16 Signs You Need a Money Intervention Now

Discover the warning signs that scream 'financial red alert' before it's too late.

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Updated June 6, 2024
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While essential in our lives, money can quickly become a source of stress, especially if you're constantly walking a tightrope between saving and spending.

If the scales are tipped too far towards stress, it might be time for a money intervention.

Here are some telltale signs that you could benefit from a closer look at your financial health.

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You’re living paycheck to paycheck

Andrey Popov/Adobe businessman opening envelope with paycheck

If you’ve got nothing left after all your bills, you’re one misstep or extra expense away from financial disaster. 

Your spending habits might need adjustments if you want to build up your savings, or you may need to work on increasing your income, or both.

Your credit card balances are rising

Shisu_ka/Adobe stressed about credit card debt

Being in credit card debt isn’t uncommon — 35% of Americans carry a balance from month to month. If you’re in the process of paying these off, that’s not a huge cause for worry.

But if the balances are climbing month after month, you’ve got a problem. 

You have no idea what your credit score is

Delcio Fernandes/peopleimages.com/Adobe businesswoman looking confused while working

Your credit score is one key indicator of your financial health. Knowing your credit score (or at least a ballpark estimate) is important, especially if you’re taking big financial steps soon, such as buying a house or refinancing your car.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

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You often pay bills late

Olivier Le Moal/Adobe business debt collection or recovery

We’ve all missed a bill payment before, but a habit of paying your obligations late is an indicator of financial mismanagement. 

Besides dealing with your utility company or landlord’s angry phone calls, you’ll also have to deal with unnecessary, expensive late fees that can add up quickly.

You don’t have an emergency fund

Deemerwha studio/Adobe saving for an emergency concept

In recent years, high inflation and layoffs have posed a savings challenge for many Americans. However, these economic ups and downs have highlighted the importance of having a rainy day fund for emergencies.

If you’re part of the 22% of Americans with no emergency savings, here’s your sign to start regularly contributing to a savings account.

You aren’t getting your company’s 401(k) match

piter2121/Adobe calculator pen and glasses

You’re leaving money on the table if your employer offers a 401(k) plan with a match and you’re not contributing enough to get it. This is basically free money to help fund your retirement.

Even if your plan has limited investment options, it’s usually worth it to at least contribute enough to get the employer match.

You’re not minimizing your taxes

pkstock/Adobe filing online taxes before deadline

Uncle Sam’s cut of our income is a hidden expense we often don’t realize we’re paying. However, there are several ways to reduce the amount you’re paying in taxes. 

These strategies are worth looking into if you’re not doing this already. If you’re unsure where to start, hiring a tax professional can help.

You don’t know your net worth

Malik/peopleimages.com/Adobe tax crisis in living room

This is another barometer of financial awareness. Your net worth is the total of everything you have of value (i.e., your home, cars, cash, savings, retirement accounts, etc.) minus your debts (mortgage balance, car note, student loans, credit cards, etc.).

Ideally, this number should increase over time as you save for retirement and pay down your debts.

Your credit score is decreasing

wirojsid/Adobe report with pen and keyboard

It’s normal for your credit to take a minor hit after you apply for a new credit card or close an account. However, if your credit score keeps decreasing over multiple weeks or months, it’s time to reassess your relationship with credit to determine if it’s becoming a problem.

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You avoid talking about money with your partner

auremar/Adobe a couple is sitting separately

We get it — money isn’t always a sexy topic, especially when you disagree on how to handle things. However, avoiding financial discussions often results in a deepening wedge between you and your partner. 

Plus, it’s usually just kicking the can down the road, and the disagreement is likely to be more intense if you let the issues fester.

You’re allowing lifestyle creep

Jelena/Adobe prettty woman in shopping

As your salary increases over time, it can be tempting to let the increased income be gobbled up by a nicer car, upgraded tech, more lavish vacations, and other non-essential spending. 

Those who are financially savvy can increase their savings rather than spending when they get raises.

You use savings to pay regular bills

StockPhotoPro/Adobe woman checking expensive bills

When you dip into your emergency savings to cover the basics like food and rent, that’s a signal of a problem. 

It could be an income problem (you’re not making enough to cover your current expenses) or a spending problem (you’re spending too much in other areas, leaving little to nothing for the essentials.

In either case, it’s imperative to track down the core issue before your savings run out.

You’re not accounting for extra expenses

Monkey Business/Adobe car accident calling insurance company

Accidents and emergencies happen, and your emergency fund is designed to cover those black swan events. But holiday spending occurs at the same time each year, the brakes on your car won’t last forever, and you’ll need a new water heater someday.

These one-off expenses are not regular, but they are predictable, and financially savvy folks build savings for these costs into their budgets.

You often spend based on your emotions

Rawpixel.com/Adobe group of people shopping concept

Call it retail therapy or reward spending — using our wallets to soothe or validate our feelings can cause money issues. 

Shopping to escape reality or make yourself feel better is a temporary fix. Unfortunately, the credit card bill lasts longer than the dopamine rush.

You don’t have clear financial goals

cn0ra/Adobe blank notepad with calculator

If you don’t have a defined goal for your money, you’re not likely to end up in a satisfactory place. Cash tends to wander away if you’re not mindfully trying to send it in a particular direction.

Besides, having a goal makes it possible to attach positive feelings of accomplishment to money, which can help create a healthy relationship with money.

You don’t know how much debt you owe

Wayhome Studio/Adobe budget together in kitchen interior

Most of us (about 77%) owe debt in some form. However, it’s important to know exactly how much and where so you can track your progress and pay it down

It’s hard to make sure the needle is moving in the right direction if you don’t know how much debt you’re in.

Bottom line

goodluz/Adobe thoughtful in front of laptop

Each one of these signs might not be cause for alarm bells to go off. However, if a few apply to you, it may be time to reassess your spending, savings, and overall direction with money.

Don’t feel you need to become perfect or completely reverse course overnight. Instead, make some simple money moves to right your financial ship.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson

Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.