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Post Date: July 25, 2016


11 Step Plan to Pay Off Debt


Stop Increasing Debt:

Simply making payments toward your debts isn’t enough to pay them down—you also have to also begin living within your means. In order to stop increasing your debt, you have to do two things. First, you need to figure out how much you need to live on per month. Then, your second step is to set up a system that keeps you from spending more than this amount. Try one of the following: 

  1. Cash Only: You give yourself only as much as you can spend every week. This has the benefit of making every purchase more meaningful, as it is psychologically harder to part with cash than to swipe your card.
  2. Debit Only: Leave your credit cards at home and instead use your debit card for all purchases, making sure not to go over your weekly limit. This has the benefit of allowing you to track everything you spend down to the penny, without incurring up more debt.

Add Up Your Debts: 

Add up your debts by using a spreadsheet or writing them on paper. Be sure to include: 

  • Credit card debt
  • Car loans
  • Personal and payday loans
  • Student loans
  • Mortgages
  • Small business loans
  • Taxes owed to the IRS

Determine Your Magic Number: 

Before you can begin to tackle your debt, you need to know how much is coming in and going out of your wallet. If you haven’t buckled down and created your budget yet, you should do that before you continue. Once you’ve budgeted for your monthly essentials, you’ll know how much you have left over to pay down your debts.

Interest Rates: 

If you can’t find the interest rate in your monthly statements, the document you received upon opening the card or in your online account, call up the lender to verify what       it is. Rank your debts from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate, but always prioritize credit card debt over debt from loans, even if the credit card has lower interest 
rate. The interest on credit cards snowballs, whereas the debt on other loans is set at a fixed amount.

Negotiate: 

We don’t want you paying unnecessary interest, which can really add up. So first see if you can bring that down by calling up each lender. Lenders want you to repay them, so if you’re more likely to pay them back at a lower interest rate, that’s an incentive for them to help you. If they turn you down the first time, keep calling back. The first person you talk to might not be able to help you, so ask to speak to a supervisor. If your finances have taken a dive recently and that’s why you are struggling with this debt, you might even qualify for a hardship program, which would lower your interest rate or your minimum monthly payments or both. If you’ve been getting offers from other companies, mention those offers in your conversation. In the case of old or aged debt, you may even be able to negotiate a reduction in the balance that you owe. Many times creditors will negotiate in order to recoup bad debt. 

Payback Time: 

Calculate your payback time and the amount of interest you will pay and adjust your plan accordingly. Pay back high interest debts first to decrease payback time and interest. 

Balance Transfer Offers: 

If you think you can pay your debt off in just a few months, or your current interest rates are less than 10%, this step probably isn’t worth your time and you can move on to   the next. That’s because cards often charge balance transfer fees, which could be more than the interest you will save. Otherwise, use Bankrate.com to search for credit cards that offer the opportunity to transfer to a card with a lower or 0% interest rate. Comparison shop, looking at these factors:

  • Balance transfer fees: These fees are a percentage of the debt being transferred, which are typically around 3%.
  • Introductory interest rates: These are usually 0% to entice you to transfer your debt.
  • Regular interest rates: These are the interest rate you’ll get after the introductory period is over.
  • Accrued interest: If you don’t think you can pay off your credit card before the introductory period ends, don’t sign up for a card that charges accrued interest. When the intro period ends, you’ll have to pay the regular interest rate on your entire transfer—not just what you have left to pay.

Work Your Plan: 

Focus on paying off one credit card at a time. Pay the minimums on all your debts except the top debt, and then for the top debt, pay as much as you can. After you pay off the top debt, pay as much as you can toward the second-highest debt while paying the minimums on the others. Continue in this fashion until you’ve paid off all your debt, but keep in mind the end dates of the introductory periods on any cards to which you’ve transferred balances. This is method is referred to as the snowball method. 

Reduce Expenses: 

To pay off your debt faster and save on interest, look at areas where you can cut back and come up with more money to put toward your debt. 

Increase Income: 

Don’t just go super-frugal. Also try to earn more, a tested and proven method of paying off debt. Up your salary and/or use creative methods to bring in extra income, like selling your unwanted possessions on eBay, picking up jobs odd jobs, and turning your hobby into a source of income.

