April is National Financial Literacy Month, aimed to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.
In honor of this important month, financial advisor and CNBC's retirement expert Bill Losey is revealing his "6 Steps To Get Out of Debt."
With recent reports that half of American families are carrying more than $25,000 in debt and the nation's unemployment rate at a staggering 8.1 percent and expected to climb, debt reduction is the top of everyone's list.
Losey's 6 steps include:
1) Make a budget. "Where does all the money go?" If you are asking that question, here is where you learn the answer. You might find that you're spending $80 a month on energy drinks, or $100 a week on lousy movies. Cable, eating out, buying retail – costs like these can really eat at your finances. Set a budget, and you can stop frivolous expenses and redirect the money you save to pay down debt.
2) Get another job. I know, this doesn't sound like fun. But having more money will aid you to reduce debt more quickly. A family member who isn't working can work to help reduce a shared family problem.
3) Sell stuff. The Internet has proven that everything is worth something. Go to eBay, craigslist or Kijiji – you'll be amazed at the market (and the asking prices) for this and that. What people collect, want and buy may surprise you. Don't be surprised if you have a few hundred dollars – or more – sitting around your house or in your garage. You might be able to pay off a couple of credit cards – or even a loan – with what you sell.
4) Ditch the big car payment and drive a cheaper car that gets good MPG. Say goodbye to the monster SUV (or the overpriced sports coupe). Get a car that makes sense instead of a statement. Your wallet will thank you.
5) Pay off all debts smallest to largest. The benefits are psychological as well as financial. Knock off even a small debt, and you have an accomplishment to build on – encouragement to erase bigger debts. Also, every debt you have incurs its own interest charge. One less debt means one less interest charge you have to pay.
6) Or, pay off your highest-interest debts first. Take a minute to figure out which of your debts hits you with the highest interest rate. Pay the minimum amounts toward each of your other debts, and apply all the extra money you can toward paying off the debt with the highest interest. This will have a cumulative effect. Your highest-interest debt will become smaller, meaning you will be saving some dollars on interest charges on the balance because the balance is lower. If the balance is lower, you should be able to pay off the debt faster. When you say goodbye to that debt, you can start paying down the debt with the next highest interest, and so on.
Keep the real goal in mind. Building wealth, not reducing debt, should be your ultimate objective. Some debt reduction and debt consolidation planners obsess on getting you out of debt, but that is only half the story. Minimizing debt is great, but maximizing wealth is even better.