SOURCE: Consumer Education Services, Inc.

November 18, 2008 13:53 ET

Consumer Education Services, Inc. Releases Top Four Ways to Protect Money in Current Economic Environment

RALEIGH, NC--(Marketwire - November 18, 2008) - As the economy continues to decline and more consumers find themselves affected by the credit crunch, many are wondering how they can protect themselves and be smart with their money. Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI), a nonprofit consumer credit counseling service, has released a list of four ways consumers can protect their money in the current economic environment.

1. Plan ahead

The most important thing you can do with your money in any economy is to plan ahead. Stash emergency cash and make provisions for future changes in your budget. If you have an adjustable rate mortgage and you are concerned about making payments once your rate adjusts, contact your lender now and try to work out a plan. It is in the best interest of all parties to try to negotiate terms that will allow a borrower to keep up with payments and maintain the home.

2. Consider where you keep your money

While smaller banks aren't necessarily riskier, you could be at risk with a smaller bank that specializes in one specific industry or product. Individual accounts are insured up to $100,000 by the FDIC, including savings, checking, CDs and money market accounts. If your funds exceed the FDIC's limit, you can't buy extra protection, so putting your money in different banks is probably your best option.

3. Pay down debts and make yourself a better contender for loans

The biggest component of your credit score is bill paying history. If you're having trouble paying off your credit cards, let the credit card companies know, or contact a debt management service such as CESI. With so many people struggling to cover credit card and loan payments, there are more ways to handle them than ever before.

4. Continue investing

It may seem as if your 401(k) is losing money, but you should be investing in it for the long run. Pulling money out of your 401(k) early will result in penalty taxes and fees, and bans you from participating for one year. Unless you're fewer than five years away from retirement, keep investing and reduce your risk by diversifying and putting your money in lots of different investments.

For additional information on financial education and consumer credit counseling services, call 866-484-5373 or visit www.MyCESI.org.

About Consumer Education Services, Inc.:

Consumer Education Services, Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to becoming debt free. They are dedicated to improving consumers' quality of life by providing avenues and tools for financial independence and financial freedom. CESI equips consumers with personal financial tools and educational programs that provide solutions for their financial situations, and offers continued support to help consumers make better financial choices every day.