Topics:Personal Finance Credit Score Credit Cards 101 Home and Credit Relationships and Finance Credit and Debt Credit Repair 101 Children and Finance Expert Advice Credit Repair Companies
August 21st, 2020
March 22nd, 2021
We all love the holiday season. The parties, the food, and the festive decorations are enough to make anyone smile. Although the holidays can bring plenty of cheer and joy, they can also distract you from preparing for the approaching new year. Odds are, you probably won’t be thinking of your financial resolutions or goals while you’re chugging eggnog or unwrapping gifts. And that’s okay if you prepare for the new year before the holidays come around. If you don’t prepare in advance, however, you might find that you’re up to your neck in holiday debt or that your credit score has dropped, and then you'll have to spend the first part of the next year making up for your lack of preparation. That’s definitely not a fun way to kick off the new year.The beginning of the new year is a chance to start fresh and set the tone for the rest of the year. So, if you start the new year stressing over your financial situation, you might feel the consequences of that for the rest of the year. To make this upcoming new year a great one for you, we gathered several expert tips that can help you prepare your credit and finances for the new year. Tip #1: Keep an eye on holiday expenses Tanya Peterson, Consumer Finance Expert and Vice President of Brand for Freedom Debt Relief “If you are holiday shopping, be cautious with the credit card(s). Make sure you are working from a holiday budget, and no matter what, charge no more than what you can pay in full and on time when the bills arrive. It is not worth going into debt for holiday shopping.” Jory McEachern, Operations Manager at ScoreShuttle “Before you start wheeling and dealing out gifts, first make sure you’ve accounted for all of your holiday travel expenses and traditional grocery needs. To make it easy, start online before you head into a store. Online shops typically allow you to search for items in your specific price range to prevent overspending. Compare prices from a few different vendors and always search for coupons codes and discounts before you make a purchase.” Jake Lizarraga, Writer at Finance Fox “Avoid the holiday debt. This means being smart about how you’ll be spending the holidays. Expensive gifts or crazy decorations are unnecessary to bring in the holiday cheer, so don’t get caught up in the spending craze.” Tip #2: Review your finances and budget monthly or annually Jonathan Hess, Creator of Centsibly Frugal “Prepare a year-end review of your finances. I use Mint to export all of my transactions throughout the year and spend an hour or two sifting through every category by month with Excel pivot tables to see how much I spent last year and if I can cut certain things. I also take a look at which of my yearly subscriptions or promotions I’ve signed up for, that will be coming up for renewal in the coming year, and prepare to renew them, replace them with a lower-cost option, or cancel altogether.” Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider “Reevaluate your budget and incorporate any financial changes that may have taken place throughout the year. A year is a long time, and you may very well have received a raise or introduced another stream of income over the past several months. If you’re aiming to boost your credit scores and haven’t paid off all your debts, consider directing some of this cash flow toward credit card balances and other debts that allow you to pay on your own terms. With all else equal, lower credit card balances can lead to a healthy boost to your credit scores.” Jared Weitz CEO and Founder United Capital Source Inc. “Establish a monthly check-in on your spending and finances. During this time take note of any charitable donations, gifts, or purchases that could be tax-deductible. When you break up this activity into a monthly action, it will be much easier to manage filing taxes at the end of the year and will ensure that you’re never late on any bills/credit cards etc. This is also a great time to make sure there are no transactions to dispute or any suspicious activity. An hour or two a month will save you a great deal of time and frustration down the road.” Tip #3: Set credit goals and know your numbers Todd Christensen, Education Manager at Money Fit “Set a credit goal to work on in (the new year). Any score about 750 or 760 will generally get you all the best repayment terms (low-interest rates, no fees, etc.) that lenders have to offer. Here are the steps you can take now to start the journey: Figure out where your credit score sits generally. Use a free app or service like Credit Karma, Mint, Credit Sesame, Bankrate, Nerd Wallet, etc. to see where your score is. Add the balances of your accounts from your credit report to figure out your total debt. Add your minimum monthly payments to understand your minimum payment obligation. For accounts with overdue payments, call the creditor to arrange a plan to get caught up so the account will report as on time. Not all creditors are willing to work out a repayment plan over a couple of months, but some would rather do that than take a loss by selling the account to collections. For any collection notice you have received in the past month or so, call the original creditor, office, business and ask if you can set up a monthly repayment plan and have them get the account back from the collection agency (to keep it off your credit report). Commit to sending a specific amount of money to your creditors each month in (the new year) above and beyond the required minimum payment.” Tip #4: Lower your credit utilization rate Logan Allec, CPA, personal finance expert, and owner of personal finance blog Money Done Right “A sneaky trick to improve your credit is to lower your utilization ratio. The utilization ratio measures what percent of your credit limit you use, with a lower score actually raising your credit score. For example, if you have a $1,000 balance and a credit limit of $5,000, then your utilization ratio is 20 percent. If you plan to lower your utilization ratio, you can take steps now like calling your bank this year and asking for a higher limit. This will improve your ratio immediately if you keep your spending at the same level through (the new year).” Chase Lawson, Personal Finance Expert and Author of Financial Freedom: Breaking the Chains to Independence and Creating Massive Wealth “The second largest factor in your credit score is credit utilization. This represents 30 percent of your FICO score. If you consistently keep a relatively low balance on each of your credit accounts, this will help improve this metric. A good target is to stay below 30 percent of your credit limit on each account. Therefore, if your credit limit on one of your credit cards is $1,000, try to keep the outstanding balance below $300, or 30 percent. In addition, you can ask to have your credit limit increased. In this case, you can keep a larger balance if needed and have it not impact your credit score as much.” Tanya Peterson “Be aware of how much of your available credit you are using. You want to minimize percentage utilization and maximize credit available on each credit card. As an example, if you have a credit card with a limit of $10,000, and you owe $3,000 on it, that's 30 percent utilization. Because credit card utilization can be very influential in calculation of credit scores, keep it very low.” Tip #5: Plan your investments ahead of time Jonathan Hess “Plan on which big investments you will most likely have during the year. If you’re planning on buying a house, car, or other large item that requires financing, avoid applying for other forms of credit so your score will be as high as possible