Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How the Recession is Affecting Our Kids....

How the Recession Has Affected Your Kids in an Unexpected Way
By Alice G. Walton

Jan 26 2012, 8:06 AM ET1

Kids live out their parents' financial stresses, according to a new study. That is, your money problems today could hurt them tomorrow.

If you think you and your spouse are the only ones affected by the harsh economic times -- and that your kids are blissfully immune -- think again. Kids, for better and for worse, are a lot more intuitive than we like to admit. Now, a new study demonstrates a cascade of effects set in motion by the economic climate: It begins with the monetary stresses of the parents and ends, several steps away, with the kindness that children express to their peers and family.

In the new research, a team queried parents about certain factors like "money-related chronic stress," depressive symptoms, and how connected they felt to their children (in this last measure, parents ranked themselves on statements like "I feel close to my child," "I am able to relate to my child," and "I feel understood by my child"). Most of the participants were college-educated, middle- to upper-class white families.

Economic stress is linked to depression, which is linked to poorer parent-child relationships, which is linked to fewer pro-social behaviors.

A year later the parents were surveyed again. And so were their kids.

The more stressed the parents were about money, the more likely they (the parents) were to be depressed. Not a surprising finding. But parental depression also affected the strength of the relationships between the parents and their kids: Parents who experienced more depressive symptoms were less connected to their children -- and this was true based on reports from both the parents and the kids.

But the most revealing connection was one between the intimacy of the parent-child relationships and the "pro-social behavior" of the kids. The children, between the ages of 10 and 14 when the study began, were polled on how they felt about reaching out to friends, family, and strangers. They ranked themselves on statements like "I help others even if it's not easy for me," "I volunteer in programs to help others in need," and "I really enjoy doing small favors for my family." Kids who had less-connected relationships with their parents were less likely to exhibit these pro-social behaviors than kids who enjoyed stronger relationships with their parents.

The chain of events goes like this: Economic stress is closely linked to parental depression, which is closely linked to poorer parent-child relationships, which is closely linked to fewer pro-social behaviors in kids.

While earlier studies have looked at the effects of the economy on kids' psyches, they have typically considered only the development of negative behaviors, like substance abuse, mental illness, aggression, and other "problem behaviors." The idea that the economy could, through indirect means, cause a shift or decline in kids' positive social behaviors has not been illustrated until now.

Also interesting is that the study's participants are the people who would typically be considered the most resistant to economic stress. Author Gustavo Carlo says that "a unique aspect of this study is the focus on middle, upper-middle-class families. Most other studies looked at high-risk families (low socioeconomic status, ethnic minorities, rural farm families during the Farm Crisis years)."

Note that this study was just getting underway when the economic crisis began. Carlo suggests that "one would expect that under more dire circumstances the effects could be stronger and more deleterious. Data collection began in 2007, just as the economy was hitting its worst cycle and the outcomes were examined in 2008." The cascade of events that lead from parental depression to a shift in pro-social behaviors exhibited by children is likely present in both good times and bad, but would be more pronounced in times of extreme financial stress.

It would be interesting to repeat the study today and see how the current economic climate might affect the relationships found here. The obvious question, since parents are apparently not so good at hiding their stressors and depressed moods from their children, is, how can we make sure to not transmit our own woes (economic or otherwise) onto our kids?

Since kids are so perceptive -- and sponge-like -- managing the problem rather than masking it is probably the way to go, says Carlo, who recommends becoming aware of the issue first and then taking steps to get support, both psychological and economic. "Parents may need to seek support from relatives (including any available spouse or partner), school counselors, therapists, friends, or others," he says. "Of course, seeking help to address the root issue (economic difficulties) has to be part of the long-term solution. Once parents have begun to address the stress and emotional issues, then they need to focus on their relationships with their teens and to provide the support they need."

Given all the stressors in tweens' and teens' lives, it's important to be sensitive to the extra stresses we unintentionally add. "We know how challenging it is to be a parent and this adds a layer to that challenge," Carlo says. "The responses have to be holistic and this is why professional help is usually a good approach whenever possible."

