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The Pyramid of Financial Success
No matter what our financial situations look like, everyone pretty much wants the same thing: low bills, plenty of savings, living in our own home, and enough investments to retire whenever we wish. Achieving that lofty goal is also very obtainable if you follow these 10 steps to climb the Pyramid of Financial Success:
1. Track expenses
Before you do anything else, it’s critical to know exactly how much you’re spending every month, and on what. Sure, you may THINK you know what your bills are and how much you spend, but I bet that you’ll be pretty shocked when you write down every single penny you spend (or use one of the great financial apps that help you record expenses). Try this for a month and then add up the total expenses and you’ll be amazed how much you’re blowing on impulse purchases, things you don’t really need or even want, and items that you didn’t realize are costing you!
2. Set a budget
Now that you know exactly what you’re spending your hard-earned dollars on, it’s time to tighten the belt. Ruthlessly slash everything from your budget that’s not a necessity – and hold yourself accountable to it. This will take some discipline but turn it into a fun game, and keep reminding yourself that by sacrificing NOW, you’ll be able to put yourself in a much better financial situation that lets you spend more on the things you really love and want later on.
3. Build an emergency fund
Did you know that 40 percent of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 in cash if faced with an emergency today, and two-thirds don’t have even $1,000 saved? As we’ve turned to debt more and more, the savings deficit in the U.S. has grown. However, it’s so important that you accumulate a rainy-day fund, which is a fair bit of cash that you can use when the car breaks down, you miss work because of a medical problem, or some other challenge. Start by putting $400 away, then $1,000, and keep saving until soon, you’ll have at least a few month’s total expenses saved as a cushion.
4. Pay debt
This is a big one! Once you’ve set a budget and put aside a few bucks as a safety net, it’s time to tackle the hardest part of all: paying off debt. In fact, the average American household now has $16,883 in credit card debt, $50,626 in student loans, $29,539 in auto loans, and, if they’re lucky, a mortgage on top of all that. But the one that we want to start with is paying off credit cards, as well as other revolving debt and retail installment loans. This is essential if you want to free yourself from a life of struggling and stressing about money and bills, and open up a much more secure and comfortable relationship with money.
There are several ways you can pay off your debt, but one of the best is using the technique of Debt Snowballing which is advocated by financial gurus Dave Ramsey, Suzie Orman and others. We’ll bring you more info on Debt Snowballing soon.
5. Repair credit
In fact, it’s a good idea to tackle #4 and #5 on this list in conjunction so that you’ll end up debt free AND with a fantastic credit score, starting with a free credit report and consultation from Nationwide Credit Clearing. We’ll go over your credit report and debt load with you, identifying which of them should be paid off first since they have the highest interest rates (or smallest balances).
Likewise, we can advise you which of your credit accounts should just be paid down (not off) and kept open. Our service will also attempt to remove negative, incorrect, and outdated items from your credit report, boosting your score to new heights.
How important is a great credit score? These days, just about everything you pay is tied to credit score, from all of your credit cards, your mortgage, and other loans, as well as utilities, cell phone accounts, the ability to rent a home, and even your job!
6. Buy a house
Speaking of (not) renting, once you have some savings and your debt paid off, the next big step in your financial pyramid is buying your own home. In fact, homeownership is still the American Dream, allowing you to build equity, pay down your loan, enjoy lucrative tax breaks, and experience the pride of ownership. These days, down payment programs make it easier than ever to come up with the money needed to buy a house, and you’ll essentially be paying yourself every month instead of your landlord!
Your bad debt is gone, and you’re now in your own home, so it’s time to start investing. Actually, you should be investing from day one in a 401K, mutual fund, or other safe, stable vehicle, as the power of compounding really comes into play the earlier you start. Contact a financial planner or advisor for the best way to invest and save for retirement considering your situation and goals.
8. Fund college
Remember how we mentioned that the average household has $50,000+ in student loan debt? Why not give your children a head start (not extra hurdles) in life by funding as much of their college education as possible instead of piling on more debt?
9. Pay off your home
We paid off your bad debt when we zeroed-out those credit cards, and you’ll get to a point high up the pyramid of financial success where the next logical step will be to pay off your home, too. There are several great strategies to help you do this, such as sending in a 13th payment every year, paying every two weeks instead of monthly, or adding extra funds to pay off principal faster. Either way, once you pay off your home in 20 or even 10 years instead of 30 (like most mortgages), your biggest bill will be knocked off the list.
With little or no debt, plenty of savings, a well-spring of investment income, and your home paid off, you’ll be in the enviable position at the top of the pyramid, where you can choose to retire whenever you like. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you must stop working, as many people opt to pursue their passion or work a lighter schedule just because it’s enjoyable. Either way, you’ll be the master of your financial life – not the other way around! Congratulations on making it to the top of the pyramid!
