Work your way out of debt with advice from the founder of Cut The Fiscal Fat

Our nation is celebrating its independence with hot dogs, parades and fireworks this weekend.

As we reflect on our nation’s sovereignty and the concept of freedom on this July 4 holiday, now is the time to declare a commitment to achieving another form of independence: financial freedom.

One of the best ways to achieve personal contentment is to free ourselves from the stress of financial struggles, such as large debts, job insecurity, and scarcity of savings. John Hancock Financial’s annual Stress, Finances and Wellbeing Report found that 72% of respondents experienced moderate to extreme stress in the last six months, and 58% identified finances as the cause of their anxiety. Respondents to the insurance company’s survey said economic conditions, retirement savings and credit card debt were their top three concerns.

Like America’s fight for freedom, achieving financial independence is a battle, and most of us are never given the right tools to succeed. But, it’s never too late to learn how to fight back, and with financial freedom comes something worthwhile, said Megan DeCrosta, CEO and founder of the financial education program, Cut the Fiscal Fat.

“Financial independence is synonymous with sustainability. It means being able to take different hits and setbacks, readjust and ultimately be OK.

Most of us strive to create a safe, healthy, and worry-free financial environment. The problem is that financial literacy education isn’t something that’s easily taught in schools, DeCrosta said. She hopes to change that.

Eighty-four percent of teenagers will leave high school and enter adult life with limited financial knowledge. In an effort to equip teens and young adults with the tools and information to lead financially independent lives, she founded Cut the Fiscal Fat, a digital course aimed at reducing income inequality and tackling generational poverty. through early education.

A licensed insurance broker, DeCrosta pivoted to becoming a certified financial education instructor several years ago, launching her program just before the pandemic hit. The Niskayuna mom of two doesn’t have a degree in finance, but that’s what makes her program so hands-on, she says.

“It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized how little I knew about finances,” she said. Together they plunged into debt, spending and saving. They asked lots of questions, discussed missteps, priorities and goals.

“I realized how important this conversation was and it was a conversation I had never had,” DeCrosta said. The couple researched and developed a program to teach financial literacy and simple debt reduction tactics to adults. But, DeCrosta was adamant, kids and teens should be invited too.

“I always thought, ‘What if I had someone who could give me the tools and the resources when I was young?'”

Today, DeCrosta partners with several local schools, as well as the Boys and Girls Club of the Capital Region, to help teens and young adults learn how to get the most out of the money they have. and use it to achieve maximum success in life. .

The first lesson of the program is “The Foundation”. DeCrosta teaches the basics of investing, borrowing, and protecting money, building personal wealth, building emergency savings, and eliminating debt. The goal is to live without the burden of financial stress. Ultimately, the information is for everyone, DeCrosta said. It is information and education that many of us can use, as many of us have never received it.

“You’re never too young or too old to learn it. Even though we’re geared towards the younger age group and younger population, it still applies to us as adults.”

If you’re ready to make some adjustments and move toward financial sustainability and freedom, DeCrosta has the following suggestions.

Take stock of your expenses: And your lifestyle in general. Audit two to three months of expenses; chances are you’ll be shocked at how much you’re spending.

Check your credit: It’s important to know what’s on your credit report. Check for inaccuracies and revise it regularly. You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

“It’s all about credit,” DeCrosta said. A bad credit history can lead to higher interest rates and fewer loan options. This can make it difficult to find quality housing, affect job prospects and impact retirement.

Continue by focusing on the debt: Debt elimination will not happen quickly. Start by reducing overspending and learning to differentiate wants from needs. Make a repayment plan and stick to it. With rates rising, transferring existing balances to zero percent introductory rate credit cards can be a smart move.

“There is a system in place that is designed to keep us in debt. It’s very difficult to overcome this process, this system,” DeCrosta said.

Save money: Another important step to take when seeking greater financial independence is to build up savings. Even if you only manage to set aside a little money each month, something is better than nothing.

“Make it a habit no matter what,” DeCrosta said. “It will help you in the long run.”

Focus on the long game: No matter how you arm yourself or what strategy you use, it’s important to remember that achieving financial independence is a marathon, not a sprint.

“We live in an age of instant gratification,” DeCrosta said. “It’s important to understand that you’re not going to see instant results.”

Bring everyone to the table: If you have kids at home, include them in the process and be a good role model.

“In addition to including our children in the financial picture as early as possible, it’s equally important to be honest and have a plan,” she said. “Since children learn the most from their parents, it is essential that we set an example and practice good financial habits to follow. Budgeting and self-education are essential in order to spend safely and to borrow wisely.

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