Emergency Funds: 

While paying off your debt is important, we would like to reiterate that you should not ignore your retirement or emergency fund in the pursuit of a $0 balance. If your     employer offers a 401(k) matching plan, take full advantage, or open an IRA. Also send some money every pay period to your emergency fund, until you have the       equivalent of at least six months of your paycheck in the bank. Don’t put emergency expenses on a credit card!

You’re now on the right path to becoming debt-free! As long as you stick to your budget and keep making your payments, you can get there by following the plan you      created.


Post Date: July 18, 2016

9 Things You Should Know Before Buying A Home 


Wondering if you're ready to buy a home? Buying a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. It;s also one of the most difficult decisions you will make. From negotiating pricing to why you should consider a realtor, here are the 10 Things You Should Know Before Buying A Home. 


Use a trusted realtor:

We all know that realtors get a cut of the sales price of a home, know as a commission. However, this makes some buyers hesitant to use a realtor since they believe it drives up the overall cost. Keep in mind that the seller, not the buyer, pays the commission. The listing agent (the agent representing the seller) doesn’t protect your interests. A savvy realtor who works for you can protect your interests and guide you through the buying process – from negotiating a price to navigating home inspections. 


Contracts aren't set in stone...until you sign:

When you’re buying a house, there are papers to sign. And papers to sign. And then more papers to sign. you get the hint. Many of those papers are actually contracts which look like “standard” forms with no room for negotiation. That isn’t true. Contracts are meant to be negotiated. You don’t have to sign a standard agreement. If you want more time to review your inspection, wish to waive a radon test or want to make a purchase subject to a mortgage approval, you can make that part of the deal. That’s where an experienced realtor can help. See above. 


Consider the future: 

Chances are that buying a house will be one of the bigger financial commitments you’ll make in your lifetime. Before you agree to buy what you think might be your dream house, consider your long-term plans. Are you planning on staying at your current job? Starting a new business? Getting married? Having kids? Depending on the market and the terms of your mortgage, you may not actually pay down any real equity for between five and seven years: if you aren’t sure that your house will be the house for you in a few years, you may want to keep looking.


Think about commitment:

We're not just talking about your mortgage. When you get married, the laws of your state generally determine how your assets are treated – and ultimately how they’re divided at divorce. The same rules don’t necessarily apply when you’re not married. That means you need to think long term. When you buy a house with your significant other who is not your spouse, make sure you have an exit plan if things don’t go the way you hope. It’s a good idea to have a written agreement in place with respect to titling, mortgage payments and liability, repairs and the like. 

Look beyond paint:

It’s often the case that your dream house has that one room that you’re already fantasizing about changing. Remember, it’s fairly inexpensive to fix cosmetic issues (a little bit of paint or some wallpaper) but making changes to kitchens and bathroom can add up quickly. People tend to focus on the cost of cabinets, appliances and counters but sometimes forget about the cost of labor which can double or even triple the cost. That doesn’t mean that you should give up on a house in need of repairs, but you should factor in those costs when determining whether you can afford to buy that home or not. 


Buy the house you know that you can afford: 

This can be different from the price that your mortgage company believes that you can afford. So what’s the best ratio to use? Some lenders suggest that you can afford mortgage payments totaling about 1/3 of your gross income but others suggest closer to 25-28% for housing related costs including mortgage, insurance and taxes. There are a number of factors including your projected income, interest rates, type of mortgage and the market.


Don’t fixate on the purchase price:

The purchase price is just one small piece of owning a house: be sure to consider all of the costs associated with your potential new home.That includes the cost of insurance, homeowner association fees and real estate taxes – depending on where you live, those can quickly add up. And it’s not just home improvements that can cost money: maintenance costs dollars, too. It’s a good idea to ask questions about upkeep for extras like swimming pools, fancy heating and cooling systems and out buildings.

