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Avoid excessive debt, bankers tell families

Staff writer

Bankers might make their living off loaning money to consumers, but local bankers said they don’t like to see their customers get in financial trouble.

Tampa State Bank president Chris Costello advises young families to avoid revolving credit.

“Pay your credit card in full every month,” he said.

He also advises saving for big purchases, put more money down in order to borrow less.

He said it’s important to save for a rainy day, and it also helps to do business locally in case of an unexpected crunch.

“You will get more help and sympathy when you get in a pinch if you are dealing with a local business,” he said.

He noted it’s important to keep payments current because a black mark on a credit report will remain there for seven years.

Bank President Jim Hefley of Marion National Bank said his recommendations are good for everyone.

“Track your expenses, and know where your money goes,” he said.

He encourages husbands and wives to work together in managing money. They should have no secrets. They should have a plan, set mutual goals, save for emergencies, and live below their means.

He said people should set aside money for taxes and insurance monthly.

“If you get behind on a payment, call creditors,” he said. “We will work with you.”

As children grow older, Hefley said, parents should sit down with them and teach them about money management.

He said people should take advantage of programs that are available to help them manage their finances. He said managing money should be viewed as a positive thing, not a negative.

“Being in good financial shape is liberating,” he said.

Chuck Good, president of Peabody State Bank, said people need to be aware of their incomes.

“This may sound strange coming from a banker, but people shouldn’t borrow money on certain things,” he said. “They need to stay below the industry standard of what monthly payments should be compared to income.”

He said this is not a good time to be over-exposed to debt.

“People should ask themselves, ‘What do I really need?’ compared with ‘What do I really want?’”

He said the attitude of “You only live once, so I’m going to buy whatever I want” would cause financial problems down the road.

If people want something they can’t afford, they can look for a better job, he said.

Central National Bank President Todd Heitschmidt encourages families to pay down and pay off debt, starting with the loans with the highest interest.

He said employees should make sure to take advantage of any employer retirement program, such as a 401k.

“You can give yourself a raise by just entering the program,” he said. “Even if you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement program, start saving. It’s never too late or an amount too small to start saving.”

Last modified Jan. 7, 2015

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