬀ our debts, starting with the smallest balance, while making minimum payments on the rest. As we paid oﬀ a debt, we’d apply that payment to the next, until they were essentially gone. Credit cards should be paid oﬀ ﬁrst, as they typically have the highest interest rates. While we were doing this, we were ‘all cash’ for things like food, clothing, and entertainment. If we needed or wanted something, it went into the budget and we saved for it. We became very disciplined regarding our budget, which made us very mindful of spending,” says Thomas. Thomas and his wife are now almost debt free and are working hard towards being completely out of debt. “I’d love to say it’s easy to get out of debt. It’s not. It is simple, however. Have a written budget. Spend less than your income, and use the extra to pay oﬀ debt. Avoid new debt. It takes time, but if you keep at it and keep your goal in mind, you will get there. The hardest part is learning to say no to yourself.” Personal Financial Planning Services From banks to ﬁnancial planners to accounting ﬁrms, there are many sources throughout Prince William County that can assist individuals, families and businesses to develop and manage their budgets and long-term ﬁnancial plans. To provide the best, most tailored ﬁnancial advice for customers, Whitlock and Putiyon both stress the ﬁrst steps of setting goals and setting a budget. For families, the importance may be placed on retirement funding as well as college planning. For businesses, it may be cash ﬂow. Whatever it is, the current situation will be assessed and a roadmap developed to get there. If your needs have more to do with investments and long-term investment planning, ﬁnancial advisors can determine if a plan needs to be more aggressive or more conservative. “Timeframe comes into play when you are looking at setting money aside (for investing),” says Whitlock. Being able to oﬀer advice on a broad range of ﬁnancial products and services including mutual funds, certiﬁcates of deposit, as well as brokerage services can help people ﬁnd a path to a secure future. Banks and credit unions oﬀer products to the public that not only help people to save for a rainy day, but also encourage ﬁnancial education. Henry Funn, manager of Wells Fargo in Woodbridge, says the bank “oﬀers a unique savings product called “Way2Save” that puts $1 in a savings account every time a person uses their check card for a purchase. It helps people save without feeling the pressure of having to consciously save. “A lot of the branches,” he adds, “have licensed personal bankers who have investment qualiﬁcations and can have a conversation with you about saving for a rainy day or for retirement. There is the potential to map out a strategy, depending on each client.” Like Whitlock and Putiyon, Funn reiterates the need to gather a complete image of an individual’s or business’s current ﬁnancial situation before any recommendation can be made. Having the services of both a bank and a credit union available to you can be beneﬁcial simply because many credit unions are not- for-proﬁt and can oﬀer services and products at lower costs. Of course, credit unions are not as open to the public as banks are; rather, you must have some sort of connection to become a member. To encourage saving from a young age, many institutions have accounts that can be opened in a child’s name with a parent acting as a custodian. All that is needed is a Social Security number, the child’s name and date of birth. These types of accounts allow children to come into the bank, deposit their money and watch it grow over time. “This allows relatives to make checks payable to the child come the holidays or birthdays,” says Funn. Your Finances There are numerous ﬁnancial businesses within the county that can assist you regardless of your ﬁscal circumstances or goals. “Whether it be a new grad looking for a savings plan, to a family looking to save for college, we can work with them,” notes Whitlock. Knowing yourself and your ﬁnancial situation is the cornerstone for starting a budget or ﬁnancial plan. Once you know where you are currently ﬁnancially and where you want to be in the future, things will become easier to manage. Says Putiyon, “I cannot stress enough the importance of setting goals and setting a budget.” To contact the businesses mentioned in the article, please visit Bennett Whitlock at www.ameripriseadvisors.com/bennett.c.whitlock or CAP Accounting, LLC at www.cap–va.com. A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Olivia Overman has written articles for a number of online and print publications. She lives with her husband and son in Woodbridge. Overman can be reached by email at [email protected] princewilliamliving.com.