The standards and principles that play a fundamental role in responsible money management are universal. No matter where you live or do business in the world or what type of currency you use, responsible consumers follow a specific set of guidelines with all their financial transactions. While they may not be written in stone, the following list of commandments will ensure that every dollar you
spend works to your benefit, while reducing your risk and protecting you against loss or theft. These commandments should be applied to every financial or business transaction you make and carried forward throughout your life.
1. Thou shalt protect all personal information. Advances in technology have made it easy for you to access enormous amounts of data stored on the Internet and in computers, laptops and cell phones. But that same technology has also made it easier for your financial accounts to be compromised by thieves. Protecting your personal information is vital and will be an ongoing process that requires diligence. Never share your passwords, PINs, account numbers or other identifying information regardless of how official a letter, email or phone request may appear. Create new passwords on a regular basis and never use the same password for multiple financial accounts. Shred and dispose all documents that contain your personal information.
2. Thou shalt do your homework. Before you choose any product or service, be sure to do an adequate amount of research. Comparison shopping in an important key to making your money work for you before you spend it. Researching different services, models and brands before you buy will help you avoid the disappointment of learning that you’ve purchased or signed up for an inferior product. Your goal should be to get the best value for your money, not necessarily the lowest price. Take advantage of the experiences of family and friends by asking their opinion. In addition to being educated on the best products or services for your needs, you will be armed with enough information to barter with the salesperson for a discounted price.
3. Thou shalt review all contracts. No matter what is verbally agreed to, it’s what’s in writing that matters. Get everything in writing. Be sure to look for important information that may be buried in the fine print of any purchase agreement. Never sign any contract or legal document before reviewing the terms and conditions. And never assume that everyone has your best interest in mind when they engage you to sell a product or service. A bit of skepticism can be a consumers’ best asset to help avoid being deceived by false advertising and marketing claims. Ask questions, do your homework and reap the benefits of your due diligence.
4. Thou shalt maintain detailed records. No receipt? No recourse! Keep all receipts, contracts and important papers in a safe location, along with warranties and return policies. While many retailers will allow returns without a receipt, you’ll have to accept a store credit that may not be of much use. A receipt will also prove the purchase date, if you ever have a dispute about the warranty.
5. Thou shalt review your accounts regularly. Responsible consumers acknowledge that change is a natural part of life and finance. Interest rates rise, banks revise their fee structure, pricing for utilities increase and insurance policies need to be reviewed. Examine these business relationships once a year and make the appropriate changes. In addition to monitoring service and credit accounts, checking your credit reports is a vital part of securing your finances. If you ever become a victim of identity theft, information on your credit report may be the first indicator of troubling and will provide early indication of problems.
Be proactive in managing your finances. You’ll be rewarded with serious savings and the security in knowing you’ve done everything you can to protect your assets.
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