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Special report: stressing over money

Cures for chronic money problems

If money problems seem to be an everyday plague, you may be headed for a financial-health attack. Are you putting yourself in turmoil? Take a trip to the emergency room where we'll diagnose your problem and prescribe a cure.

Symptoms: Cluttered desk, missing invoices and unauthorized transactions
Diagnosis: The disorganized-and-distressed-consumer affliction
Rx: Read the fine print, know what documents to save and what to pitch. Getting organized may be a challenge, but the benefits go a long way.
Keep your bank account in check, Tell them you moved, Read that tiny type in your credit card agreement, Records you should and should not keep

Symptoms: Shock brought on by unexpected charges
Diagnosis: Excess-fees inflammation
Rx: Know your monthly payments' due dates, and mail them early. Wasting hard-earned money on penalties and unnecessary fees is financially terminal.

Cut credit-card late fees, Be aware of hidden holds, Five ways to avoid bouncing checks, Why pay ATM surcharges?
Symptoms: Depression and anxiety over looming debt and high interest rates
Diagnosis: Anemic and undernourished credit rating
Rx: Use self-discipline and determination to boost your credit's vitality.
Keep all your creditors happy, The danger of spreading out credit card debt, How to read your credit report, Fix errors on your credit report
Symptoms: Feelings of emptiness in the wallet due to PMI or high mortgage costs
Diagnosis: Bloated and unstable mortgage
Rx: Look for ways to reduce your current mortgage. Perhaps refinancing would help.
Avoid PMI with a piggyback mortgage, Get rid of PMI early, Is a refi best for you?, Refinancing strategies
Symptoms: Delusions of immortality and eternal youthfulness combined with nausea when thinking of the future
Diagnosis: Undeveloped retirement plan
Rx: Take advantage of your employer's 401(k), and start a Roth IRA to help your retirement nest egg grow tax-free.

Is a Roth IRA the right account for you?, 8 steps to a healthy 401(k), Penalties for cashing out a 401(k), The push to reform 401(k)s
Plus: Tracking your retirement contributions

Symptoms: Living paycheck to paycheck. Frequently associated with blistered fingers due to keeping fingers crossed to ward off unexpected financial pitfalls
Diagnosis: Emergency-fund deficiency
Rx: Build an emergency fund for the occasional crisis. The key is to start now and let it grow.

Tips for spending less and saving more, Building your emergency fund, Develop a spending plan, How to ladder a CD portfolio

-- Posted: Sept. 13, 2002
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See Also
Quiz: Are you financially self-destructive?
Don't give out your Social Security number
7 steps for building financial fitness
Calculator: How long will your savings last?

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