TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Folks go to great lengths to make sure they're physically fit. But when was the last time you faced the money mirror? Staying financially fit is just as important for your health and well-being. Are East Texans' finances in shape? Hundreds took the test. Now, our expert weighs in on the test takers' scores and offers up some advice we can all use to get our personal finances in peak fiscal condition.
You could call Todd Mark, vice president of education with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, one of the lead "trainers" inside the financial fitness gym - also known as the CCCS call center.
Todd said you could have scored poorly, but that doesn't mean you're in financial crisis. "It's really judging your capacity to handle some adversity," he said.
Right now, Elisha Lewis is out of work but her husband is employed.
"I believe if you're financially stable, you can afford to go out and by things that are healthier for you," she said.
Last year, Lewis started working out for health reasons. Our quiz revealed she is pretty fit financially. She and her family have no credit card debt, they are current on their payments, and Elisha scored a perfect 100 on our quiz.
But she tells us she does have a substantial amount of medical debt--$10,000 worth. "I'm trying to get that paid off," she said.
Todd Mark wrote the fitness quiz, so we showed him the results of each of our test takers.
"At the end of the day, [that medical debt] is an obligation that's hanging over [Elisha]," he said. "She may not feel that she's spent a lot on credit, but she's still got that debt, and you want to attack that as you would any other financial goal."
Todd said as long as she manages it well, and makes timely payments, Lewis should successfully pay that debt down.
Tim Sherwood was our working, married, father of three. He subtracted four points for not following a monthly budget.
"I think that's helpful," he said. "It's nice to know where everything's going, what's coming in, what's going out."
"If you don't know where your money is going, it's hard to figure out if you're living within your means," said Todd.
Putting together a monthly spending plan is great to where your money is going, and if you're putting anything toward long-term goals, he said.
Todd also said budgeting and tracking expenses allows you to see where your extra money could be put to better use.
The concept is working well for Chris and Randi Freeman.
"We're in a much better place than we were, three years ago and we still have a good ways to go," said Chris.
The Freemans said their bad debt once weighed in at $40,000. They are now at a healthier $15,000 and dropping.
"When you lay awake in bed at night wondering how you're going to make ends meet, that's a horrible feeling," said Randi. "We've been there."
Chris said he and his wife are training for a financial marathon. "It's not something that you do for three years and give up."
The Freemans said they follow a budget. They also have a $1,000 emergency fund. But, they deducted points because they do not have enough savings to cover three months of living expenses.
"We can't save long term for our financial goals unless we get out of debt first," said Randi.
Our expert said it, generally, takes years to get into debt, and it takes years to get out of it, but the Freemans are on the right track.
"In another year or so, they're going to be living debt free," and Todd considers that wonderful goal.
But you have to start somewhere, he said.
Start with living below your means. All that you don't spend could go to savings and other financial plans.
Set up a plan to achieve those goals.
Pay your bills on time, which our expert said, can really effect your credit score.
And use credit responsibly.
"We're not anti-credit," said Todd. "We're anti- the misuse of credit. Don't buy today what you can't pay for, tomorrow."
Todd said no one is going to take care of your finances accept you, yourself. "You've got to be your own best advocate," he said.
You can still take the Financial Fitness quiz yourself.
KLTV 7 and the Consumer Credit Counseling Service will also be hosting two, free "Recession Proofing Your Finances" webinars, Friday.
To register for, either, the 5:30 p.m. webinar, or the 6:30 p.m., click here.
Todd Mark will be on-hand, live online during both sessions to guide you through and help you get your finances in shape.