Stress and the City recently ran an article which reported that Chicago residents were the most stressed individuals in the United States. Is it any wonder? Chicago’s unemployment rates are hovering above 7%, gas prices are nearly $4.50 a gallon, it’s crowded, and it’s just about to get more expensive to own a home here.

In less than two weeks, on October 1st, Chicago residents will start to see their annual property tax bills hit their mail box, and they better sit down before they open up their envelope from the County Tax Assessor’s office.

When you consider that, as a result of the terrible state of the U.S. economy, that property values have decreased, not just here in Chicago but throughout the United States, it is patently illogical that property taxes should increase. But there it is. On average, the property tax rate has gone up about 8% in Chicago. That’s because the property tax assessment cap of 7% is no longer in place.

Unfortunately, those hardest hit with property tax increases will be those already hardest hit in life – people on fixed incomes from less affluent communities. It’s been reported that the highest property tax increases will be those properties located primarily in minority neighborhoods. And we’re not talking a little big higher than the average 8% tax rate increase; we’re talking an over 70% increase over last year’s tax bill as reported by the Chicago Sun Times!

It’s interesting, the Forbes article talked about stress factors, and mentions things like a person’s attitude, and whether or not they have a viable support system as being the first two factors to calculate a person’s stress level. Interestingly, it puts very little emphasis on a third stress factor, i.e. external forces. Instead of bringing up an issue that so greatly affects individuals – personal finances – it speaks of natural disasters and medical tragedies. Yes, they will obviously contribute to a person’s stress level, but how often do earthquakes occur or are limbs lost? Those occurrences are not quite as common as say, losing a job, filing personal bankruptcy, being evicted… those are external forces that really affect your stress level.

The article also suggests that the ways to overcome stress are 1) to change your attitude -- quit being a nay-sayer and try to find the silver lining in everything; 2) make use of the coping resources available to you – your family and friends, support groups, church, even the government.

Here’s how to overcome the stress factor of finance-related external factors, regardless of where you live: Get some control of your spending and your debt. Don’t just sit back and take it as it comes, or worse, do nothing. Do something about it. Seek debt counseling if you’re not too heavily indebted. Find out if you can reorganize your existing credit card debt with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or have your debt discharged under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy -- DebtStoppers can help you with that. Being proactive about your personal finances: That’s how to reduce stress. Deep breathing exercises and meditation just aren’t good enough.

--Debt Diva

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