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The New Year is a great time to review your financial standing and to make changes as necessary

Do you have large credit card balances (perhaps from some newly opened store credit cards) that you won’t pay off in full in one payment? If so, you may want to consider a Debt Consolidation Loan to consolidate your bills into a single loan (with a much lower rate, most likely) so that you only have one payment. This is one example to reduce your debt.

This will allow you to pay off your debts more quickly, and to have a set payment each month to work into your budget. If you get the loan through Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union, you can set up payroll deduction payments to make repayment easier. For information about JHFCU loans, call 410-534-4500 or visit .

If you have questions about setting up a budget, consider contacting Accel, a free over-the-phone financial counseling services sponsored by the Credit Union. Accel representatives will answer questions and can help you look at your current expenses and set up a budget for the new year. Accel counselors are available Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. (EST), Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To use this free service, simply call 1-877-33ACCEL (332-2235) or visit them on the web at:

If your expenses are in good shape compared to your income, can you afford to put more towards savings? Now is a good time to increase or reallocate payroll deductions to Savings, Holiday club accounts, or other “special” savings accounts. JHFCU has Custom Savings accounts you can use to direct money from payroll to save for a specific purpose, e.g. Wedding , New Car, or Vacation. It’s beneficial to set up a separate account at the beginning of the year to allow it to grow for needs later in the year.

Also consider setting up accounts for your children. You can allocate portions of your payroll to their accounts each payday so they get a start on saving early. If they are old enough to work at a summer job, they can add to their accounts when they get paid.

The New Year presents the opportunity to make small changes that can perhaps pay off big—by either paying down debt or increasing savings, you can get 2012 off to a good start.

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