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 happened with your finances. When a not-so-nice financial event hits, don’t let it take you down. Here are some common miscues and steps to remedy each situation:
- An overdrawn 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 sometimes 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.
- A missed credit card payment. Make a payment as soon as you realize you missed it. If possible, consider paying off the entire outstanding balance because interest will be assessed on old AND current charges. Then call the credit card company to get them to refund the late fee and interest charges. The customer service representative will look at your account, see the payments, and be more willing to do as you request. As long as you aren't habitually late with payments, you can usually get the fees eliminated or reduced.
- A tax return that didn't get filed. 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 if necessary on a payment plan. 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.
- Losing a wallet or a purse. Start by calling all of your bank, debit and credit card companies. Set up fraud alerts with the major credit reporting companies and get a new driver's license. Then file a report with the police. Visit identitytheft.gov and review additional steps and procedures to protect yourself.
- A missed 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 or even eliminate your penalty.
Remember that mistakes happen. When they do, stay calm and walk through correcting the situation as soon as possible.