What the wealthy OVERstand about money that the rest of us may not.
The average person now has more knowledge available to them than any time throughout history, including plentiful wisdom about money, finances, and wealth. However, the income gap keeps growing in the U.S., with the rich getting richer and the typical middle-class family struggling just to make ends meet.
So what do the wealthy OVERstand about money that the rest of us may not?
1. Debt is dangerous
The number one principle of money that wealthy people understand is to not misuse debt. In fact, every time you use your credit card to make everyday purchases, you not only spend more than you would with cash (on those impulse purchases). You’re also essentially spending 110, 120, or even 130 cents on the dollar if you factor in interest charges and other fees. Wealthy people pay cash for their purchases and resist the temptation to use debt as a way to afford things they otherwise could not or should not.
Likewise, wealthy people understand that there is good debt (like mortgages, business loans), etc. that helps them achieve assets and investments, and bad debt (credit cards, car loans, etc.) and know how to utilize the former.
2. Your credit score is everything
Let’s say that before you even reached in your pocket and spent a single dollar on groceries, credit card bills, your mortgage or rent, insurance, or any other expenses, there was a number that basically ranked how much or little you should pay for those things. You would probably concern yourself with knowing and improving your ranking so you’d spend less, right?
Well, that’s exactly what credit score does. Rich people understand that credit score dictates so much of what we pay and even opens up remarkable financial opportunities if we have great scores, and therefore, make sure their FICO is fantastic.
3. Compounding and the time value of money
Would you rather have a penny a day that doubles every day for a month, or $1,000,000? Believe it or not, you’d miss out if you chose the quick seven-figure payout, as the first option would yield you $5,368,709.12 in those same 30 days!
Welcome to your first lesson in the time value of money, as your money will grow exponentially over time thanks to the magic of compounding. For that reason, the wealthy aim first to eliminate debt, buy their own home, and obtain assets like stocks, bonds, and other investments that will grow for them over time (more on the ‘time’ part later).
4. Don’t forget about taxes
It’s not what you make but what you keep! What good is a job that pays you $50,000 a year if you give 30% of it away for taxes (for example) when you could have a $40,000 job but pay in a much lower tax bracket? Wealthy people are always aiming to maximize their returns (make more) and minimize their liabilities (spend less) and saving on taxes is a huge part of that.
And when it comes to that yearly tax return you may be getting back, do the right thing with it and pay off debt and put some in savings!
5. Buy a home!
Homeownership always has been (and always will be!) part of the American Dream. It’s not only nicer living in your own place, but the financial advantages are impossible to ignore.
When you ow your own home and pay a mortgage every month, you’re paying off what you owe on the home (over 30 years), so it’s sort of like a forced savings plan.
Likewise, homes have appreciated in value over any 10-year period throughout modern U.S. history, so purchasing a home early and paying it off allows you to retire without having to pay mortgage or rent (and then you can leave it to your children). Likewise, owning a home offers one of the biggest tax breaks you’ll ever get from Uncle Sam, too.
Meanwhile, the alternative is to keep paying rent to your landlord every month, which yields you no appreciation, you’re not paying anything down or building any equity, and you’re missing out on tax breaks. The wealthy aim to be landlords; not pay a landlord!
6. Save first
Sure, we know that when your paycheck arrives once or twice a month, it’s probably already spent and accounted for before you can even cash it. But wealthy people become that way by making sure they save first. In fact, most financially stable people utilize auto-withdrawals from their paychecks to put some money into savings, pay bills, and maximize their investments – before they even see any money from their paycheck. Doing so takes some discipline and sacrifice, but the results will pay off big-time!
7. Education never ends
We all have 24 hours in every day, but instead of gossiping, wasting time arguing on Facebook, and watching funny cat videos, wealthy people invest their time in learning and growing. That can be learning new job skills, going back to school for another degree, or just reading, listening, and watching inspirational and educational messages. Of course, many of those are about improving their finances, so pat yourself on the back for reading this blog!
If you’d like more information about credit, debt, and putting yourself in a better financial position, contact us for a free consultation and credit report.
10 More things you didn’t know about credit scores, credit reporting, and debt in America
Your credit score impacts so much in your life these days, from rent and homeownership to credit card approvals, interest rates on student and auto loans to even employment. But too often, we’re still in the dark when it comes to credit scores, credit reporting, and general financial knowledge about debt management.
As the nation’s leader in credit repair solutions, Nationwide Credit Clearing is committed to help educate you about these important topics. This is part two of our ongoing series, 50 things you didn’t know about credit score, credit reporting, and debt. Look for part one here, and contact us if you have any questions or credit issues at all!