Don’t get carried away by the home mortgage interest deduction: 


Many taxpayers are tempted to buy more house than they can afford by figuring that they’ll save enough with the home mortgage interest deduction to make up for it. The mortgage interest deduction is only deductible if you itemize on your Schedule A: only about 1/3 of taxpayers claim the itemized deduction.


You don’t have to buy a house: 


Remember there’s no rule that says you have to buy a house by the time you’re 30 or 35 or ever. Buying a home is a big decision and while it can be a sound financial investment, it’s not for everyone. There is a lot to consider, including the housing market, interest rates, timing and your future plans. You might want more flexibility or mobility, or your career and family plans may be in changing. 


When it comes down to it, buying a home is a decision you will live with for a very long time. Take your time to evaluate your situation and your needs. In the end, you'll thank yourself! 



Post Date: July 11, 2016

Credit 101: A Basic Guide to Understanding Your Score 


What is a credit score?


A credit score is a number generated by a mathematical formula that is meant to predict the stability of your credit and, by default, your overall financial situation. 

How are they determined?

 

Credit scores are determined using a variety of factors. The three main factors are payment history, amounts owed, and the length of your credit history.

In order to maintain a good credit score, you must pay your bills on time (with a few exceptions) and you must properly manage the amount of debt you carry at all times. In fact, some financial planners and analysts consider your debt to income ratio just as important as your credit score. Simply put, your debt to income ratio is the amount of debt that you have as compared to your total income. This ratio is also a factor in deciding whether or not you are considered credit worthy.


In addition to managing your debt, those with higher credit scores are able to show a favorable lengthy credit history; proving that they are able to maintain positive accounts over a period of time. 

 

What is considered a good credit score?  

Credit scores range anywhere from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely it is that you will be approved for a loan or credit account. If you do have a low score and are approved for credit, it is likely that the interest rate on your loan payments will be much higher than someone who had a higher credit score. Therefore, having a good credit score can potentially save you thousands over the course of the loan. But, what exactly is a good credit score? Generally anything 750 or higher is considered excellent credit and you will likely have a variety of options and receive the best rates. However, that does not necessarily mean that you will not be approved for credit if your score is lower than a 750.


Benefits of A Good Score

Low insurance rates

 

Just as financial companies use your credit score to determine your financial stability, insurance companies use insurance scores to determine how particularly “risky” you are to insure. Those insurance scores are determined by a number of factors one of which is your credit history. The practice of checking credit reports is common across the country, unless you live in Massachusetts, California, or Hawaii where it has been banned. Simply put higher credit scores typically mean lower insurance rates.

Low interest rate mortgages

 

Most people know that a good credit score is imperative in order to be approved for a loan. But in addition to that, a good credit score can also help you save thousands over the course of your mortgage loan. The better your score, the lower your interest rates. On a substantial loan such as a mortgage, a difference of even 1% in your interest rates could lead to a savings of thousands or even tens of thousands over the life of a 15, 20, or 30-year loan.

Qualify for business loans

 

Looking to fund a new business venture or maybe expand a current one? Well, in order for banks and investors to put capital in your business they first need to know how effectively you have managed your personal finances. This does not mean that you can’t start a business with fair or poor credit however, obtaining funding for that business will certainly be much easier with a favorable credit history.

More employment opportunities 

The job market these days is extremely competitive. It’s not only important to have skills and experience, but in today’s market you may also need a good credit score to land the job of your dreams. Many employers, especially those in the financial services industry, now require a favorable credit history as a contingency for being hired.

Low interest rate auto loans

 

Just as a mortgage loan, a good credit score can help you immensely when it’s time to buy your next set of wheels. Those with a lower credit score can be hit with an interest rate that is more than twice that of someone whose score is above 700.


Have more money at the end of the month

 

At the end of the day, slashing money from your budget on items like insurance and loans will put more green in your pockets. Your ultimate financial goal should be to live within your means and saving money on your expenses helps to make that goal a reality. In addition, a favorable credit score can help make you more employable in an extremely competitive job market or can help you start your own business.

