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How to Improve Your Financial Health in 2023

Updated: May 17, 2023

January is quickly approaching, and many of us are thinking about the ways we plan to improve our lives in the upcoming year.

Over the next two weeks Beyond the Box will take a deeper look at the two most common resolutions that we make as Americans, and give you some things to mull over before you set your goals for 2023.

A quick visit to Google tells me that improving financial health is one of the most common New Year's Resolutions, which isn't surprising when 77% of us report feeling anxious about our financial situation, and less than one third of us are considered financially healthy.

This week in the Beyond the Box podcast, Dave and I were able to speak with Richard Tacchino. Richard is a North Country native, the Business Development Manager at St. Lawrence Credit Union in Ogdensburg, New York, and gives an informative presentation in our community on Financial Literacy. With the financial strain we feel during the holidays combined with the impending New Year's Resolutions we thought it was a perfect time to see what advice Richard had to offer.

In this week's podcast Richard not only defines financial wellness, but he also breaks it down into the different aspects of your life that financial health affects - it allows you to purchase a house, to purchase a car, to have credit cards that you can pay off over time, and determines what kind of interest rate you get. We not only discuss the five key factors that are considered when determining your credit score, but we also talk about some of the ways that credit reporting has changed in recent years. We consider the difference between a good credit score and a bad credit score, and Richard gives a great example of how much that matters over the course of a loan. In the interview I was extremely surprised when Richard gave us a scenario where two people were taking out a car loan for the exact same car - one with an interest rate of 4% and one with an interest rate of 11%. I couldn't believe the difference in the amount of money each person paid throughout the life of the loan depending on their interest rate.

We are all human and go through difficult times, and most of us at one point or another, have gotten ourselves into financial trouble. Maybe you have fallen into a pattern of living beyond your means. Maybe you have lost your job, or gone through a divorce. There is no question that it can feel hopeless and overwhelming at times, like there is no way out. Richard shows us that there is a way out, and offers some advice about how to get yourself out of a difficult situation. Whether you are young and looking to build a credit profile, or you have fallen upon difficult times and are looking to decrease debt and rebuild credit, Richard gives us some strategies that can turn it around in just a few years.

Richard taught me the difference between a bank and a credit union, and made me aware of some of the resources that a credit union offers. A credit union considers each individual situation, something that many lending institutions are not able to do. When we spoke to Richard about the philosophy of the St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union, we heard words that were very similar to the approach that we take. None of us can fit neatly into any box, and it is necessary to look at each person as an individual.

One other topic that we were able to touch on in Richard's interview was something that has become a worry in the world we live in. How can we protect ourselves from identity theft? Richard gives us some great tips on how to stay on top of monitoring our transactions, ways to keep our accounts secure, and what steps to take if we feel that our information has been compromised.

Our financial health is not always something we give much thought to when we think of our overall health and wellness, but the stress and anxiety that comes along with financial difficulties can affect our emotional, physical, occupational, and social wellness. Money can even be a reason that we have to move, which directly impacts our environmental health. Keeping your finances healthy is an integral part of our overall health and wellness, but it can be a very difficult area of our life to address. I think my favorite part of this week's podcast came at the end, once we thought that the microphones were no longer recording. We had a very candid conversation and shared some personal stories about the struggles we have each been through in the past. We spoke about how difficult it was to get our finances straightened around after divorce, and even how money and spending can sometimes feel like an addiction - something that we reach for in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. Changing our spending habits is an extremely difficult change to make, but the day that I realized that the shoes that I wore on my feet weren't going to change the person that I was on the inside was the day that I started to realize that the sacrifice was worth the reward.

If you are looking to improve your financial health in 2023, then Richard's podcast is a great place to start. This podcast will give you the information you need to set your goals for the upcoming year. We discuss how improving you financial health can improve the quality of your life, the importance of building credit and its five most important determinants, how you can recover from financial hardship, how to create an effective budget, the difference between traditional banking institutions and credit unions, what a good credit score range is and how to improve yours, how to prevent identity theft, and the best ways that you can \ monitor your credit.

Set yourself up for success and improve your financial health in 2023!

Carrie Woodcock

Director of Wellness and Recovery Services

S.T.E.P. by S.T.E.P., Inc.

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