1. Which company earns the title as the most popular credit card in the rest of the world? That honor belongs to both Mastercard, which has 551 million cards issued throughout the world as well as 180 million cards here in the United States. However, Visa wins top-dog honors on home soil, with 278 million cards floating around the U.S., as well as 522 in the rest of the world.
2. It’s no surprise that people often turn to their credit cards to pay bills and living expenses once they are unemployed, In fact, 86 percent of low and middle-income households who have a working member that is now unemployed turn to credit cards to fill the gaps monthly.
3. Likewise, almost 50 percent of low and middle-income households now are carrying credit card debt that comes from out of pocket payments they have to make on medical bills and expenses.
4. It’s interesting to look at a map and compute the average credit score for each state (OK, I don’t get out much!). In fact, the states with the lowest average credit scores are in the south and southwest, including New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida. In those states, an alarming 40 percent of the population have subprime credit scores!
5. However, the states with the highest average credit scores are found in the north and midwest. Minnesota and North Dakota are the states with the highest average credit scores, with 707 and 700 average FICOs, respectively.
6. Aside from the state you live in, there are some other puzzling correlations between the heights of your credit score and your seemingly unrelated behaviors. For example, one study found a direct correlation between credit scores and which email provider the participants used! They found that Comcast email user (692 average) and Gmail, (682) have above average scores, but MSN (669), Aol (668) and Yahoo! (652) email users have below average scores.
7. But more common-sense correlations also apply. For instance, there are significant differences in credit scores based on age. Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (68-85 years old) have average scores of 700 and up, while Gen Xers average a 655 score, Millennials average a 634 score, and Gen Z is lagging with a 631 average Vantage Score.
8. One correlation that we could have easily predicted is that between scores and homeownership, In fact, a Federal Reserve study found that the average credit score among homebuyers and homeowners is 728 – significantly higher than the national average. Additionally, they found that only 6.8% of homebuyers or homeowners had scores below 620 in the study.
9. We hear about our credit scores impacting home ownership, credit cards, interest rates on other loans, renting, and even employment. But did you know that your credit score can make a big difference on…your dating life? It’s true! According to a 2016 Bankrate survey, almost 4 in 10 U.S. adults say that they’d rather date someone with a good or excellent credit score, but they’d be wary of dating a sup-prime suitor. In fact, 43% of women and 32% of men said that a person’s credit would have an impact on if they dated them.
10. Americans are still pretty mixed up, confused, and turned around when it comes to basic knowledge of credit scores and credit reporting. In fact, studies have shown that of an average sample Americans, 47% didn’t know that credit scores are used by non-creditors like electric utilities and home insurers, 68% didn’t know that cell phone companies use credit scores, and 32% had no idea that landlords could check their credit!
Do you have questions about your credit or looking to improve your score? Contact Nationwide Credit Clearing for a FREE credit report and consultation at (773) 862-7700 or mynationwidecredit.com!
Are Americans illiterate when it comes to credit, credit scoring, and finances?
And if so, how much is it costing us?
Let’s start with that second question, which is easy to answer.
According to Marketwatch, the lack of financial literacy by the average American has cost us a collective $200 billion over the last 20 years! That’s the estimated cost of paying higher interest rates, late fees, not saving for retirement, and the impact of bad decisions caused by living paycheck-to-paycheck.
That comes to $20 billion each year from our lack of financial knowledge – including illiteracy when it comes to credit!
Likewise, The National Financial Educators Council just released a survey that found the average respondent lost $9,724 each year due to their credit and money illiteracy! That backs up the findings of another national study that found that with a mere 20-point increase to our average national credit score, each adult in the U.S. would save almost $5,000 each year!
Now, let’s try to answer the first question we posed, are we just as financial illiterate when it comes to credit scores – or credit illiterate?
On first glance, we might not think so. In fact, the average FICO score reached 700 for the first time ever in 2017, which is a very good score.
But there’s a lot more to the story.
Only 58 percent of Americans have a credit score above that golden 700 number.
And consider that 60 percent of American adults haven’t checked their credit report in the last 12 months, and 66 percent haven’t checked their credit score. That’s about 2/3 of all Americans that don’t even know what’s going on with their credit!
Only 32 percent have received a copy of their free credit report over the last year, and nearly one-in-five Americans haven’t pulled their credit in the last three years!
What’s even scarier is that about 1/3 of all American adults surveyed said that they really didn’t see any reason to pull their credit report or check their score.
Additionally, 56 percent of respondents confessed that they had no idea their credit score was the most important factor when applying for new debt like a mortgage, car loan, or credit card.
And while our national average may be healthy, there’s a wide discrepancy between credit score haves and have-nots.