 


Obtain a Credit Report


 

There are a number of places you can go online to obtain a credit score however; federal law provides each U.S. citizen with one free credit report per year. It is important to note that credit scores are not typically included with the free credit reports but your credit score can be purchased for as little as $1 on most credit sites. The top three places to obtain a free annual credit report are:


v            www.annualcreditreport.com

v            www.freecreditreport.com

v            www.creditkarma.com


Post Date: June 27, 2016

Amazing & Creative Ways to Save Money


According to a survey released by Bankrate.com in 2015, three out of ten Americans have absolutely no savings. And although the economy has stabilized a bit since the recession of 2008, foreclosures and bankruptcies are still quite common. For those stressing out over money, it can be seriously stressful. While it is recommended that you have three months worth of your salary saved, saving even just a few hundred dollars can help alleviate some of the worry.

Whether you want to be a millionaire or simply want to stop living paycheck to paycheck, there are some surprisingly easy (and creative) ways to  store away a little cash. Try out a few of these ideas today! 

1. Pick a bank that gives back.

Search for a bank that makes the most sense for you. Seek out perks like no ATM fees, high interest on savings accounts, and no overdraft fees. Smaller local  banks often offer better interest rates and perks. 

2. Divide your paycheck.

Ask your company's human resources department to divide each of your paychecks between your savings and checking accounts. Set a specific percentage or amount to automatically deposit into your savings so you're less inclined to touch it. 

3. Check on your account.

Make like the Sherlock Holmes of your bank account and regularly scour for charges that don't look familiar. Staying on top of your current balance   and past purchases allows you to spot errors as well as areas of spending that can be cut back. (Do you really need Starbucks every day?)

4. Plan withdrawals.

If you find yourself needing to use ATMs more frequently, plan each ATM visit carefully to avoid fees. When it's time to take out cash, make sure you have time to get to your cash without incurring additional fees. 

5. Troll exclusive deals sites.

For deals on everything from haircuts to brow waxing, head to sites like Groupon and Living Social. If some deals seem too good to be true, check out Yelp or other online reviews before purchasing in order to prevent the experience from hell.

6. Take care of yourself.

Get enough sleep, wash your hands, and do whatever it takes to prevent the sniffles. A little TLC, healthy food, and regular exercise can help prevent expensive medical bills down the road.

7. Cut co-pays.

For prescription medicines that are taken regularly, ask your doc for a three-month supply. Doing this is cheaper than purchasing month by month.

8. Indulge in a DIY spa day.

Face masks, body scrubs, and hair masks aren't limited to pricey spas. Make your own spa-like goodies with easy-to-make ingredients lists including bananas and coffee.

9. Hit up corporate discounts.

See if your company offers corporate perks and discounts such as gym memberships, ball games, cell-phone data plans, hotel fares, and concerts.

10. Take advantage of free fitness classes.

Many gyms and fitness studios offer at least one free class or gym session, while others offer cheap, introductory rates. Don't be afraid to try new     places and new fitness trends!

11. Stay warm without the heat.

During harsh winter months, layer up with extra blankets, drink a hot cup of cocoa, and get your snuggle on to stay warm instead of jacking up the heat. Something as simple as a hot water bottle in bed can mean forgoing high thermostat temps.

12. Choose energy-efficient appliances.

The math is easy on this one. Less energy used equals less money spent. If your fridge works perfectly fine, it may not be in your best interest to    chuck it; but when you do decide to buy new appliances, it's worth the extra dough to purchase an Energy Star model.

13. Make sure your digs are well-insulated. 

When cold months arrive, taking a few easy steps to winterize your apartment or house can also reduce energy costs. Try plugging drafty doors with towels, winterizing windows with plastic or caulking, and beefing up insulation to keep a home warm and cut back on heating costs all winter long.

14. Ditch cable.

Canceling cable can save you hundreds if not thousands a year. Beyond the obvious health benefits of decreasing TV time - including increased sleep, prioritizing your social life, and promoting healthier weight- limiting dependence on cable TV can save a substantial amount of money. And there are alternatives including Hulu, Hulu Plus ($8 per month), and Netflix ($8 per month). 

15. Switch to energy efficient bulbs.

You've probably seen energy efficient light bulbs on the shelves of the hardware store. They can be more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but they pay off in the long run: LED bulbs and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) require less energy to run. Crazy as it may sound, replacing five bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs can save about $75 each year.