How the Recession is Affecting Our Kids....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Small Business Financial Coaching Opportunities

New to CCCS of Buffalo - Small Business Financial Coaching

Is your Business and/or Personal Life faced with:


Small Businesses have the same issues as families - pressing financial demands, limited funds, and ineffective planning or budgeting. Frequently, the small business owner does not know where to turn.

Small Businesses, across Western New York, now have a resource to assist with their financial problems.

With trained and certified financial counselors, CCCS of Buffalo is making its services available to ALL Small Business Owners across Western New York.

CCCS of Buffalo, Inc. is Here to Help

CCCS of Buffalo, the area's only non-profit financial counseling agency, has nearly 50 years of experience servicing local families and individuals

From financial counseling and budgeting assistance to debt repayment plans to local financial literacy programs, anyone can benefit from our services.

Before your financial problems overwhelm you, call or visit CCCS of Buffalo. We can untangle the most difficult financial situations.

For only $99 you can meet with our experienced staff to review your business situation. This includes a follow up visit. Call 716-712-2060 to get started today!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

10 Tips to Reducing Credit Card Debt in 2012

Here are the top tips for reducing credit card debt in 2012…

1. Understand that paying off debt won’t be easy. It took time to accumulate this credit card debt, and it will probably take even more time to pay it off. Do not get discouraged or give up. Eliminating debt and building a secure financial foundation for yourself or your family is worth the sacrifice.

2. Get an honest assessment of how much you owe for all credit card debts. It may have been easier to pay the minimums without looking at the total amount that you owe, but misleading yourself only makes it worse. Write down a debt summary that includes the creditor, monthly payment, interest, balance due, credit limit, and due date for each loan.

3. Contact your creditors to negotiate lower rates. The less money you pay in interest, the more money you use to pay off your bills. Unfortunately, negotiating lower rates for credit cards is more difficult now than several years ago but it doesn’t hurt to try. If your lender doesn’t offer a lower rate, shop around for another credit card.

4. Pay off the card with the highest APR first. Continue to pay the minimum on your other cards until you

5. Pay more than your minimum payment. Your minimum payment is usually only 2 to 5 percent of your balance. At this rate, it’ll take you many years to pay off your debt. Start with the card with the highest interest rate and try to double your minimum payment.

6. Balance transfer offers are currently very attractive. So consider transferring your balance to a card with a lower rate. If your rate is above 12 percent, look for a card that offers zero percent for at least 12 months. To take full advantage of this zero-percent interest, pay as much as you can above the minimum payment each month.

7. If you have a credit card balance, stop using it for anything other than necessities. Use cash instead. If you carry a balance, you are paying interest for every purchase, including clothing, entertainment, or dinner. Factor that into each purchase. For example, if your APR is 15 percent, ask yourself if the purchase is worth paying an additional 15 percent in interest per year. Paying with cash will not only save money on interest, but it will also reduce the amount you spend.

8. Pay your bills on time, every time. Not only do you have to pay a late fee, but late payments can also appear on credit reports. Negative information like this can result in lower credit scores and higher interest payments.

9. If you are surprised by your current rates, check your credit report. It may contain an error that lowered your credit score, causing creditors to increase your rates. If you find an error on your credit report, contact the credit bureau to report it. They must respond to your claim in 30 days or remove the information that is incorrect or unverifiable. You can dispute by mail, telephone, or online. If the corrected error results in a higher credit score, alert your creditors to this and ask for a lower interest rate.

10. If you are in danger of missing a payment, or defaulting on your credit card, contact your credit card issuer as soon as possible. Your issuer may work out a payment plan with a lower rate or monthly payment if it will help keep your account out of default. If the first person you speak with can’t help lower your rate or make adjustments to your account, ask to speak with a supervisor or someone who can. Persistence may be necessary to find the person who will help you. Explain that you are in debt, the steps you are taking to repay it, and what you can pay today. Document all conversations, including whom you spoke with, and the date, time, and the results.

