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This season, heed the financial ghosts of Christmas

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"Bah Humbug!"

This famous line from Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" sums up the way many of us react when its time to talk finances. Money may be the last thing you want to think about this season, but take a lesson from Scrooge and heed the financial Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. The following information was provided by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans:

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The Ghost of Christmas Past: Debt

Use holiday bonuses and monetary gifts to pay off old debt

If you receive a bonus at work, immediately put it toward other outstanding balances. If you don't keep the extra cash in hand, you won't miss it.

Live within your means

This may mean cutting back on your family Christmas list or re-wearing your holiday party clothes from last year, but in the long run you'll be glad you avoided credit card debt.

The Ghost of Christmas Present: Facing the facts

Check your credit report

One of the simplest ways to gauge your financial wellness is to view your credit report for accuracy and your own knowledge. Websites such as http://annualcreditreport.com can help you retrieve a free credit report.

Prepare for tax time

Before you know it, tax time will be upon us. Believe it or not, now is the ideal time of year to start gathering information for taxes. Remember to include charitable giving to receive maximum tax benefits.

The Ghosts of Christmas Future: College savings, retirement and life insurance

College savings

No matter how small their stockings, it's never too early to start college savings for your children. Work with a financial representative to choose a savings method that fits your needs. Have grandchildren? It may not be at the top of their list, but contributing to their college fund is one of the best gifts you could give them.

Retirement

Talk with your spouse about your retirement goals and objectives to be sure they align and that you're on track to meet them. With the market's volatility in recent years, you may need to revisit your investment portfolio to keep it balanced to help you reach your goals.

Life insurance

We cannot know what the future holds, but we can prepare. Having life insurance and long-term care insurance is a gift to your loved ones because it alleviates financial burden and allows them to focus on what matters most: the family.

The financial ghosts of Christmas don't have to be scary. While facing the full scope of your situation may seem daunting, examining the past, present and future implications of your financial life can relieve stress and provide security for you and your family. Heed the ghosts of Christmas this year, and you, like Scrooge, will be glad you did.

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