16. Have a potluck.

The idea is simple - At a potluck dinner, each invitee brings along a dish of food, which is then eaten by all. Lots of people equals lots of food.     Delegating dishes among guests makes it easier for the host family by saving time, energy, and (of course) money. Bonus: You get to spend time with friends and family! 

17. Make your own gifts.

When it comes time for birthdays and holidays, use sites like Pinterest for homemade gift ideas such as DIY candles, clothing & accessories, face scrubs, baking mixes, and home goods.

18. Get a library card.

A library card grants access to thousands of books for free, but that's not all. Use your library card to borrow movies, magazines, and newspapers. The library is also a great place to get some work done free of charge (a.k.a. a place where there are are no kids running around screaming).

19. Share media streaming accounts.

Don't have a Netflix account yourself? Split the already low monthly cost with a roommate, family member, or friend. Same goes for magazine subscriptions.

20. See what's happenin' around town.

Check the local newspaper, town website, or coffee shop boards for free or cheap events, from farmers' markets to concerts in the park, that are going    on around your hood.

21. Clean out your closet.

Take some time to actually put everything where it's supposed to go. Once you've organized your clothes so everything has a place, it's likely you'll       find forgotten items hiding in your closet and rethink buying a whole new wardrobe. Not to mention that selling your unused items could represent a   nice little kick start for your savings account. 

22. Leave your wallet at home or at the office.

Going for a walk? Leave your wallet when you head out so you won't be tempted to grab coffee or go on a mini shopping trip.

23. Sign up for rewards cards.

Having a rewards card can save money on everyday items such as shampoo or toilet paper. (If the emails from drug stores bother you, immediately unsubscribe.). To make things even easier, there are apps that consolidate cards so you don't have to carry them all around. 

24. Coupon like a champ.

Troll for online coupon codes. Couponing doesn't have to mean hours of clipping circulars. Take advantage of sites that tailor coupons to your         interests and needs, such as thekrazycouponlady.com and coupons.com.

25. Buy generic.

Try out generic brands of some of your most commonly purchased items. Oftentimes it's hard to notice a difference. Certain purchases, such as  medications and organic food, are especially smart to buy generic because they're regulated by the FDA and the USDA, respectively.

26. Buy in bulk.

Put your purchasing power to use and buy in bulk whenever it makes sense. Buy personal care items, such as deodorant and hand soap, in bulk (so       long as you're confident you'll actually use it all). Buying bulk almost always saves money on the unit price. 

27. Buy what's in season.

Buy produce that's in season and look for recipes that feature seasonal produce. Frequent farmers' markets during the spring, summer, and fall for      locally grown produce that's often less expensive than supermarket food shipped in from miles and miles away. And not just produce, this goes for everything including automobiles, electronics, and clothing. Know when to buy! 

28. Cash in on cans and bottles.

Recycle glass and aluminum empties to put a little extra change back in your pocket. In states with bottle bills, each bottle or can redeems five to 10    cents.

29. Make your own coffee.

Brew that morning cup of Joe at home or take advantage of the office coffee maker to save up to $15 a week. Making coffee at home or at work is            also an environmentally friendlier choice since you won't be dumping a paper cup with each purchase.

30. Save all your pennies.

Save spare change and use it on a fun drink that you don't really need, e.g. a fancy pumpkin spice latte. You'll get to treat yourself without putting            any strain on your wallet. Even better throw this change right into your savings account. 

31. Brown-bag lunch.

Packing lunch for work or school is generally the healthier choice; plus, it saves on food markups at sit-down restaurants and fast-food joints. Rather       than a $10 to $15 lunch from the corner deli, a lunch from home can cost just a few dollars.

32. Walk and bike whenever possible.

This one is as simple as strapping on a helmet or lacing up a pair of shoes. Not only will a bike or walk commute to the supermarket or to work            provide health benefits, but it's also more cost-effective (no gasoline required!).

33. Carpool.

The average American commuter drops more than $1,000 on gas each year just driving to and from work. Carpooling with a co-worker not only cuts        gas costs but also saves on maintenance, meaning you won't have to worry as much about buying a new car in the near future.