According to Experian, almost 1/3 of all Americans (30%) have a credit score lower than 601 – which is considered sub-prime. VantageScore also estimates that of the 220 million U.S. adults, 68 million of them have poor or bad scores.
But this isn’t just a snapshot of the good and bad when it comes to credit because we have to factor in those who are credit invisible, too.
Studies have found that about 26 million U.S. adults are credit invisible. While this means that they don’t even have enough of a credit history to garner a score, it’s effectively the same thing as having terrible credit.
Many people are also denied credit even though they want more of it. A reported 67 percent of people who applied for new credit cards in 2015 were denied, and one out of three were approved but for a lower available balance than they’d requested!
Younger adults are really scoring an F when it comes to credit score literacy.
An alarming 68 percent of Americans make at least one significant and costly financial mistake before they even hit the age of 30! These mistakes often cost them dearly as they’re trying to start down the right financial path, and credit score blemishes make take seven to ten years to fall of their reports.
But that doesn’t stop young people from getting credit, as 50 percent of respondents said that they received their first credit score by the age of 21, even though 72 percent had no financial education at all before going to college!
Millennials and Gen Xers are also taking out more debt than ever thanks to student loans, not credit cards. In fact, student loan balances are at an all-time high, with the average student loan balance at $23,186. Our national student loan balance is now $875 billion – higher even than credit cards – and increasing at a rate of $2,853.88 every second!
But it’s not just younger people that are fumbling when it comes to debt, especially credit cards. Seventy-seven percent of us have a credit card, and the average U.S. adult with credit card debt owes $16,048. With a sizable average interest rate of 13.66%, that means $183 is accumulated in interest every month.
One in three carry a balance month-to-month without paying it off, often paying just the minimum payment.
Even worse, nearly 16 percent of people with a credit card balance don’t even know their card’s APR, or true interest rate, and that’s even more prevalent (21 percent) among lower-income households.
So if we’re so credit illiterate, what’s the solution?
It seems the simple fix is just to start teaching financial education in schools. In fact, 99% of adults surveyed thought it would be a good idea to teach about credit, debt, interest rates, personal finance, and credit in high schools or even earlier.
However, the plan runs into a snag when you consider that only 1 in 5 teachers feels qualified to teach a class on financial or credit education!
Until they start making the grade, the better solution is to contact Nationwide Credit Clearing for a free copy of your credit report, a complimentary consultation, and the #1 credit repair firm in the country!
50 things you didn’t know about credit scores, credit reporting, and debt. (Part 1)
2. People often talk about their “credit score” as if they had just one. In fact, there are more than 100 credit scoring models used by banks, lenders, and financial institutions.
3. But FICO is the biggest and most recognizable credit scoring model. FICO is an acronym for the “Fair Isaac Corporation” and is based on the risk-predicting algorithms developed by mathematician Earl Isaac and engineer Bill Fair in 1956, and then rolled out in the 1980s as a credit scoring system.
4. Did you know that these days, credit scores are even influencing people’s dating decisions? It’s true, as surveys show that the majority of people would consider someone’s credit score before dating them or getting in a relationship. There’s even an online dating site called CreditScoreDating.com with the motto, “Credit Scores are Sexy!”
5. Millennials – and especially college kids – are really missing the boat when it comes to keeping good credit scores. In fact, Millennials have the lowest Vantage credit scores of any generation, including Gen X (ages 30-46), Baby Boomers (47-65), and the Greatest Generation (66+).
6. Speaking to that point, surveys show that 85% of U.S. college students don’t even know their own credit score!
7. These days, your credit score impacts far more than just buying a house or getting a good rate on your credit card, as many employers now check the credit reports of their potential applicants. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans looking for a job have been subjected to a credit check, and 1 in 10 has been disqualified from getting hired because of something on their credit report!
8. According to reports by the Department of Labor, occupations that routinely check a job applicant’a credit include: 1) parking booth operator, 2) the military, 3) accounting, 4) mortgage loan originator, 5) Transportation Security Administrator (TSA), 6) law enforcement and 7) temporary service positions and many more.
9. FICO scores are based on a complex (and secretive_ algorithm that factors every nuance of credit behavior from tens of millions of consumers. Their programs then look for patterns that will help them predict future defaults (or on-time payments) for borrowers, which they then translate as a numeric spectrum of risk for lenders, or your credit score.
10. These days, an estimated 33% (one out of every three) of all American adults do not pay their bills on time every month!
11. How much bad credit card debt do the big banks take a loss on every year? Last year, the top 100 banks in the U.S. had an average charge-off rate of 3.87%, which means that nearly 4 out of every 100 people don’t pay,
12. Last year, the average Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for all U.S. credit cards was 13.14% – another great reason to build up your credit score and get out of debt this year!
