National Consumer Protection Week a chance to focus on identity protection, debt

theGRIO REPORT - As the economy improves are consumers doing a better job at managing their finances?...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

President Obama has proclaimed the week of March 4-10, 2012 as National Consumer Protection Week. This is the 14th year in which the government seeks to encourage groups to inform consumers on ways to protect their identity, as well as manage their money and debt.

But, as the economy improves, are consumers doing a better job at managing their finances?

“The financial crisis was a wake up call,” says Glinda Bridgforth, author of _Girl, Get Your Credit Straight! _and offers more financial advice at” There are still people who have difficulty due to unemployment or underemployment . It will take time for people to get on a solid footing,” says Bridgforth.

This week is an opportunity for consumers to become familiar with available tools and resources.

“It’s a time of re-awareness,” says John Ulzheimer, President of Consumer Education at

“It’s important to have this week to shed light on what is the necessity of the consumer to stand up and protect themselves,” he says.

Free credit reports have been available for the past 8 years, but Ulzheimer says only 4 percent of Americans request them each year. “Many people don’t know where to get a copy of their report.”

He also emphasizes that consumers should know their rights regarding communicating with debt collection agencies. “There is unawareness of debt collection laws,” Ulzheimer says.

Budget Guidelines

Personal responsibility is critical in accumulating wealth and managing debt. This week could be the best time to take a closer look at your budget and spending habits.

Bridgforth offers rules of thumb to accumulate wealth and pay down debt. She says consumers may want to view their income in these buckets:

Tithing: 10 percent
Saving: 10 percent
Debt Repayments: 10 percent

If you have no debt, this may be an opportunity to do more giving, according to Bridgforth.

Housing: 35 percent
Food/Clothing/Entertainment: 20 percent
Transportation: 15 percent

Allocating income with these guidelines will help people stay a little more balanced, Bridgforth says.

Follow Shartia Brantley on Twitter at @shartiabrantley