34. Fill up your tires.

Properly inflated tires can increase fuel efficiency by more than three percent - which means less money spent on gas. Check tires frequently with a tire   gauge to make sure they're adequately pumped up. 


Post Date: June 20, 2016

Credit Building Myths: Do you know the truth?



Much like anything, credit building is full of old wives' tales and myths that just don't make sense. Seemingly smart financial moves such as closing accounts or paying off loans early, may not be the credit boosters you think they are.

Unfortunately, there are no real quick fixed to credit repair despite what some commercials or ads might have you believe. Usually, those quick fixes result in "avoiding" credit laws and can lead to issues in the future. The key to increasing your credit score is a combination of good payment behavior, along with time, and a healthy mix of credit types.

To help you sort the fact from the fiction, we will help you tackle some of these myths...

1. Opting out of credit card offers will raise your score

Many people assume that if they decline credit card offers, there will have fewer credit inquiries on their credit reports. However, those inquiries are considered "soft" inquiries and don't affect your credit score.  You can keep the offers coming if you'd like, but doing so won't help you build better credit or make it worse for that matter. 

If you want to opt out of offers to reduce your junk mail, visit OptOutPrescreen.com to remove your name from the credit reporting agency lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers. That will remove your name for five years. To keep your name off the list, mail in the permanent opt-out election form available on the website. Consumers can also opt in on the website if they've already opted out.

2. You can "bump" hard inquiries off your credit report

A "hard" inquiry is generated when creditors pull your report or score after you apply for a loan or line of credit. Your score falls because it shows you're interested in taking on more credit and therefore, more risk. 

Some consumers believe if they pull their credit report every day to load up on "soft" inquiries, they will bump off the hard ones that weigh on their credit score. But there's no indication that this works and it's only a small part of your total score (about 10%). 

Focus on legitimate strategies such as paying your bills on time and managing your credit accounts properly. 

3. Closing old accounts will boost your score

Closing accounts typically won't help your score and could possibly hurt it if you close an account that positively affected your score. The results can shorten your credit history and leave you with a smaller amount of available credit, both of which can harm your efforts to build better credit.

The length of credit history shows how seasoned of a borrower you are, so the more positive history that you have, the better. Having more available credit helps to keep your utilization rate low. The utilization rate is how much available credit a borrower uses.

4. Opening many accounts will improve your credit score

Some consumers with credit problems believe opening many accounts will be proof that they can handle credit. Actually, it has the opposite effect. It's a sign of risk and your credit score can suffer as a result.

What lenders will see is a boatload of new, hard inquiries on your credit report. Those inquiries will deduct from your credit score, while lenders will worry that you're in dire financial straits and desperately need access to credit to pay your bills. 

5. Paying off delinquencies will restore your credit score

Nope. It will help, but don't expect a major boost right away. That's because the delinquency will stay on your report for a specified period of time, even if it has a zero balance.

Most derogatory information such as late payments, collection accounts, charged-off accounts, tax liens and judgments live on your credit report for seven years before dropping off. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can linger on your report from seven to 10 years, while Chapter 7 bankruptcies remain on your credit report for 10 years.

6. Paying off loans early is better than making payments

That's a tricky situation because while it may be good for your personal finances to pay off a loan, it doesn't do much for your credit score.

While a closed, paid-off account does add to your score, but an open credit account in good standing boosts it more.

That's because an open account shows you're consistently handling credit wisely. A closed account only shows good payment behavior in the past and becomes less and less indicative of future habits.

7. Paying before the due date helps your credit score

Your credit score takes into account how much available credit you're using. Paying a credit card balance in full 10 days or one day ahead of the due date won't help your utilization ratio and thereby improve your score. 

However, if you pay the balance in full before the statement closing date, which appears on your statement, then your report will post a zero balance for that account. That will help your utilization rate and your credit score.

To get started, you will have to pay one credit card bill earlier than usual and then consider your statement date as your due date. Also, you will need to check your balance online or over the phone to make sure you pay the correct amount.