when you apply. On top of that, during the months leading up to that big purchase, keep your credit utilization very low by paying off some of your current balances before your credit card statement balances come out. This could give you a temporary boost to your score.” Chase Lawson “It's better to invest earlier, so you can benefit from compound returns. As such, if you aren't already investing and if you're able to work it into your monthly budget, now is the perfect time to begin. Historically, investing in a diversified portfolio mirroring the market has resulted in 7–10 percent yearly returns, regardless of timing. Consider contributing to your employer's 401(k) plan, especially if there's a match. Find good mutual funds to invest in. Slowly increase your contributions as you start making more money.” Tip #6: Make a debt plan (consider the snowball method) Tanya Peterson “Take time now to plan how you will pay off any debt you carry, especially credit card debt. Do it yourself if possible, with the avalanche or snowball method. If not, now is the time to check out a personal loan (to consolidate and pay off the debt), credit counseling (slightly lower interest rate), or, if you are struggling to make minimum payments and have incurred a financial hardship, debt settlement.” Morgan Taylor, Finance Expert and CMO at LetMeBank “Pick the smallest credit (or loan) that you have to pay off. Start putting as much towards that as your budget allows while maintaining minimum payments on your other bills. Once that's paid off, move on to the next smallest bill, putting what you would have put towards that first bill plus your minimum payment towards it. This snowballs until you've paid off all consumer debt.” Brandon Neth, Credit Card and Travel Rewards Expert at FinanceBuzz "The debt snowball and/or avalanche methods are easy to follow, actionable and can make a real difference. Simply pay extra towards your highest interest debt first (avalanche method), or pay extra to the debt with the lowest balance first (snowball method). Continue paying the minimum on all of your other interest-earning debts simultaneously. Get started today by paying any extra amount to your debt — whether it be $25 or $100. As you enter (the new year), you can most likely automate these extra payments so you don't have to think about it each month. By spending the next few weeks educating yourself, putting an extra payment toward your debt and making a plan that you can stick to in the new year, your credit should see a boost in (the new year)." Tip #7: Check your credit reports Tanya Peterson “Check credit reports. If you have not done so within a year, this is an excellent time. Everyone can obtain a copy of his or her report from each of the three major credit report bureaus (Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax). They are available through www.annualcreditreport.com once a year for free. Reviewing your reports can help you detect identity theft or errors that damage your credit. Once you have viewed your reports, correct any errors by following the directions on each agency’s website.” Todd Christensen “Get over the fear and pull your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Most people I have helped to pull their credit thought things would be a lot worse than they actually were.” Nathan Wade, Managing Editor for WealthFit Money “Not often enough do individuals check their credit reports as much as their credit score. One mistake could be holding you back from reaching your credit score goal or even worse — damaging your credit. Checking for accuracy before the new year will give you sanity that there isn't any oversight. Check your credit report from one of the three credit reporting agencies, everyone one is entitled to a free copy from each of these agencies each year. In the event that you find a mistake, dispute it immediately.” Andrew Chen, Founder of Hack Your Wealth “You want to start (the new year) with confidence that your credit file is accurate and clean. You can pull your credit report for free once per year from each of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion) using a site like annualcreditreport.com (there are others, too). Do this before the year-end to verify there are no reporting mistakes and that you indeed recognize every account/balance listed (i.e., no fraud red flags). If you see anything you don't recognize, contact the bureaus immediately to start the correction process; also call your card companies to notify them so they can put an alert on your file.” Tip #8: Budget for both regular and irregular expenses Jonathan Hess “Look at irregular expenses and start putting money aside for them. I have a few bills that are quarterly or semi-annual. I will divide these bills by the number of months between when they’re due and set up an automatic withdrawal from my checking account so I can limit the ‘hit’ I take on the quarter when the bill is due. This also allows me to easily budget things on a monthly basis even if they’re due quarterly.” Simon Nowak, CEO of 3CreditScores.net “If you don't already prepare a monthly budget you should start. Calculate the approximate cost of each monthly necessity. Take that total and deduct it from your monthly income. From there you can determine what you have left to put towards reducing credit card debt or making an extra mortgage payment. Take advantage of opportunities to eliminate debt whenever applicable and feasible.” Tip #9: Be strategic about credit card payments Andrew Chen “Pay off your highest interest rate credit cards asap, even if that means opening a new no or low-interest card and transferring your balance to it. Credit card interest charges are insanely expensive, especially for travel rewards cards, so you want to pay any cards off where you're carrying a monthly balance as quickly as possible. This will help you free up cash flow. In no event do you want to make a late payment — it'll be costly and it'll ding your credit badly.” Tip #10: Consider autopay for bills and avoid late payments Evan Sutherland, Cofounder, Budgeting Couple “Bills are the crux of a great credit score. If you pay a bill late, then your credit score is negatively affected (not to mention your finances suffer from hefty late fees and interest charges). Pay your credit cards, personal loans, mortgage, utilities, and cell phone bill on time, and your credit score could skyrocket. The easiest way to never miss a payment — as well as grow your credit score every month — is to use Autopay. Put every bill you can on Autopay. When a bill is due, the billing company will automatically withdraw that month’s payment from your bank account. Your payments will always be on time, you’ll never lose money to late fees and interest, you’re (sic) credit score will grow every month, and you’ll have one less financial responsibility to worry about. Start consistently and effortlessly growing your credit score (by putting) your bills on autopay.” Nathan Wade “Paying your bills on time is crucial to improving your credit score. If you have trouble remembering your payment due dates, set up an automatic charge. If you don't want payments to be made automatically, set up payment due date alerts. Being organized will help you avoid making late payments. If you mistakenly made a late payment, speak with your credit card issuer and ask for late payment forgiveness. If you have a good track record, they will be more likely to forgive.” Tip #11: Check and monitor your credit score Heidi Mertlich, Owner of No Physical Term Life “Monitor your credit score. Credit scores are considered by most financial experts as a gauge of your monetary health. Your score is a factor for lending institutions to determine whether or not you qualify for a loan, and just how much interest to charge you. Monitor your credit