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When Income Decreases, but the Bills Don't

Tips for Dealing with Unexpected Financial Crisis

Considering the unemployment rates these days, it's surprising how many families are ill prepared for a financial setback such as a layoff. As a nation, we're saving less than 1 percent of our income. In fact, we haven't saved less since the Great Depression.

Experts say that not having an adequate savings cushion is what sends many families into financial crisis. Layoffs, downsizing, "right" sizing and merger mania are all very real threats that catch many by surprise.

"We aren't preparing for the future, and this is a grave concern," says Rudy Cavazos, director of corporate and media relations for Money Management International (MMI). "One seemingly small setback is all it takes to send many families spinning out of control."

If you find yourself unprepared for a financial crisis, MMI offers these tips to help:

Establish Priorities

You must stop spending money on anything but the bare necessities. Consider selling assets to keep afloat.

Stop Charging and Overextending Yourself

You will not get out of this problem by attempting to get more credit. If you know that the income interruption is only temporary, then a small loan to tide you over may be appropriate.

Assess Your Situation and Set up a Survival Budget

Determine 1) the amount of take-home income you can realistically count on, 2) your set monthly payments such as housing, vehicles and insurance and 3) your current variable expenses such as costs for food, utilities and gasoline. Don't forget to consider periodic expenses such as auto registration, insurance or school tuition.

Contact Your Creditors

Try to realistically determine how long your income will be reduced. Create a plan for repaying your debt to each creditor by determining a reasonable amount to pay each month. It is best to contact your creditors before they have to contact you. Mail a letter to each of the creditors explaining your situation and how you plan to repay your debt. Remember that not all of your debts equally impact your family, so contact the higher priority creditors first.

Seek Professional Help

Many organizations such as the United Way and MMI offer products and services that can help families control the chaos of a layoff.

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