8. All delinquencies are created equal

If you're in the unenviable position of having to miss a payment, choose carefully. Missing a mortgage or auto loan payment will ding your credit more than skipping a credit card payment will. 

Of course, missing a payment is a last resort. Pay the minimum payment to keep accounts current. 

9. You can't have any negatives on your report

Believe it or not, you can have anything from a 30-day missed payment to a bankruptcy on your report and still have a really good score.

The most recent information on credit reports is weighted more heavily than older data. So, if you have a bankruptcy from five years ago, but have had good credit performance since, it's possible to have a 700 FICO score!




Post Date: June 13, 2016

Credit Freeze Tips & Tricks

  

Have you experienced a freeze recently? Not the especially cold kind that is typical on the East coast during the winter season, but rather a freeze of your credit history? Well, if not, a credit freeze is an especially effective credit management tactic that both adults and children alike can use to help protect their financial history and secure their identity. With that said, it is important to note that identity theft is now the number one consumer complaint with the Federal 
Trade Commission. Data breaches are becoming increasingly more common and even large "secure" sites are being compromised. Why is this? Well, it is due partly to the fact that there is more personal information available online and the methods of online scammers have become increasingly more advanced. Sounds a little scary right? Well, it is! A credit freeze is an excellent way for adults to safeguard their credit especially if they are working to improve their scores. It is also a fantastic way to protect the identity of minors so that their identity cannot be used until they are ready to apply for credit.

So how does it work?

Each individual is allow to seal their credit reports and use a personal identification number (PIN) that only they know and can use to temporarily "thaw" their credit so that only legitimate applications for credit can be processed. This added layer of security makes it more difficult for thieves to establish new credit in your name even if they are able to obtain other identification for you. 

Freezing your credit files has no impact whatsoever on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would even when your credit is frozen.

Credit freezes have been available for free to victims of identity theft for some time now, but just recently all three of the major credit bureaus adopted new rules allowing non-victims to have access to credit freezes as well for a small fee. 

 

The only time that it may not be beneficial to freeze your credit is if your credit reports are accessed regularly for work or because you create new accounts with various financial institutions on a regular basis.


The cost to freeze your report ranges from $3-$10 per person per bureau to freeze a credit report; some states have higher fees. Also be sure that you freeze your credit with all 3 bureaus.


The cost to "thaw" your reports for one creditor - or for a specific period of time - range from being free to $10.


If you are interested in getting more information about how to submit a credit freeze? We can help! Contact us today at 410-833-3939 or at rescorellc@gmail.com.  



Post Date: June 6, 2016

Practical Ways to Avoid Identity Theft



Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of your personal information, such as a Social Security number or driver's license number, in order to impersonate someone else. This information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services in the name of the victim, or to provide the thief with false credentials. In addition to running up debt, an imposter might provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants for the person whose identity has been stolen.

Identity theft is a crime that is estimated to affect over 9 million Americans per year. Every individual must take steps to protect themselves from falling victim to this ever growing segment of crime.

Protect yourself from identity theft with these basic tips...

    • Consider Subscribing to Credit Monitoring ServiceSeveral companies offer services to help you in the case that you become victim to identity theft, including the big three Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. These services almost always includes regular fees of some type however they do provide real time alerts to changes on your credit report and new credit inquiries. The quicker you are alerted to a potential case of identity theft, the easier the case will be to resolve. 
    • Keep Personal Documents in a Safe. Consider keeping a fireproof personal safe for your home. You can use your safe at home to protect items such as your social security card, birth certificate and passport. In addition, we recommend an off-site safety deposit box to store copies of documents and items that are difficult to replace in the event of an extreme disaster. 