13. About 19 countries around the world use some form of FICO scores, and many more have their own credit scoring system.
14. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults – or 144 million people – haven’t even looked at their credit report within the last 365 days.
15. And one-third of working-age Americans don’t even have a clue what their credit score is!
16. Visa is by far the biggest credit card in the U.S., with 278 million cards at home (that’s about one for every adult in our population!). Mastercard is next with 180 million cards
But while Visa has 522 million cards across the globe, MasterCard just beats them out with 551 million cards abroad.
17. Visa is also the largest credit card in the U.S. by sales volume, with $981 billion in annual charges. MasterCard is second with about $534 billion in yearly debt from cardmembers.
18. The average U.S. consumer has 13 credit accounts listed on their credit report, which includes 9 credit cards and 4 installment loans. (But remember, that doesn’t mean they’re all open and active, just reporting.)
19. In the 1990s, America saw an explosion of personal debt levels that was unprecedented. One of the main causes was the fact that banks, lenders, and financial institutions starting using credit scores en masse to help them gauge risk and make faster, more accurate decisions.
20. In fact, in 1995, the nation’s two largest mortgage financing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, started advising lenders to use FICO scores for their borrowers, allowing the floodgates on lending to tens of millions of Americans.
21. But at first, FICO didn’t want to reveal how they calculated a consumers credit score, opting to keep it a secret. But under intense pressure from financial advocates and governmental influence, in 2003 they released a list of 22 factors that go into their credit scoring model. That same year, the U.S. Congress passed a new law that granted consumers the right to access their credit score.
22. Remember that credit scoring systems weren’t designed to help consumers and the general public, but lenders and companies. Therefore, credit scoring models, reports, and computations weren’t supposed to be easy for the average person to understand!
23. Insurance companies are using credit scores and reporting like never before. In fact, insurance actuarials prove that the lower a customer’s credit score, the more likely they are to file an insurance claim – costing their insurer money.
24. These days, 90% of homeowners and auto insurance companies use credit score as a factor when assigning and rating premiums! Therefore, insurance companies reward customers with good credit scores, and your premiums will be much lower than for those with a low credit score.
25. If you want to improve your credit score (and keep it high), then try to only keep credit cards from well-respected, major banks, like VISA, Mastercard, American Express, etc.). They’ll show that you’re a better steward of your finances and a more responsible debt holder than if you open accounts with lesser known finance companies, retail cards, etc., and your credit score will reflect that.
Look for part 2 of this blog, with 25 more things you didn’t know about credit scores, credit reporting, and debt!
15 Things to stop doing that are making your broke!
Many of us set resolutions every new year, and chief among them is the goal to improve our finances. For some, that may mean saving more; for others, landing a better-paying job; and home ownership is still the American Dream for most families.
But before we can tackle this financial Bucket List and move forward, it’s important that we identity the money mistakes that we’re making that are continuously setting us back. We’ve identified 18 things that are common among the average American consumer, causing them to always be short on money and even hurting their families.
So, if you want 2018 to be the best year yet for your finances, stop doing these 15 things that are making you broke!
- Maxing out credit cards
We’re certainly a nation that loves debt, as we now have more than 1 trillion in credit cards and other revolving debt, an all-time high. Add in mortgages, student loans, car loans and medical debt, etc., and U.S. consumers personally owe more than $12.9 trillion – the GDP of about half the countries in the world!
In fact, the average adult with debt in the U.S. has 8 credit accounts, $16,000 worth of credit card debt alone, and is paying about $430 a month just in minimum payments.
While there’s nothing at all wrong with having credit cards and using them responsibly (you should keep some revolving debt), the problem comes when we max them out – with no plan to pay them off.
Paying only minimum payments means that the average $10,000 balance at 15% interest will take 15 years and about $22,000 to pay off completely.
Maxing out cards also impacts your credit score, since about 30% of your FICO is calculated by the amount of debt you hold compared to your total available credit (called credit utilization.)
So stop maxing out those cards and make more than just the minimum payment this year!
- Not saving
We understand that money is tight and there’s usually more month than paycheck; not the other way around. But one of the principal ways you can ensure that money isn’t always this tight in the future is to start saving. And there’s no better way to put away funds for a rainy day than automatically saving out of every paycheck (or tax refund).
In fact, the majority of Americans couldn’t even come up with $600 today without borrowing or selling something, and sudden financial setbacks like a job loss, medical problem, broken car or other unexpected expense can send about 40% of families into dire financial circumstances.
The best way to combat that – and make sure that you’re always prepared and won’t make even worse short-term financial decisions – is to save a certain percentage of your paycheck automatically, before you even see that money. To resist the temptation to spend it, keep a savings account without an ATM card so it’s not easy to access. You’ll be amazed how it adds up!
