The last few years have been unkind to checking accounts and credit card statements across the country. But if you’re buckling under the weight of looming bills, crushing debt, and insufficient income, there might be a few bright spots that you’re glossing over. It’s easy to be pessimistic when you’re in the financial doldrums, but if you owe too much, earn too little, and are eager for a change, keep an eye out for the following signs that you might be doing better than you think — and use them as a starting point for success.
You Live in Your Biggest Asset
When people fall on hard times, they’re often reminded to be grateful for four walls and a roof. That notion is especially comforting if you own the walls, roof, and everything within.
“One sign of you doing better financially than you thought is that you own a home,” said Matthew Robbs, founder of Smart Saving Advice. “In recent years, simply owning a home has likely caused your net worth to increase dramatically. For example, someone I know who lives in the Phoenix area has seen their net worth increase by over $150,000 in three years simply because their house has dramatically increased in value. It’s easy to not realize your home is appreciating if you don’t pay attention to real estate prices, but you could find you are far more well off than you thought simply because of the increase in housing prices.”
You Have a Goal and a Plan to Reach It
Even if money’s tight, you’re in better shape than most if you’re actively planning, strategizing, and working toward financial security. According to Sean Fox, president of Freedom Debt Relief, the following is a telltale sign that you’re doing better than you might think.
“You are working — with your spouse/partner/family as applicable — toward goals you’ve set, which could range from buying a new TV to retirement at a certain age,” said Fox. “And you know how much money comes in every month and what goes out. In effect, you have a budget — simply a spending plan.”
You Save Regularly — Even if it’s Only a Little
You might judge your own success or failure by the size of your savings — but the habit of saving itself is more important to your long-term success than the amount you have squirreled away.
You’re doing better than you might think if “you’ve developed a savings habit,” Fox said. “People who save regularly — a set percentage from every payment received, whether from salary, freelance work, side gig, or yard sale — are quietly developing good financial habits that will help them achieve the goals they set, and weather unexpected hard times.”
You Could Survive a Few Turbulent Months
One of the scariest financial statistics involves the millions of Americans who couldn’t survive even a modest financial speed bump. Therefore, you’re doing better than you might think if “you have an emergency fund that could cover six to nine months of basic living expenses,” said Fox.
“The vast majority of Americans can’t even cover a $500 expense. The reality is that even this little will go a long way toward the inevitable unexpected car repair, doctor’s bill, or other expense.”
You Don’t Carry Credit Card Debt
If you feel like you’re struggling, you might be doing better than you think if you don’t carry a balance on your credit cards. By paying your statement in full every month, you avoid finance charges and the trap of revolving debt. But the benefits of not carrying a balance are bigger than avoiding interest charges — it speaks to a healthy financial mentality.
“Charging no more than you are sure to pay off in full and on time each month promotes living within your means,” said Fox.
Your Checking Account is Never Short
Overdraft fees and returned check fees are a drain on your bank account, but like credit card finance charges, the bigger problem is the shaky financial foundation that they spring from. If none of that applies to you, that’s something to be proud of.
“One sign that you are doing well financially is when you never overdraw your checking account, said Olivia Tan, a Florida-based personal finance coach and the co-founder of CocoFax. “Even if you have overdraft protection with your checking account, you still prefer to keep a cushion in your account, rather than relying on the protection — and you absolutely, positively, never bounce a check.”
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