    • Protect your Purse or Wallet. At ALL times! The best purses and backpacks are those that can be zipped or closed shut. Try not to use bags that others can easily see or reach into, and keep bags close to your body with a tight grip at all times. Do not leave wallets or purses in the car, or if you must, do not leave them exposed or in an obvious place.
    • Photocopy the Contents of your Wallet. Make copies of credit cards, ID cards, and all other personal documents you keep in your wallet. Also, keep records of phone numbers to contact in case you need to close accounts or order replacement items in the event of an emergency. 
    • Examine your Bank Account Statements Monthly. Ensure that your accounts have no unauthorized charges. If there are charges that you do not recognize, contact your banking institution immediately. Banks are typically quick to act on fraudulent charges and in most cases they will refund your money immediately. 
    • Remove yourself from Promotional Lists. Junk mail and pre-approved credit card lists only add clutter and do not do you any good. They also have the potential to put you at risk of ID theft if a stranger gets their hands on your pre-approved cards.
    • Manage your Credit Cards. There’s no reason to have 10 or more open credit cards for the taking. Consolidate and reduce the number of cards you have if possible. The less credit you have open, the less you’ll have to monitor. However, be careful with this strategy. If you have lines of credit that are in good standing and have been open an extended period of time, they are most likely working in your favor with your credit score. Only cancel credit cards with a short payment history or extremely high finance charges. 
    • Select Smart Passwords. Make your password as difficult to figure out as possible. An impersonal combination of letters, special characters, and numbers is best. Try to steer away from using things like birthday, social security number, or generic passwords such as welcome. 
    • Protect your computer. Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software and be sure to keep them up to date. Use smart passwords on your computer as well to protect your data. 
    • Do not Reveal Personal Information. Never reveal personal information to unverified sources whether over the phone or on the Internet. Do not feel pressured to answer personal questions if you do not trust the source. Feel free to request verifying information before giving anything up. 
    • Review your Credit. Take advantage of your free annual credit reports and consider purchasing additional copies throughout the year for continuous monitoring. Consider placing fraud alerts and credit freezes on your account for greater protection.
    • Shred Personal Documents. Before throwing them away, be sure to shred any documents that may have confidential information on them. Dumpster diving is a common method of stealing personal information for the sake of identity fraud. Purchase a shredder for your home and destroy paperwork containing personal information before discarding. This includes mail, credit card statements and even receipts.

Any questions? Contact us today at 410-833-3939 or at rescorellc@gmail.com. 



Post Date: May 30, 2016


What’s holding you back from a perfect 850 credit score?

There are actually only a few main factors that are used to calculate your credit scores.

Based on these factors, the top reasons why your credit score isn’t higher is listed below, along with a few words of wisdom on how to raise your credit scores.


The Four Primary Reasons

1. Payment History

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit scores, and is the single most important factor used when calculating a credit score. Having red marks on your credit like late payments, collections, repossessions, etc…, lowers your credit score immensely.

Credit Tip: 

Pay your bills on time and fix your past mistakes. You can hire a credit repair agency to work on improving your payment history by leveraging consumer protection laws that clean up your credit reports. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you every opportunity to get your credit back in order, use the law to your advantage.

2. Credit Utilization Rate Is Too High

Your utilization rate is the percentage of credit that you owe (your balance) as compared to your credit limit.

Example: Balance = $1000 / Credit Limit = $2,000 Utilization is ($2000/$1,000) 50%. 

Lenders view a high utilization rate as a proven indicator of increased credit risk.

Credit Tip:

Pay down your credit card balances and decrease your utilization rate to 30% or less. This means that you should never spend more than 30% of your credit limit.

3. Your Credit History Is Too Short

Your average length of open credit accounts for approximately 15% of your credit score. This shows lenders your experience with credit and lenders prefer consumers with a long length of credit over ones with a short credit history.

Credit Tip: 

Do not close old accounts, keep them active and open and they will increase your length of history. You should also limit opening new accounts because every new account decreases your average length of open credit. Be patient and your credit history will grow with time.

4. You have too many inquiries on your credit report.

Every time you apply for credit, a history of that application shows up on your credit report, this is known as an inquiry.

Inquiries are about 10% of your overall credit score and having too many of them drastically lowers your creditworthiness.  Each inquiry can lower your score by about 10 to 20 points.

Credit Tip: 

Apply for credit only when necessary and try to limit yourself to a maximum of one inquiry every 6 months.

If you have too many inquiries reporting to your credit reports, a credit repair agency like Rescore, LLC can challenge those inquiries and work on removing as many of them as possible.