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It takes both short- and long-term planning to stay on top of your finances. Adopt good debt management habits now, and you’ll be much happier in the long run.

By Vincent R. Birardi, CFP®, AIF®, Wealth Advisor as featured in Kiplinger 

With April designated as Financial Literacy Month, we are reminded not to take any personal financial knowledge we have for granted. According to FINRA, as of last year only one-third of Americans have a working understanding of interest rates, mortgage rates and financial risk. That staggering number unfortunately helps drive Americans deeper into debt — and puts them in need of debt management.

According to Bankrate, 35% of American adults carry credit card debt from month to month. This type of debt can hold people back from achieving both their financial goals and enjoying a life well-lived. So how do we work to create a healthy nation of financially stable adults?

Keeping active tabs on your personal financial situation requires both short-term and long-term planning.  When economic times are healthy, there’s a natural propensity to loosen the reins on one’s spending. However, to avoid having to make possibly difficult decisions when (not if) economic times become tough, there are good behaviors you can maintain regardless of the current economic environment to protect yourself from financial harm.

Here are three tips on how to do just that:

1. Use a Budget/Spending Tracker.

As has been often quoted by many business experts, if you can’t measure performance, then you can’t improve it.  This principle also directly applies to your own financial situation.  There are a variety of ways nowadays to track your financial health — namely your assets and liabilities as well as your ongoing cash flow.

There are free apps you can use, such as Mint, that make it simple and easy to track your budget. Setting it up might take some time, but this helps build a solid foundation for your personal financial situation. Once you know where you’re coming from, you can make a plan for where you want to go.

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