Employees usually have a pretty high opinion of their decision-making skills in life, but when it comes to personal finances, most folks are pretty honest about their total lack of good choices.

That’s the conclusion of a poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which found that 80% of workers surveyed readily admitted they routinely made absolutely terrible choices when it came to their personal finances. Those surveyed said they felt they’d made pretty good choices regarding their job, their health or even their marriage, but finances remain a collective disaster.

And with the high-spending holiday season now in high gear – and the old-time tradition of the holiday bonus largely a thing of the past – the organization suggests this might be a good time to get employees to have their own “moment of clarity” regarding their personal finances, especially with the 2014 tax season just looming around the corner, plus all those post-holiday bills.

Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson, said that workers need to do a reassessment of their spending habits and their overall debts and even be sure to actually read their monthly bills, in order to get a better handle on their finances. Easier said than done with all those holiday spending pressures upon us, of course, but … something to think about.

“It is a good sign that consumers recognize and admit their problem,” she said. “Financial awareness often provides the motivation to jolt a person into taking action that can change the course of their financial life.”

In order to stay afloat – and feel better about handling their financial flow – the NFCC has the five following suggestions to pass along to employees:

  1. Face the facts. It’s a painful process to figure out where your paycheck is actually going, as many fear that knowing will force them to make unpleasant changes. Rather, knowing the truth puts a person in control, instead of spending mindlessly.
  2. How much do you owe? It’s an eye-opening exercise. Total your debt, and review the interest rates – and see how much money you could reallocate if it weren’t going to monthly credit charges.
  3. Break the habit. We all have loads of seemingly harmless financial habits, but incidental spending – lottery tickets, Starbucks coffees, vending machine snacks, etc. – all add up and are budget busters.
  4. Are conveniences worth the price? Does a constant pattern of outsourcing – restaurant meals, paying for a house cleaner or even someone to do the taxes – mean you’re giving your money away?
  5. Review your bills. Rather than hiding or shredding that pile of monthly bills, take a look and see if financial hindsight might give you a new perspective on spending.

The NFCC has its own online toolkit, www.SharpenToday.org, to offer budgeting and other financial tools to help get employee finances back in line. After the holidays, of course.

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