score to check for discrepancies and to protect yourself from identity theft." Richard Best, Personal Finance Expert at DontPayFull “You need to know your score. Get a baseline for score and track it as you take steps to improve your credit. Sign up for a credit monitoring service so you can track your credit report and score. They are offered free through most online banking services or you can sign up free with CreditKarma.com.” Tip #12: Avoid closing old credit cards Andrew Chen “Do not close your oldest credit cards, especially if they have no annual fee. A big input into your credit score is the age of your credit lines. Some people open no-annual-fee credit cards when they are young, even if they don't intend to use them, simply to start establishing a track record of having credit responsibly." Morgan Taylor “Don't close accounts. When you pay something off, don't close the account. Instead, figure out a regular monthly bill that has to be paid, and is already in the budget. Put that bill on one of the paid-off credit cards and pay it off every month in full. This will show that you're responsible with credit, actively using credit, and are paying off that credit in full every month.” Tip #13: Create a credit card balance-payoff plan Sean Messier “If you haven’t already, enforce a strict credit card plan that involves paying off the balance of every card in your wallet by its statement closing date... There’s a common misconception that using no more than 30 percent of your credit card balances is the best move for your credit, but the reality is that having no debt at all is considerably better. That doesn’t mean never using your cards — it just means paying them off in a timely manner.” Richard Best “Develop a plan to reduce your balances. One of the quickest ways to improve your credit score is to reduce your credit card balances to below 30 percent of their available credit. Start with your highest balances first...and start in on your cards with lower balances. Your ultimate goal should be to reduce your balances to zero.” Tip #14: Cut off unnecessary expenses Nathan Wade “If you want to save more money in the upcoming year, cut out any unnecessary expenses and leave them in (the past year). Nonessentials range from entertainment services to buying coffee each morning. Although it may not seem like a big change, buying coffee is roughly five/six dollars a day, (which) amounts to about $2,000 a year. This is a great amount that you can accumulate in (the new year). Once you've cut nonessentials out, try your best to negotiate any current bills and see if there is any way you can bring down the cost from services such as your cell phone carrier.” Tip #15: Get your taxes done early David DiNardo, President and CEO of Envolta “Getting your taxes done early is an excellent first step that I highly recommend. The earlier you can arrange and organize all of your tax receipts, the easier your taxes will get done, and the clearer your financial picture will be for the new year. By leaving your taxes to the last minute, you'll also increase the chances of having to file for an extension, which could result in actually having to owe money instead of receiving some.” Bonus tips from BestCompany's experts Alayna Okerlund, credit repair expert Invest in credit repair. If you are struggling with poor credit and have plans to use your credit sometime in the upcoming new year, you may want to consider credit repair. You can either spend time to repair your credit on your own or you can take some of that effort off your shoulders and hire a professional credit repair company. Although credit repair can take time, it can help you improve your credit score, which can result in better opportunities for you in the new year. If you’re planning on investing in professional credit repair services, check out this list of top credit repair companies to get started. Get organized. Creating an organized system for your finances can make all the difference. If you are struggling with staying on top of your finances, you might find that part of the reason is because you’re simply not organized enough. If you’re following tip #2 (reviewing your budget and finances), you may want to review your current financial organization structure at the same time. Do what you can to find what works for you. You may find that you’re more into digital organization or you may like a physical filing cabinet system more. Regardless of whatever organization system you put in place, making an effort to be more organized can improve your chances of staying on top of your finances in the new year. Settle person-to-person debts. It can be hard to lend and borrow money from another person, especially if there isn’t a set plan to settle up in the near future. Maybe you found yourself in a tight spot this year and asked your best friend for a little cash or maybe a family member came up to you and asked you for money. Regardless of who borrowed money from whom, you should make it part of your financial preparation plan to settle those person-to-person debts before the end of this year. Settling these types of debts can be awkward and uncomfortable. If you lent someone money and they can’t pay you back right now or vice versa, take the time to communicate with them and create a strict, written plan for reimbursement. This plan should include the debts owed, the exact date the debt will be paid back in the near future, and what is being done to make sure the person who owes money will be ready to pay up when the due date approaches. Alice Stevens, tax and insurance expert Check your tax withholdings. If your tax situation or income has changed, talk to the human resources department to review your withholdings. Withholdings are automatically taken from W-2 earners before you get your paycheck. If you're self-employed, check your quarterly tax payments to make sure that you'll be on-track for paying next year's taxes. You don’t want to overpay your taxes because you'll have less money for your monthly expenses throughout the year. You also want to avoid underpaying them, too. Writing a big check to the government in April isn't pleasant and may be more than you can pay all at once. Look at your health expenses. Part of your annual financial review should include your health expenses. Review what you spent this year and project next year’s costs as best as you can. Maybe one of your kids needs to get their wisdom teeth removed next year or your doctor has recommended a procedure within the next year for you. If you do this review during the open enrollment period (November 1–December 15), you can use this information to help you pick the right health plan to save you more money based on what you need. If you do your review after open enrollment, you can still use this information as you prepare your budget for the year. Meet with a finance professional. Meeting with a finance professional can give you financial advice tailored to your situation and goals. Whether you meet with a credit counselor to help you budget or create a plan to get out of debt or you meet with a financial planner to review plans for the future and retirement, it’s always beneficial to meet with a professional. Key Takeaways: Be more financially prepared with these extra tips • Invest in credit repair • Get organized • Settle person-to-person debts • Check your tax withholdings • Look at your health expenses • Meet with a finance professional The bottom line In order to enjoy the holidays and the beginning of the new year, it’s important to prepare your credit and other finances in advance. As you head into the holiday season, consider trying out a few of the tips listed above, enhancing your financial education, and seeking professional financial advice if necessary to get you and your finances truly ready for the new year.
