Let’s face it. We all make mistakes. Some are more serious than others, and some can havelasting effects.
Messing up your credit history is one of those.
What do we mean? Well, even if you were careless with credit in the past, you can make amends now. But it takes time so if you’re in the market for a new home and your credit score is less than what it takes to qualify to buy one, you need to get started on correcting things sooner rather than later.
They don’t call them emergencies for nothing.
But even if you have a health concern that’s not a crisis, medical treatment can still rack up bills at an incredible rate. What options are there if you find yourself unable to pay for medical care costs?
It appears that even in the dead of winter, the housing market is smoking hot.
The supply of homes for sale, according to REALTOR.com, is still scarce while buyer demand continues to increase. Sales of existing homes in January 2017 hit a 10-year high, with indications that February would also remain strong as houses flew off the market 5% more quickly than a year ago. And, prices remain at record highs.
What does it all mean? Looks like another banner year for sellers.
Let’s face it. The credit industry has suffered a few black eyes over the years. Add “repair” to that, and it gets even worse.
The truth of the matter, as we’ve said before, is that there is no one company out there who can “fix” your credit report. Only you can do that by reducing your debt, curbing your spending, and paying your bills on time.
So, you’re getting married. First, congratulations. Second, it’s time to get serious.
That may seem redundant (you were serious enough to get engaged, right?), but it isn’t. Now is the time, before you’re married, to talk seriously about money, property, credit and debt.
When it comes to monthly bills, it’s never too early to work on your credit rating by being proactive. Always keep your monthly utility, credit card, auto, student loan, and other payments on-time and current. Everything you do counts toward your ability to borrow money for your dream home regardless of need.
Shedding Light on Utility Bills
Having a bad credit history can affect you in ways you probably didn’t think possible. One of them is your ability to apply for and access utility services.
You know, things like electricity, water, and the internet.
Turning on the lights can be a bit more complicated if you’re struggling with bad credit, or have no credit history at all. Here’s why. There are two items that utility providers will likely check when you apply for their services. First is your credit history, and second is something called your Utility Score.
The span between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day is known as Engagement Season. If you were one of those happy couples sporting a new diamond over the holidays, you definitely weren’t alone. By some estimates, more than seven million people got engaged last year on Valentine’s alone.
That’s right, seven million.
Who Uses Credit Reports?
If you think about it, just about every employer, lender, or service provider at some point in your life wants a look at your credit report.
Why? Because in one way or another it reflects upon the level of “risk” you represent. And by risk we mean to them, not you.
There are certain life events that “trigger” why a company/entity wants to pull your credit report. The most obvious include:
So, you had a great holiday season. Your gifts were a big hit and the party was a smashing success.
Now it’s time to pay the piper. Literally.
Right about now lots of people across the country are waking up to a scary reality. They went deep into debt over the holidays. They spent money they didn’t have and now a crushing credit card bill (or bills) is winging its way through the mail or into their inboxes.
If this describes you, we get it. Our advice? Don’t despair. First, take a deep breath. You’re not the only one. And, you can fix this. It’s not easy, or simple, but it is doable.
Once you’ve come to grips with reality, it’s time to start planning. If you haven’t created a budget for yourself, do so now. Figure out what you owe, and how much you can pay toward it each month and still pay your other bills on time. It is essential to stick with your budget no matter what. It’s easy to get distracted over time, but for the sake of your financial health you must stick with the plan.
Next? Don’t take on any new debt. It’s easy to charge things but it’s crucial to put the cards away until you have paid your debt down. Some experts recommend placing credit cards in the freezer until you’re out of debt – a symbolic and literal way to freeze your credit spending.
As a new year begins, we all get the chance for a fresh start. If you did go into debt over the holidays, use it as a lesson for 2017. Keep in mind three sensible steps to take to stay out of debt:
Ancient myth and folklore exist in every culture, but the most well-known probably stem from Greek history. Can you say Hercules? Mount Olympus? Zeus?
Today’s modern-day mythological equivalent, while definitely not shrouded in bravery, courage or even the power of love, is just as persuasive. We call it the myth of “credit repair.”
Why do we call it a myth? Because the fact is no company can repair your credit. They can, however, correct what is wrong on your credit report. If you find yourself unable to meet your debt obligations (and many people do get in over their heads), only you can repair your credit. That includes putting together a realistic budget, cutting household expenses, negotiating with creditors to get interest rates and payment amounts reduced, and paying your bills on time.
It can also include working with a company to help correct errors on your credit report(s). Unfortunately, there are many companies who are more than willing to take advantage of people struggling to overcome bad credit histories. They do so by exploiting the very law that was put into place to help consumers: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
First, review your checking account, debit card and credit card statements online frequently during major holidays. Especially look for unusual small charges that show up. Some can be as small as a couple of dollars. A specific charge to look out for is $9.84, a frequent amount used in cyber fraud attempts, which can indicate that a cybercriminal is checking to see if your charge account is valid. If you find your credit card has been hacked, immediately report it to the provider using the phone number on the back of your card.
Houston, we've got a problem
Let’s say you’ve been very good about checking your credit reports , pulling them once a year from each of the three big credit report agencies (CRAs) – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Everything has been fine until one day, you suddenly notice an outstanding debt that you don’t recognize and don’t recall incurring.
Or maybe you haven’t been so diligent about checking those reports after all. Then, you interview for a once-in-a-lifetime job only to have the hiring manager explain that you are no longer being considered because your credit check failed. Or perhaps you’re attempting to rent your first place, and the landlord turns you down, citing a low credit score as the reason.
The problem is, you know there’s something wrong with the information that’s being reported about your credit. You’ve been diligent about making payments on time, stayed out of debt and have been careful to keep your credit in good shape. So what do you do?
These scenarios all represent potential credit errors, or incorrect data on your report, that could keep you from achieving your goals in life. Incorrect data can come in the form of an identity mix-up where another person’s info shows on your report, debt-to-income ratio being reported inaccurately or something as simple as a wrong address. If you suspect that there is incorrect data on your credit report, it’s important to begin the credit dispute process immediately so that any errors don’t affect other areas of your life.
Tis the Season to be Jolly – and Financially Wise
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”
- Will Rogers
Stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator
Does that quote hit home? Uttered more than 80 years ago, it certainly hasn’t lost any of its relevance – especially at this time of year.
Black Friday is here once again, and the holiday shopping season beckons. For some, the siren call of credit cards is simply just too hard to resist. But being a wise user of credit is within reach for everyone, provided a dose of discipline is applied before swiping. Adhere to the following rules of thumb to maximize your credit responsibility this holiday season:
Don’t be a Statistic
An estimated 10 million Americans have credit report errors so serious they face unfairly lowered credit scores and excessively high borrowing costs. Is it any wonder then that more and more people are taking steps to ensure they’re not part of that statistic?
Not in our opinion.
One of the best things you can do each year is to check your credit report for inaccurate data. Actually, make that your credit reports. By law, you are allowed to receive a free report once a year from each of the three big credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Because each CRA may have differing data based on the lender or business supplying the information, it is considered prudent to check all three.
Are You One of Forty Million?
Did you know that data errors on your credit report can create serious, long-term problems? That’s right. Things like higher loan rates, higher annual percentage rates (APR) on credit card balances, getting a job, or even having utilities turned on can all be negatively impacted by someone else’s mistakes on your report.
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission released a report that found that potentially 40 million Americans (or one in five) have a mistake on at least one of their reports issued by the three big credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. And of those 25%, or 10 million people, had errors so serious they resulted in excessive borrowing costs and/or lowered credit scores.