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Money-avoiders’ should face problems

December 27, 2007

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In a nationwide survey conducted for Money magazine, 36 percent of respondents said they go to great lengths to avoid facing up to financial reality.

Seventeen percent said they avoid facing the financial truth by refusing to look at their bank balances or financial statements.

I would call those people money-avoiders.

I have difficulty grasping why people don't face the truth when a delay can make it so much worse. Sometimes just a telephone call is all that it takes.

As the year comes to a close, perhaps it's time to change your internal dialogue that says, "I can't handle the truth."

A recent chat participant whose brain shuts down when faced with a difficult financial issue asked for suggestions on ways to become more responsible with money.

Here's what I recommend:

¢ When you are tempted to ignore a financial issue, get a piece of paper and write down the consequences of ignoring the problem. Put it in the context of time - one week, one month, several months and years.

For example, if you have a credit card bill you can't pay and you are too scared to pick up the phone and call the lender, write down how bad avoiding that problem can get over time.

Each month you don't pay is another late fee or your interest rate is likely to jump, increasing the interest you pay on the total debt. However, if you call the lender and explain your situation, you might be able to get on a payment plan that will stop the late payments and hold the interest rate steady until you can get back on your feet financially.

¢ Find a financial confidante. This is someone you trust and with whom you can share your fears. He or she should be a good money manager. Don't consult or commiserate with your trifling cousin who is a money-avoider, too, and always late on her bills. The goal is to find someone who can walk you through your options without being judgmental.

¢ Budget. Don't roll your eyes. A budget is your best defense against getting into a pickle in the first place.

If you are a money-avoider, here's a mantra I want you to adopt for the New Year: "I can handle the truth."

- Michelle Singletary is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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