This is part two of our two-part credit retirement series. Read part one here. When you retire, the world becomes your oyster. You can finally take that exciting European adventure you and your spouse have always dreamed of or you can just take the time to relax in the sunshine on an empty beach. In general, retirement allows you to focus on yourself and discover the joys of life you never had time for because you were sitting in a gray-colored cubicle for 40 or more hours each week. Now that you’ve traded your briefcase in for a piña colada, you might think your life is all about vacation and bliss. Granted, relaxation and vacation can be the majority of your focus now, but there is something you might still need to think about every once in a while: your credit. If you’ve read part one of this article series, then you know that credit is still important after you retire. After all, you never know when you might need to cosign a loan for someone, when you will have to pay for emergency expenses, or when you will choose to downsize and move closer to your grandkids. In fact, you might not even know if or when within the next few years you will want to take out a loan to pay for that convertible you’ve always had your eye on. Overall, the reasons for maintaining a good credit score may seem like a lot of “what if’s,” but life is full of “what if’s” and you never know what will really happen. So, it’s best to be prepared when the “what if’s” become your reality. Now that you’ve learned about why credit is still important, you might be wondering how you can maintain your credit as you explore the joys of retirement. If that’s the case, today is your lucky day because we asked the experts to discuss ways retirees can effectively manage their credit. Let’s get started. How to manage credit in retirement Richard Best, Personal Finance Expert and Writer at dontpayfull.com “To maintain a high credit score in retirement, you need to be proactive in using and monitoring your credit. It is important to continue to use your credit cards. A big portion of your credit score is based on your payment history. Use your credit cards to pay for budgeted expenses and then pay the balance in full every month. You will (also) want to closely monitor your credit. Retirees are a main target for identity thieves who can potentially destroy your credit history. It’s important to track your credit score, so if it should change, you can look at your credit report to learn the reason for the change. You are eligible to receive three free credit reports per year — one from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.” Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider “Maintaining your credit scores after retirement should be relatively easy if you’ve developed good financial habits over the years. Be sure to make all payments on time, and pay down your credit card balances on a monthly basis whenever possible to keep your debt-to-limit ratio low.” David Bakke, Credit Expert at Money Crashers “To keep your credit up in retirement, never close older or unneeded credit cards. Keep them open and put a few minor purchases on them each month, so the provider doesn't close the account for you. This maintains your available level of credit and keeps your score intact. Also, start or continue to analyze your credit reports, which you can do three times per year using the website AnnualCreditReport. At that site, you can access your report for free from each of the three main credit reporting agencies. Make sure that there are no accounts that don't belong to you or any other inaccurate information. Then, pay all bills on time and keep credit card balances low, if not at $0. And by all means, be wary of scams or other criminal activity that could affect your credit in a negative way. The strategies are basically endless at this point, but just understand that anything that sounds too good to be true in any credit matter should be avoided. If you're unsure, consult with a friend or family member or a trusted associate well-versed in personal finance if you have one.” Randall Yates, Founder and CEO of The Lenders Network “Payment history is the biggest factor in determining your credit score so you want to make sure you stay on top of your payments. Set up auto-pay on your accounts so you can avoid any missed payments. Your credit utilization ratio also has a big impact on your credit score, try to keep your card balances below 20 percent of the credit limit to maximize your scores.” Howard Dvorkin, CPA and Founder of Debt.com “There’s one simple, powerful way to keep your credit score robust. Just pay off your credit card balances in full and on time each month. Every other hack pales in comparison. Why? Because the math says so. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is determined by payment history, which is just shorthand for, ‘You pay your bills on time.’ Another 30 percent is credit utilization, which is a fancy way of saying, ‘You don’t max out your credit limits.’ Together, those two factors represent nearly two-thirds of your credit score. So don’t fret about any other credit score hacks till you take care of these two. Otherwise, you’re wasting a lot of time for very little in return.” Freddie Huynh, Vice President of Credit Risk Analytics with Freedom Financial Network Review credit reports and make sure they are accurate — All three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are required to provide a credit report. Retirees should access credit reports once each year for free at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. If a report shows any inaccuracy, from your address to an incorrect outstanding balance on a credit card, correct it by following the directions on each agency’s website.Understand that credit reports are different from credit scores — Information on the credit reports is used to calculate the scores. Many banks, credit unions, and credit card issuers now provide credit scores to customers. Consumers also can purchase them from credit score services, or purchase their FICO score at myfico.com. Pay every bill on time, every time — On-time payments make up 35 percent of credit scores, the largest component. Pay down any credit card debt — Getting rid of it is one of the best investments you’ll make. It’s also a key factor in improving credit profiles and scores. Minimize percentage utilization and maximize credit available — If the sum of your credit card limits is $10,000, and the total credit card balances you have are $3,500, that's 35 percent utilization. Credit card utilization can be very influential to your credit score, so you want to keep your credit card balances and utilization low. Do use credit — Credit bureaus look to payment history to help assess how someone will do in the future when it comes to repaying any debt. So, borrowing provides the information they need. Most adults find it helpful to use one credit card, but it’s not necessary to use more than one to improve or maintain a positive credit profile. Don’t stress if you don’t have a credit card — While many 50+ adults have the problem of too many cards, some don’t have any. Payments on any loan help build a credit history, as does paying every bill on time (and in full). Beware of retail store cards — They can carry very high-interest rates and most people are better off using a regular credit card. Do not carry credit card balances month-to-month — Charge no more than the amount you can and will pay off in full every month. If you can’t do that, don’t buy it and don’t charge it. Carefully consider canceling any credit card account that has a long (positive) history — The longer you keep such an account, the more valuable it is to credit score calculations. If you don’t want to use it, store it safely away, but don’t close the account. The bottom line Credit may be something you want to hang up in the back of your closet after you retire, but, as you’ve read above, it’s something that takes some active focus. Not enough focus, however, to ruin your retirement life. Just enough to maintain a good credit score. Now, what happens if you are going into retirement with a less-than-ideal credit score? You can try to build up your credit with good habits before you retire, you can attempt to repair your credit on your own time, or you can get help from a professional credit repair service. Overall, making sure your credit and finances are in a good place before you retire can help you more easily maintain good credit during retirement. If you do already have good credit and are about to retire, try to keep your credit in mind, follow the expert advice provided in this article, and you shouldn’t have a problem with making future credit-based decisions.
