Beyond the Numbers

How to Correct Common Financial Mistakes

You’re working at the office, getting stuff done around the house, or hanging out with family when — wham! — a phone call, email or text alerts you that something is wrong with your finances. When a negative financial event hits, don’t let it take you down. Here are some common mistakes and steps to remedy each situation:

  • You overdraw your bank account. First, stop using the account to avoid additional overdraft fees. Next, manually balance your account by reviewing all posted transactions. Look for unexpected items and fraudulent activity. Then, call your bank to explain the situation and ask that all fees be refunded. Banks are not obligated to refund fees, but often times they will. The next steps vary based on the reason for the overdraft, but ultimately your goal is to bring your account back to a positive balance as soon as possible.
  • You miss a credit card payment. Make as big a payment as possible as soon as you realize you missed it. Time is of the essence with late credit card payments — the longer it goes, the more serious the consequences. Then call the credit card company to discuss the missed payment. You might be able to get a refund of the late fees, and perhaps a reversal of the interest charge.
  • You forget to file a tax return. Gather all your tax documents as soon as possible, and file the tax return even if you can’t pay the taxes owed. This will stop your account from gathering additional penalties. You can then work with the IRS on a payment plan if need be. The sooner you file, the sooner the money will be in your bank account if you’re due a refund. If you wait too long (three years or more), any potential refunds will be gone forever.
  • You lose your wallet. Start by calling all of your debit card providers, then your bank and the credit card companies. Next, set up fraud alerts with the major credit reporting companies and get a new driver’s license. Finally, if you think it was stolen, file a report with the police.
  • You miss an estimated tax payment. Estimated payments are due in April, June, September and January each year. If you are required to make estimated payments and miss a due date, don’t simply wait until the next due date. Pay it as soon as possible to avoid further penalties. If you have a legitimate reason for missing the payment, such as a casualty or disaster loss, you might be able to reduce your penalty.

Remember, mistakes happen. When they do, stay calm and walk through the steps to correct the situation as soon as possible.