- Using payday loans, check cashing, and rip-off credit accounts
Remember how we just mentioned financial emergencies? When the roof leaks, someone gets sick, or the job starts laying people off, those cash crunches often result in people making panicked, short-term financial decisions just to get by. Frequently, those result in cash advances on credit cards, payday loans, using check cashing establishments, applying for a bunch of new credit cards at once, or looking for other personal loans.
The terms and interest rates on these loans can range from incredibly high and expensive all the way to usurious and illegal, and usually put people in a much worse financial situation than when they started.
- Making impulse purchases
Have you ever noticed that retail, department, and grocery stores line the checkout aisles with certain items? They do that on purpose, of course, because they understand that the majority of consumers will make impulse purchases; buying things they don’t need and didn’t plan on purchasing.
Just how much can you save by skipping the magazines, sodas, electronic knick-knacks, and other impulse purchases every month? Furthermore, do you even know how much you’re spending on coffee, lunches, and meals out? It all adds up.
Try this: For one month, carry around a little notepad (or just use your smart phone – there are great apps that help you track every dollar you spend), and write it down every time you spend a dollar. At the end of each week, add it all up according to categories. You’ll probably be shocked how much you’re spending on things you don’t need or necessarily even want – and that money could be going to savings, paying down your credit cards, or other good use.
- Not checking your credit periodically
Did you know that only 1 in 4 people check their credit report annually, and 60% of Americans don’t even know what their credit score is now? Checking your credit report regularly is so important for a host of reasons:
- 25% of credit reports contain errors, inaccurate or duplicate information.
- ID theft and credit fraud now affects nearly 10% of the population every year, and the recent Equifax Hack saw the personal data of about 167 million Americans compromised.
- These days, your credit score is so more important than just getting a mortgage or applying for a new credit card. Getting an apartment, the insurance rates you pay, your utility and cell phone accounts, and even getting a new job may depend on a clean credit report and a good score.
- Not looking into refinancing your mortgage
If you do own your home already, congratulations! While it may be the best investment you’ll ever make, there’s no denying that you’ll be paying it off for a long time (usually 30 years) and for a huge sum of interest – probably more than the original home price! So every smart homeowner should inquire with their mortgage broker if a refinance is available and something that would help them save.
It’s free to talk to your favorite loan officer and get an idea about your options, and lower-interest mortgages or refinancing into a product like a 15-year loan may save you tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars over the years. You may even be able to save money on your monthly payment AND pay the home off faster, but the worst that can happen is that they tell you that you don’t need to make a change.
By the way, the better your credit score, the lower your interest rates and payments will typically be!
- Not reading the fine print
That 0% credit card offer sure looks great, but what will the rate be after that introductory period? Is that great low mortgage payment fixed, or will it go up as other interest rates rise? What are the fees and charges associated with that new student loan or business loan?
Too often, we’re offered new credit that looks like a no-brainer, but comes with some important stipulations that will make it way more expensive in the future.
Nothing is free in this world (except great credit advice from Nationwide Credit Clearing!), so make sure to read the fine print and know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line. Any loan, investment, or other financial vehicle is sure to come with fees, charges, and interest rate details that are crucial to understand. Read all you can but it’s also a good idea to ask questions – and get the answers in writing!
Look for part two of this blog soon, where we’ll cover the next eight things to stop doing if you don’t want to be broke!
10 Credit and financial tips for the holidays
The holidays are here, and while it’s a golden time to enjoy family, friends, give back to others and the many blessings in our lives, it’s also a time of year that can be dangerous financially. In fact, most households see a huge spike in spending and debt over between Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, New Years – so much so that many retailers make 15-20 percent of their total annual sales during that period. Add in Valentines Day, winter family vacations and possibly a couple of birthdays, and it’s a time of year that could break the budget and crash your credit score.
The good news is that the holidays don’t have to time to see your debt and spending spin out of control. Here are 12 tips to help you save money, plan responsibly, keep your debt level down, and protect your credit score.
1. Set a budget
Did you know that the average American plans on spending $812 on Christmas or holiday gifts? While that is a significant amount of money, the reality is that we often shoot far past what we intended to spend, especially if you add in extra holiday meals, entertainment, decorating, parties, etc. So this holiday season, set a realistic budget and stick to it, skipping those extra money wasters that are necessary.
2. Consider spending cash
Studies show that we spend far more when we pay for purchases with a credit or debit card compared to cash. So this holiday season, visit the bank and take out the cash you’ll need for each gift on your list. You’ll end up spending less overall and also won’t have a big credit card bill come January or February – or a potential hit to your credit score.