This is part one of our two-part credit retirement series. Read part two here. Odds are, you won't have too much to worry about after you retire. Retirement allows you to trade in your work deadlines and heavy-traffic commutes for sun-soaked vacations and new hobbies. It’s something you’ve likely been dreaming about since you started your professional career. And, in general, retirement is the ultimate goal that allows you to truly enjoy your golden years. Although retirement can be full of sunshine and daisies, it doesn’t mean you can leave behind all of your responsibilities, especially your credit. And we get it. No one really wants to worry about finances or credit when they retire, but it’s important to keep in mind that your credit doesn’t retire when you do. In fact, as long as you are living, your credit could affect your choices. So, if you make bad financial decisions during retirement, your credit will likely suffer. In this article series, we will discuss a few reasons why you should continue to actively manage your credit and what you need to do to make sure you have a good credit score throughout retirement. Now, let’s dive into part one. Why your credit still matters You may age like fine wine, but your credit might not, especially if you decide to throw it on the back burner when you retire. We asked a few experts why they think credit still matters after an individual reaches retirement. Here’s what they had to say: Randall Yates, Founder and CEO of The Lenders Network “Maintaining good credit in retirement is important because your credit affects more than just the interest rate you get on loans and credit cards. For instance, insurance companies often check credit to help determine your insurance rates. Cell phone companies also check credit before offering phone service. Even if you don't plan on using your credit in the future, it's always a good idea to maintain credit in the event of an emergency, or if you want to cosign on a loan for a grandchild.” Jacob Dayan, CEO and Co-founder of Finance Pal and Community Tax “It is important to maintain a good credit score following retirement as it influences your ability to refinance mortgages if your rates drop, get credit card approvals, obtain lower insurance premiums, and get auto loan approvals. This can affect hobbies and activities you might wish to pursue during retirement, so it’s always a good idea to keep them in good shape even to be safe.” Freddie Huynh, Vice President of Credit Risk Analytics with Freedom Financial Network “Once they reach their fifties and sixties, some people think that they won’t be borrowing money again, so there’s little need to worry about credit profiles and scores. This can be particularly so if they own their homes. But credit scores have a major impact on the ability to borrow any money — and the interest rate on the loan. Maybe the need for a personal or business loan will arise, or the need (or desire) to buy a different — perhaps smaller home. Credit profiles and credit scores can affect the ability to rent an apartment or lease a car. Many auto insurance companies also take credit into play when setting rates.(Additionally,) many people who have retired find that they want to, or have to, return to work, whether it’s full-time or part-time. Employers today can and do check credit reports.” Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider “There are plenty of benefits to maintaining great credit scores after retirement. Though retirement may be the end of your full-time working career, you still have years upon years left to enjoy. That can often involve buying things, like vehicles or homes, that you would rather not purchase in full. Taking meticulous care of your credit scores during retirement can help ensure you’re still able to secure the best possible interest rates and offers when it comes to loans and credit cards, which you may very well use on a regular basis. Credit cards are great for earning cashback or rewards on staple purchases, like gas and groceries, that you likely buy on a regular basis whether you’re working or not. If you’re ever looking to get a different credit card that earns rewards and provides benefits that complement your post-retirement lifestyle, you’re going to want great credit scores, as this helps keep your approval odds high. Adiel Gorel, CEO of International Capital Group (ICG) “Just because someone retired, doesn’t mean they don’t need good credit. They may still wish to buy a car, an appliance, or any other purchase that will be better financed with good credit. In fact, I would argue that it is even MORE important for a retiree to maintain good credit since traditionally, retirees try to spend as little as possible. Good credit will enable them to pay less when purchasing anything on credit.” Dan Gallagher, Personal Finance Expert at ScoreSense “While a well-thought-out cash reserve and a disciplined budget is a better practice for seniors (everyone) than using credit, there are reasons why retirees should maintain good credit. Among these are possible needs for credit and credit-score affected services. A retiree may need emergency credit to help an adult child or to maintain a business in retirement. One might need to rent a home or even a car, or live where there are ongoing obligations such as Homeowners Association dues and assessments; even cable/internet and club/golf agreements can be affected by poor credit scores. One might benefit from incentives given with store cards as well. So, credit scores and availability are important.” Richard Best, Personal Finance Expert and Writer at dontpayfull.com “With your mortgage paid off and your retirement account flush, you may think you can leave your credit score behind. You should think again. While you may not have any foreseeable borrowing needs to speak of, there are good reasons why it would be important to maintain a good credit score in retirement. Refinancing your mortgage — an increasing number of retirees are carrying a mortgage into retirement. If you happen to be one of them, you may want to keep your options open for refinancing your mortgage. A good credit score would allow you to more easily refinance if mortgage rates should drop. Or, in the unlikely event your financial circumstances should worsen, you could access your equity through a cash-out refinance. Moving or downsizing your home — It may dawn on you after you are in retirement that you may want to move to a different location (closer to the kids), or you decide you want to downsize for simpler and more affordable living. If your move entails leasing a place temporarily or permanently, you will need a good credit score to get the approval of the property owner. If the move requires any financing or refinancing, your credit score will dictate the terms of the loan. Paying for emergency expenses — if you have planned well for retirement, you should have at least six months’ worth of living expenses set aside as a cash reserve for emergencies. But, if you don’t, or if you should run through your cash reserve, you would need to borrow money to pay for unexpected events such as a major car or home repair, or a major medical expense. You need to keep your credit score up to ensure your credit card issuers will approve a sufficient credit limit.” The bottom line As you’ve read above, credit is clearly an important part of life, even after retirement. Maybe you want to downsize and buy a new home that’s closer to your grandkids or maybe you want to get that snazzy car you’ve always wanted and take your spouse on a road trip adventure.Regardless of what you want to do after you hang up your office clothes for good, there are a few things you need to keep tabs on in order to maintain a good credit score in retirement. Make sure to check out part two of this article series to find out what the experts say you should be doing to keep your credit score up while you enjoy your work-free years.
