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Making resolutions? Don’t forget your financial tune-up for 2012.

Charter One encourages consumers to review their finances and establish a plan for the new year before ringing in 2012

CLEVELAND, OH – To help consumers enter the new year with a better understanding of their spending habits and their overall finances, Charter One is encouraging consumers to take the time now to establish their savings goals and to consider some simple but effective budgeting strategies as part of a financial tune-up for 2012.

“The beginning of a new year is the perfect time for consumers to review their finances and to conduct a simple financial tune-up that can help them recognize any patterns they want to change or new opportunities to save in the year ahead,” Kenneth E. Marblestone, Charter One’s President and CEO for Ohio. “We encourage our customers and all consumers to take the time to review their records for 2011, write down their financial goals and start thinking about their household budgets for 2012.”

As a guiding principle, Charter One recommends that consumers build a sound foundation for financial health by saving more than they spend. The bank also suggests the following checklist for an annual financial tune-up:

  • Identify your goals – Start by writing down your financial goals for 2012. Setting specific goals such as saving for a house or paying down debt is not only smart, it's rewarding. And writing down these goals helps to make them concrete.
  • Build a budget – Budgeting is not just about saving money. It also is about taking control of your spending and understanding better where your money is going. Write down and analyze your expenses, especially small but recurring expenses like your morning cup of coffee. Compare your monthly income to what you're spending every month. And make sure your budget includes putting money into an interest-bearing savings account every month.
  • Eliminate and reduce debt – Look for lower credit card rates and consider consolidating high balances to the card with the best rate. Pay off credit card balances as much as practical. If you are carrying balances from holiday shopping, make paying them down as quickly as possible a priority.
  • Establish automatic savings – "Pay yourself first" by having part of your paycheck automatically deposited into a savings account. The most successful savers start out small, increasing the amount over time.
  • Evaluate your retirement savings strategy – Are you enrolled in your employer's 401(k) plan? If not, you likely should be, because any employer match is the equivalent of "free money." Should an IRA be part of your strategy for 2012?
  • Check your credit reports – The three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) each offer one free credit report per year via AnnualCreditReport.com. Review your credit history and dispute any errors you might find.
  • Seek advice – Talk with your banker, financial advisor or accountant for additional suggestions. Many offer free initial consultations to help determine if this option is right for you.

These financial tips will help you identify opportunities to end 2012 in better financial shape than you started.

The following programs also are available to Charter One customers as they pursue their financial goals in 2012:

  • GoalTrack SavingsSM - This award-winning program, which offers bonuses to Charter One customers who reach their monthly savings goals, can be added to any eligible checking account. Bonuses come in the form of gift cards worth up to $250 from leading retailers.
  • CollegeSaverSM - CollegeSaver accounts offer financial incentives to families saving money for college. Customers who open a CollegeSaver account before their child's 12th birthday and who save the monthly minimum amount every year receive a $1,000 bonus plus interest when their child turns 18.
  • HomeBuyer SavingsSM - This program offers $1,000 toward the closing cost of a Charter One mortgage to savers who have put away $100 a month for 36 months.
  • Value Plan - Charter One customers who sign up for this new set of features for checking accounts can receive more than $500 per year in discounts and coupons on shopping, dining, entertainment and travel, plus $120 cash back for paperless banking. The Value Plan, available for $6.99 per month, also includes features like a return guarantee, price protection and warranty extension. These features also are available through the Combined Plan, which for $10.99 per month delivers additional features like credit monitoring, fraud protection and card and document registration.

Offering a broad overview of personal-finance topics, MoneyHelp® is Charter One's easy-to-use online guide to smart solutions, interactive tools and other resources that can help consumers gain control of their finances. MoneyHelp can be used to develop a household budget, understand credit, plan for life's most important events and more.

For more information about Charter One and to see other tools that can help you reach your financial goals in 2012, visit charterone.com or call the bank's 24/7 customer service line at 1-800-922-9999.

About Charter One
Charter One is a division of RBS Citizens, N.A., operating in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. It has 365 branches and 564 ATMs. Charter One’s website is charterone.com.

RBS Citizens, N.A., is a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group, Inc., a $131 billion commercial bank holding company. It is headquartered in Providence, R.I., and, through its subsidiaries, has more than 1,500 branches, approximately 3,900 ATMs and more than 20,000 colleagues. Its two bank subsidiaries are RBS Citizens, N.A. and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. They operate a 12-state branch network under the Citizens Bank brand in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, and the Charter One brand in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. CFG has non-branch retail and commercial offices in more than 30 states. CFG is owned by RBS (the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc). CFG's website is citizensbank.com.