3. Set gift limits
Have you ever given someone three presents totaling $150, only to receive a $20 gift in return? Have a conversation with your friends and family to determine if you’ll exchange gifts, how many, and set a spending limit. You may be refreshed to hear that many of your friends would rather spend time with you or go out to dinner than receive a gift, which means you’ll have more money to spoil the kids!
4. Don’t open store cards
You’re at the cash register at your favorite store at the crowded mall, doing some late Christmas shopping, when the friendly cashier asks the inevitable question, “Would you like to open a store card and get an additional 20 percent off your purchase today?”
You look at the pile of your things and do the math – saving 20 percent on the bill would add up to enough to buy you a nice lunch AND a Starbucks for the ride home.
Wait! Stop! This scenario is played out millions of times during the holiday season and throughout the year, with virtually every big retailer offering store credit cards these days. But even though it seems like a hospitable offer for a generous discount, applying for additional credit may really hurt your credit score. Store retail credit accounts often have high interest rates, low balances, hidden fees, and aren’t looked at favorably by the credit bureaus. Instead, skip the store cards and keep a responsible, low-interest card that gives you cash back or rewards points.
5. Be wary of identity theft
Identity theft and crimes of financial and data theft are more prevalent than ever in the United States, especially with the recent Equifax hack. Each year, approximately 20 million people see their identities used fraudulently, with the bill on that theft upwards of $50 billion dollars. (That’s three times more than the combined $14 billion in losses from all other types of consumer theft – burglary, motor vehicle theft, property theft, etc.) combined.
It also takes a lot of time and often money to clear up the mess identity thieves leave behind, as a compromised credit report will set off a domino effect of raising interest rates and even insurance premiums. On average, each identity theft victim suffers direct losses of $9,650, up from just $3,500 a few years ago.
So review your credit report with the help of Nationwide Credit Clearing, don’t use credit cards on fishy sites, don’t ever make purchases or give your financial details on public or unprotected Wi-Fi networks, change passwords frequently, and generally stay vigilant and protected.
6. Don’t max out credit cards
It’s really easy to max out credit cards during the holidays, but that could cause serious harm to your credit score. In fact, consumers with a score over 760 have an average credit card utilization (aggregate credit card balances relative to credit limits) of only 7 percent, and keeping under 30 percent will keep your score healthy.
7. Have a plan to pay off debt
If you don’t do you your holiday shopping with credit cards, not cash, make sure you have a sound plan how and when you’ll pay them off. It’s best to pay it off in one lump sum before interest charges even kick in, but if that’s not possible, then set a schedule of extra payments you’ll make to get your card paid off at least within the first couple months of the next year.
8. Put some money aside for emergencies
Murphy’s Law dictates that the least convenient time something can go wrong, it will. So put a few hundred dollars aside in case of emergencies or special events over the holidays. That way, if the water heater explodes Christmas morning, the car breaks down on the way to the office holiday party, or you run up your cell phone bill wishing everyone a happy New Year, you’ll be covered. The best part is that if nothing happens that warrants spending your emergency fund money, you can use it to pay off debt, add it to savings, or invest the money.
9. Start saving for next year
Now that you’ve had a great holiday, it’s time to start thinking of next year! Open a separate savings account or out aside an envelope and deposit some money every month once you get paid, not to be used for anything else. Even $25 or $50 a month will add up to big bucks that can cover most of your holiday gift-giving budget come next winter!
10. Keep your resolution to improve your credit score
Our credit scores factor into just about every lending and financial decision we make these days, including even renting a home or getting a job with some employers. Furthermore, just be improving your score from the Fair or Poor range to Great (around 720 or 760 and up), you can save a LOT of money over time. In fact, over your lifetime as a consumer, you could potentially save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments on mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and auto loans, just by keeping a great score.
Therefore, it’s more important to make a firm resolution to finally improve your credit score The good news is that it’s easy to analyze your credit report and see what needs fixing with the help of Nationwide Credit Clearing – and free!
Contact us at MyNationwideCredit.com for to set up your free credit report review and consultation, and make it a happy holiday!
How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?
You are at the register paying for a pair of new shoes at your favorite department store. The cashier asks if you would like to sign up their rewards program to save 10%. You are thinking who wouldn’t want to save 10%, of course you want to sign up. So you sign up for the stores credit card to get a discount on your purchase. Is that 10% off and a new credit card really benefiting you?
Stop and ask yourself if you really need another credit card. The more credit cards you have the greater chance you have of getting deeper into debt. It is important to remember that credit cards are not a form of supplemental income. The annual fees of the credit cards can also add up, so that 10% you saved will eventually cancel out.