Congratulations! You just completed one of life’s greatest milestones: marriage. Whether you had an elegant reception or a lovely, intimate ceremony, you and your spouse are likely making plans for the life you two will build together. And that’s how it should be. Unfortunately, some newlyweds lose this level of excitement and bliss early on because they fail to be on the same page when it comes to finances. According to the 2017 Divorce and Debt Survey conducted by MagnifyMoney, 21 percent of U.S. adults who were polled said money was the main reason for their divorce. Finances can be tricky to manage, and having another person in the mix can make it even more of a challenge. To help you and your new spouse, we asked a few experts for their top finance tips for newlyweds. Focus on communication “In general, be open about finances with your spouse. Money is one of the biggest causes of divorce in the United States. Specifically, lack of communication or total one-sidedness (i.e., one spouse being controlling) when it comes to finances can lead to marital stress. Each spouse is going to come to the table with different feelings and experiences with money, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The important thing is to have frank, honest discussions about money and to make sure you are maintaining open airwaves of communication during the inevitable periods of disagreement.” — Taylor Jessee, Director of Financial Planning at Taylor Hoffman Wealth Management “As newlyweds, it's more important than ever to get on the same page with your finances. Preferably you do this in your pre-marriage counseling through your church. Things to talk about include long-term goals, spending habits, monthly budget, retirement, investments, and more. The best thing you can do for your marriage is to have open communication and that is especially important when it comes to money. Talk about your finances early and often for a successful marriage.” — Kelan and Brittany Kline, The Savvy Couple “You need to be talking about everything related to your finances: your goals, your debt, your dreams for retirement. You need to talk about the good stuff and the rough stuff. You need to talk — and a monthly financial date night with your partner can provide you with that opportunity. If you need ideas on what to talk about, you can go through my financial compatibility quiz, which covers topics from spending, saving, childcare, mortgages, charitable giving, aging parents, and expectations for retirements. You’ll find topics to agree on, but you’ll undoubtedly find things you don’t agree on. When you discover these topics you don’t see eye-to-eye on, then you have to see how much both of you are willing to compromise on. Perhaps your idea of retirement is traveling the country in an RV, but your partner wants to see the world in top-rated resorts. Or perhaps your parent is in failing health and you want them to move in with you, but your partner is willing to take a second job to afford for them to stay somewhere else. I’ve seen these situations, and because they were brought up early enough, the couples were able to discuss their views, their options and find a compromise that worked for everyone.” — Jeff Motske, CFP, President, and CEO of Trilogy Financial “One major financial tip for newlyweds is to get comfortable talking about your financial health with your new spouse. In fact, not talking about money can hurt your relationship. A Policygenius survey found 17.5 percent of couples who don't know each other’s credit score plan to leave their partner due to money issues, compared to 2.5 percent of couples who do. Just over half — 53 percent — of survey respondents said they had shared their credit score with their partner. This friction comes in part from a lack of communication or transparency about financial wellness. For example, if one spouse has bad credit, it could impact the couple’s ability to get joint financing for major purchases, like a home. It’s important to be open and honest about your money with your partner. Set aside a regular time to have a conversation with your significant other about your financial health. Go over short-term and long-term spending goals to ensure you’re both on the same page.” — Hanna Horvath, Personal Finance Reporter at Policygenius “Finances can be a touchy subject. It may be that the love of your life has a completely different view about how to handle finances. This can be a big strain on a new relationship, and it is said to be the number one reason for divorce. So, do your relationship a favor and address this topic early. Many people think that marriage means joint everything. However, this is a personal choice and needs to be discussed. You may decide on separate accounts but what cannot be separate is your financial plan and the discussion you have about it. You are partners, which means you need to share and the other person has a right to know. Business partners cannot hide things from one another and neither should marriage partners.” — Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified Set goals together “After you’ve tied the knot, take some time to discuss your current financial situation with your spouse. You’ll likely have done this well before the ceremony, but there’s a good chance that the celebration and its accompanying events took a serious financial toll, too, so it’s best to factor that into the mix once things have actually settled down. Explore your mutual financial goals, and see if they’ve changed since before your marriage. If they have, consider adjusting your budget accordingly. This may require you to reconfigure the way you approach a number of major financial factors, such as savings, debt, or investments. If either of you is struggling with debt, try to come up with a joint approach to eliminate it and build both of your credit scores. The higher your scores, the more likely you are to be able to rent desirable properties and secure large loans with appealing rates, and these may be fundamental for your future if you’re aiming to buy a house or a new vehicle.” — Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider “Life goals translate directly to financial priorities. If one spouse wants to create a work environment that allows her to train for a marathon every year, and her husband feels strongly they be fully focused on working to build up savings before starting a family, there can be issues. Whether the goals are to take a vacation or fund a future child’s college education,discuss them and write them down.” — Sean Fox, Consumer Finance Expert and Co-President of Freedom Debt Relief “When the officiant said ‘and now you are one’, you didn't stop having your own ideas, dreams and goals. You have to intentionally decide what to do with your money and when you'll do it, and discuss the specifics. Just like in Kindergarten, when you share, you don't always get your way, so be prepared to compromise.” — Christian Barnes, Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach for Do Better Financial Consider getting joint health insurance plans “If both employed, take a close look at your company health insurance benefits. It may make sense for one spouse to switch over to the other’s health plan, or to continue keeping separate plans. The employer of one spouse might