April is National Financial Literacy Month
April 1st marked the beginning of National Financial Literacy Month, a nationwide campaign dedicated to helping individuals take the steps they need to achieve financial wellness. As it’s HPF’s mission everyday to guide consumers back on the path to sustainable homeownership and financial stability, we’ve gathered a few tips below for homeowners who are looking extra closely at their finances this April:
Tip #1 | Check to see if you qualify for the various government-sponsored programs for homeowners
There are several government programs available to homeowners who have been affected by the housing crisis. For example, the Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable (MHA) program offers a refinancing option for homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage as well as a modification program for those who are struggling financially and may qualify for a modified payment plan. Both of these programs expire at the end of 2013, so now is the time to see if you qualify.
There are also special programs for service members, those who are unemployed, and homeowners who may be looking to make a graceful exit from their home via a short sale. HPF counselors, who are available by calling 888-995-HOPE (4673), can walk homeowners through all of these programs and their corresponding application processes.
Tip #2 | Use free online resources to evaluate your finances
Take advantage of the financial tools and information that are available for free online. Money Management International (MMI), one of HPF’s counseling agency partners, created FinancialLiteracyMonth.com, a website that supports Financial Literacy Month by offering free financial wellness webinars, worksheets, and eBooks. Additionally, HPF’s website includes several tips on managing credit cards, utility payments, and education expenses via its “Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline Guide to Saving Money” page; the website also offers a large list of government and financial industry resources that can help struggling borrowers.
Tip #3 | Avoid scams
Unfortunately, there are many unsavory individuals out there who prey on financially-strapped consumers, either by convincing them into financial products that can be harmful or offering “too good to be true” debt rescue schemes. Before entering into any financial agreement with an organization, do your research to make sure that the organization is legitimate. Even a quick “Google” search can reveal negative consumer reviews on a particular organization or an “F” ranking from the Better Business Bureau, which are immediate red flags.
If you believe that you have been the victim of a financial scam, report it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Foreclosure-related scams can also be reported to HPF’s anti-scam team at 888-995-HOPE. These complaints are then used by law enforcement agencies during their investigations into fraudulent activity.
As financial columnist Michelle Singletary mentioned in the Washington Post earlier this month, April is the perfect time to revisit your finances, considering that you’ve likely had to compile all of your financial information in order to file your taxes. We couldn’t agree more, which is why we hope you will use this month to learn more about personal finance and apply the knowledge you gain to make better-informed financial decisions.