Your credit score can also be negatively impacted by having too many credit cards. Which will in turn impact your ability to borrow money. Learn more about how a bad credit score can affect your life in our recent blog post (Little Known Causes for Bad Credit
In contrast, adding more cards can help your score by decreasing your credit utilization ratio (the amount of debt you carry compared to your available lines of credit). However, if you have a lot of credit cards with high limits and you go to a lender to take out a loan, the lender will take into consideration a situation where you ran those credit cards up and what your debt-to-income ratio would look like then.
So, how many credit cards is too many? There are people who are very successful using a single credit because it is easiest to manage one card. Having 3-5 cards is typically not a problem. But if you find all your credit card balances are increasing, that is a danger signal.
If it’s been a long time since you have checked your credit report, give us a shout here at Nationwide Credit Clearing. Our Initial Credit Report and Consultation is Free of Charge! Call Today!
“Home of the Free Credit Report & Consultation”
2336 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60647
Toll Free: 877-334-3296
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What Is A Credit Report?
An extremely detailed report of a person’s credit history, that is prepared by a credit bureau, is what makes up a Credit Report. The report is typically used by a lender in determining a loan applicant’s creditworthiness, including the following:
- Summary of credit history
- Detailed account information
- Personal data
- Credit history
- Details of any accounts turned over to a credit agency
The information includes how often you make your payments are made on time, how much credit you have, how much credit you are using, and whether a debt or bill collector is collecting on money you owe. It can contain public records such as judgements, liens, collections & bankruptcies that provide insight into your financial status.
How Does A Lender Use A Credit Report?
Lenders will obtain your credit card when you are deciding if they want to loan you money. They will also use it to determine what interest rates they will give you and to determine whether you will be able to meet the terms of the account they are providing. Other kinds of companies such cable, insurance, utilities etc. will always run a check to make sure you will be able to meet the financial terms of the program/service you are requesting. Additionally, an individual or company that is renting you a residential property can check your credit report before renting to you.
Who Makes A Credit Report?
Credit reporting companies, known as credit bureaus or consumer reporting agencies, create credit reports. The major bureaus in the U.S are Experian, Equifax and Transunion. There are also specialty consumer reporting agencies that can report your history of paying bills for a product or service.
How Nationwide Credit Clearing Can Help You
At Nationwide Credit Clearing we professionally assess your individual credit situation by procuring information that allows us to obtain a copy of your credit report. Our staff of professionals will review the information and determine the best method of credit repair to use based on your specific situation. Our long standing reputation working with credit bureaus goes back as far as 1985. NCC works with all three major Credit Bureaus:
If you or someone you know has something on their credit report that continues to hold them back from living a financially full-filling life, it’s time to call the Credit repair experts at Nationwide Credit Clearing
“Home of the Free Credit Report & Consultation”
2336 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60647
Toll Free: 877-334-3296
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Credit Card Best Practices
Whether you are opening your first credit card or need a refresher, these credit card best practices are essential to maintaining a healthy credit score. While you may think you have your credit cards under control, there may be a few items on this list that can help you to improve.
Here’s the Rundown..
Look For A Low Interest Rate: When you are on the market for a new credit card, be sure to check the interest rate and annual fee. Read the cardholder agreement! It will give you insight into all the fees you can be charged. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before opening a new card.
Don’t Spend More Than You Can Afford: Don’t buy a TV that costs as much as your credit limit, just because you can. Purchase what you can afford to pay off at the end of that month. This will enable you to avoid interest fees.
Pay On Time: Show lenders you’re reliable, pay your credit card on time! You don’t want to pay that late fee. Also, be sure to check when your payment is due each month, it can change from time to time
Pay Off As Much As You Can: At the very least pay the minimum balance. Pay off the entire balance whenever you can, to reduce the finance charges you pay. As a rule of thumb, pay off as much as you can to avoid high interest payments. When you do have to keep a balance on your credit card try to keep it below 30% or less.
Avoid Cash Advances: When you choose to do a cash advance, a fee and interest rate is typically part of the deal. Interest rates for cash advances tend to be much higher. Only do a cash advance if it is an emergency.
Stay Within Your Limit: Keep track of what you are purchasing each month. If you stay within your limit, you’ll avoid over limit fees. Keep your credit card balance below 70% of your limit at all times. This shows lenders that you have control over how much credit you use.
Use Your Credit Card Regularly: Use your credit card regularly with the mindset that you will pay it off at the end of the month. This will show lenders that you have a proven history with being able to handle your money responsibly.
If you have tried time and time again to put these steps into play in your daily life but can’t seem to get anywhere, there is help.
Don’t wait! Better Credit is just a click away! Call the experts at Nationwide Credit Clearing. “Home of the Free Credit Report and Consultation”
Nationwide Credit Clearing
2336 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60647
Toll Free: 877-334-3296
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