offer better/cheaper benefits than the other’s. If you are both covered by High Deductible health plans, and you have access to a Health Savings Account, then the amount you can save into the Health Savings Account doubles.” — Taylor Jessee, Director of Financial Planning at Taylor Hoffman Wealth Management Read also: 4 Things to Look For in a Health Plan 5 Questions to Ask About Special Enrollment Periods Consider creating a joint budget and joint financial accounts “Working with newlyweds and engaged couples, I have noticed that budgeting and spending plans are few and far between. Many couples are unaware of how much they are spending. I sympathize with them because society makes it very easy to spend using credit cards, shopping online, and very little use of checkbooks or cash. The most important step that I think all newlyweds, engaged couples, or people in long-term partnerships should do is to figure out how much they are spending each month. Then, figure out how much is coming in each month. If you have funds leftover — great. Now you can figure out where to put those additional funds to help accomplish your goals. If you find that you have more month than money, a serious look at your expenditures will allow you to see where you can cut back.” — Tiffany Welka, Financial Advisor and Accredited Wealth Management Advisor at VFG Associates “If you don’t want money to become a worn-out subject in your marriage, try sharing it. Create a shared budget with your spouse, give it full control of the money, and you’re done. So if you want a new pair of jeans, don’t get into heated conversations with your spouse. You have a budget — you and your spouse have already agreed on the ideal way to spend your money. Instead, ask your budget if it’s ok to buy jeans. You’ll get an unbiased answer based on your finances. If it says you can afford jeans, buy them without hesitation. If your budget says you can't, listen to it. Let a budget be in charge of your spending, and you will eliminate the source of money arguments between you and your spouse.” — Evan Sutherland, Co-founder of Budgeting Couple Budgets get a bad rap for being straight-jackets, but in reality they are a plan for telling your money where to go and ensuring it doesn’t wander off without you even realizing it. Create a plan for each month before the money comes in so you’re both striving towards the same goals and not pulling in different directions. — Ben Watson, CPA and Personal Finance Expert for DollarSprout.com “One of the best finance tips for newlyweds is to get on a budget as soon as possible. But it needs to be a joint budget, where both parties have input. You should get the budget set up with the basics, like fixed expenses, for cable TV, smartphone, and Internet, and then look at the subjective categories, especially entertainment and discretionary spending. For the latter category, consider setting a rule whereby any purchases that surpass a certain dollar amount, approval is needed from the other spouse.” — David Bakke, Personal Finance Expert at Money Crashers “Switch all of your savings to a joint high-yield savings account. It's a good excuse when you get married to do some spring cleaning and make sure your money is in the best spot.” — Kevin, Manager of Just Start Investing “The purpose of a joint bank account is for you both to have access to the same assets. Take on a ‘what’s mine is yours’ mentality. Just as it’s important to discuss your debts, make sure your partner knows what assets you have and be open to sharing. Communicate and check in with each other often to ensure you’re sticking to your budget and not overspending the assets you share.” — Erin Ellis, Accredited Financial Counselor at Philadelphia Federal Credit Union (PFCU) Be smart about your marital income “The best financial advice that we've ever gotten was from my father-in-law, and it's helped us maintain a debt free lifestyle for the last 18 years. The advice was this: If you ever plan on living on one income during your married life, always life just off of that income and save the other. Is one of you going to stay home and raise kids? If you are, then don't live a lifestyle that's based on needing both incomes to keep it up. If someone's going to take eight years off of work to raise kids until school age, it's difficult to keep up with house payments and expensive car payments when one whole income goes away. We've lived by this rule our entire marriage, and we've had savings when we needed it and could pay cash for things like cars and vacations without incurring more debt.” — David Gafford, Co-founder and Director of Marketing of Shift Processing “It's time to invest (if you don't already), and take advantage of as many tax-deferrals as possible, while also saving up for the next big life event. This order is all about what types of accounts to invest money in, in the best order, to take advantage of as many tax-deferrals as possible. The best order to save for retirement is Contribute to your 401k up to the company match Max out your IRA to the annual contribution limit Go back and max out your 401k to the annual contribution limit If you qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA), contribute to the max and treat it like an IRA If you earn a side income, take advantage of a SEP IRA or Solo 401k Save any excess in a standard brokerage account After you have your investments set up, you should also be saving for the next big life event.” — Robert Farrington, America’s Millennial Money Expert and the Creator of The College Finance Investor “Start saving now, not tomorrow. Time is something you cannot get back, and the longer you save, the better. Research compound interest and see how much you could have. I understand that for most people, retirement seems like a million years away. I am now 56 and have no idea where the time went. If you start saving when you are young, your retirement can be full of choices.” — Jay Ferrans, President of JM Financial & Accounting Services Create an emergency fund “Whether it’s three or six months’ worth of daily living expenses is up to you, but start to put away some cash in an easily accessible account, in case of unemployment, major illness, or another unforeseen event. Those with less stable income, like freelance and contract workers, are urged to save more.” — Sara Skirboll, Shopping and Trends Expert for RetailMeNot Consider getting life insurance “Now that you have someone else depending on you, you need to arm yourself in the event something bad happens. Life insurance is often overlooked, despite how important it is. There are many different kinds from many different companies, but the main thing is to make sure you leave enough behind for your loved ones to pay for final expenses, replace your income for a certain number of years, put your kids (or future kids) through college, etc. Your loved ones will already be overwhelmed and saddened as is when you do pass away, so this will help relieve a huge burden and create more peace of mind. Further, life insurance is cheaper and easier to acquire the younger and healthier you are.” — Chase Lawson, Author of Financial Freedom: Breaking the Chains to Independence and Creating Massive Wealth “Even if one or both of you have life insurance through your employer, it's crucial to get a term life