Source: Money Talks (

Source: Money Talks (

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Hours To Accommodate Busy People

Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo has expanded our hours to include a Live Counseling Line Open:
Monday-Thursday 7:00 am-8:00 pm
Friday 7:00 am-4:00 pm

***Speak to a certified financial counselor
***Have your questions answered immediately
***No wait for an appointment

Call Now! 712-2060

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Survey Results: Consumers Are Committed To Their Credit Cards

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) December online poll, consumers remain very connected to their credit cards. When asked to rank their 2012 financial resolutions, only six percent of more than 2,300 respondents indicated that decreasing dependence on credit cards was their number one goal.

“At first glance, that statistic could appear to be a warning sign of future trouble. However, credit is not the problem. Instead, it is the misuse of credit that leads people into financial distress,” said Paul C. Atkinson, CEO & President of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc.

Balancing the continuing reliance upon credit, an encouraging statistic from the poll is that the overwhelming majority, 62 percent, selected decreasing debt as their focus for 2012. “If consumers are able to decrease their debt load, continuing to use credit responsibly will help them meet the goal selected by 24 percent of respondents, that of increasing their credit score,” continued Atkinson.

While decreasing debt is always a positive, consumers should not neglect savings, yet that is exactly what respondents appear to be doing. Only eight percent of those weighing in ranked saving as their most important resolution. Without the security of a well-funded emergency savings account, consumers are living without a financial safety net, as unplanned expenses will occur, usually at the worst possible time.

The poll also revealed some interesting trending from 2010 when the identical question was posed. Showing the largest percentage difference between the years, the 2010 poll noted 69 percent of respondents were most interested in decreasing debt, compared to 62 percent in 2011.

The second largest year-over-year difference involved improving the credit score, with that category posting a six percent increase. In 2010, 18 percent of consumers chose increasing their credit score as their main goal, while in 2011, 24 percent selected that category as most important in the New Year. This increase indicates that consumers understand the relationship between the credit score and obtaining credit, confirming their interest in continuing to have access to credit.

“The poll suggests that consumers have recognized the importance of achieving financial stability, and intend to take action. Nonetheless, even though paying down debt and improving the credit score are positive steps, the low priority placed on savings is disturbing,” said Atkinson.

For professional assistance meeting your financial goals, consider an appointment with a Certified Consumer Credit Counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc., at 712-2060 or visit our website,

The actual poll question and answers are as follows:

My #1 financial New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to:

A. Decrease debt 62% (December 2010 poll = 69%)

B. Increase savings 8% (December 2010 poll = 7%)

C. Improve my credit score 24% (December 2010 poll = 18%)

D. Decrease my dependence on credit cards 6% (December 2010 poll = 7%)

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Last Fall, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo Inc. (CCCS Buffalo) launched a Small Business Counseling Program to provide individualized counseling and group seminars to budding entrepreneurs.

Often, small businesses have the same issues as families – pressing financial demands, limited funds, and ineffective planning or budgeting. Frequently, the Small Business Owner does not know where to turn.

CCCS Buffalo’s Small Business Program provides business owners with the proper tools and support with ongoing assistance with business growth and development.

The Small Business Program is off to a successful start and entering 2012 with an added boost. Lakeshore Savings Bank has come in with a $2,000 grant to help with the program. Lakeshore is a strong supporter of the communities they serve, as well as a strong supporter of small businesses.

“We appreciate the support from Lakeshore Savings Bank,” said Paul Atkinson, President & CEO for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS Buffalo). “Like us, they understand that growing the number of businesses benefits the regional economy and improves the economic health of the area.”

Other partners involved in the Small Business Counseling are: the IRS, the SBDC Niagara, the SBDC Buffalo, Loretta Kaminsky, the SBA and the Canisius College Women’s Business Center.

Specifically, the CCCS Buffalo Small Business Program helps with the following:
• Credit report review and credit scores
• Assistance with disputing discrepancies on credit reports
• Creation of a realistic budget
• Cash Flow issues

For information about the Small Business Program, contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc., at 712-2060 or visit our website,