insurance policy on both spouses separate from an employer. When you change jobs or get laid off, your life insurance terminates immediately. Since rates for term life insurance are set according to your age and health status, you could end up paying more than a few years from now for the same policy. — Lingke Wang, Co-founder of Ethos Meet with a finance professional “I recommend talking to a financial planner around life events. The reason? The same financial plan should work during the same period of the life event. For example, if you create a financial plan as a newlywed, the same plan should work for you until you have children (if you don't have them already).” — Robert Farrington, America’s Millennial Money Expert and the Creator of The College Finance Investor “Meet with a financial planner and possibly a mortgage broker if a home purchase is in the near future. Getting an outside perspective really helps to understand how to lay out your goals together. Meet with the financial planner even if you don’t meet with the mortgage broker.” — D. Shane Whitteker, Owner and Chief Mortgage Broker at Principle Home Mortgage Keep your taxes in mind “Make sure to adjust your W-4 elections to 0 and single to prevent taxes being owed from the ‘marriage penalty’ since you will be filing jointly for the first time. Many couples are shocked to see their taxes go up, so to avoid owing money, make this adjustment to your withholdings. — Jacqueline Devereux, Finance and Credit Expert with SproutCents Be dedicated to credit “A newly married couple may have recently exchanged wedding vows but have they exchanged their credit reports? Financial transparency is important to establish with your spouse and one of the ways of accomplishing this is for each person to request their credit report and review it together. Consider it as an opportunity for the couple to address any concerns and identify what they may need to work on in order to create financial stability and wellness in their marriage.” — Kassandra Dasent, Gen X Financial Expert, Consultant, and Owner of Minding Your Money “Commit to building your credit ratings. Be supportive and non-judgmental as you review each others’ reports and ratings. Pull your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.” — Todd Christensen, Education Manager at Money Fit by DRS “Frequently, couples think they will share credit reports and scores once they get married. The reality is that each spouse has his or her own credit reports and scores. These are based on accounts each person maintains in his or her name (even if they share the same last name). Each person needs to obtain his/her own credit reports, review for accuracy regularly, and correct errors on his/her own credit report.” — Sean Fox, Consumer Finance Expert and Co-president of Freedom Debt Relief “Do not jump the gun to start fresh and cancel your credit cards. This may impact your credit score since it is established based on things such as length of time a card has been held by a user. Instead, look to add each other to your desired accounts. This also removes the need to explore alternative credit options, which can additionally impact your credit score.” — Jared Weitz CEO and Founder of United Capital Source Inc. “Build your spouse's credit. If you haven't already had the money talk, do it now. If one or both of you has credit card debt, it's time to formulate a plan for paying that off together. You may also learn that you have better credit than your partner. If your spouse has a lower credit score than you, consider opening a credit card and making your partner an authorized user. As you and your partner use the card responsibly — by paying your bill on time, every time and by using 30 percent or less of the credit available to you — you both will enjoy the benefits. Your strong score will only get stronger, and your spouse's score will improve over time as well. A higher credit score will matter when it comes time to buy that first house, as you'll be eligible for lower interest rates and more favorable terms.” — Michael Cetera, Finance Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com The bottom line In the end, it’s up to you and your spouse to determine how to handle finances in your marriage. Ideally, you should aim to have financial conversations with your significant other even before you get married. Knowing where they stand and what they believe in when it comes to finances early on can save you and your spouse a significant amount of stress, heartache, and time. To sum it up, you and your new spouse should take the following steps: Focus on communication Set both financial and non-financial goals together Consider getting joint health insurance plans Consider creating a joint budget and joint financial accounts Be smart about your marital income Create an emergency fund Consider getting life insurance Meet with a finance professional Keep your taxes in mind Be dedicated to credit Extra tip: You and your spouse may not be combining credit scores, but you both should make sure to get your credit back on track before you get married. After all, if you and your new spouse have good credit, that’s one less thing to worry about. Credit repair can be a pricey investment, but luckily, some top credit repair companies like Lexington Law do offer couples discounts. Check our list of top credit repair companies here.
Guest Post by Lexington Law It can be tricky to get the timing right when you want to take out a loan. For instance, you want to wait for relatively low interest rates to keep your payments as low as possible. Rates may seem low now, but what if they sink even lower in the months ahead? You might feel like you missed a great opportunity. Conversely, what if rates rise in the next few months, and you end up paying more money? Interest rates have been climbing, but the Federal Reserve seems poised to keep them level for the remainder of the year. However, an economic downturn may occur soon, and that could have implications that go beyond interest rates. Namely, a downturn could affect your job, income, and ability to pay back a loan.Here is the bottom line: Take out a loan only if you can comfortably afford the payments and still have a significant amount of money in savings. Aim to have at least six months to a year’s worth of living expenses. If a downturn occurs, you may need to draw upon that money in savings. If you put down a large amount as a loan down payment, you risk losing that money plus your new car or house if you can no longer make loan payments. Interest rates and loans One thing to know is that the Federal Reserve does not set interest rates on your loans. That said, Fed policy has an indirect effect on many loans. Take car loans, which tend to be for a medium length of time such as 60 months (five years). If the Fed nudges interest rates up, the rates for auto loans are likely to increase as well and by about the same percentage. The story is similar for home equity line of credit rates, credit card rates, and rates for any line of credit. Their rates tend to go up along with an increase in the Fed's target rate.The takeaway? Based on interest rates alone, now could seem like a good time to take out a car loan or HELOC before the Fed potentially increases rates next year. As for mortgage rates, there doesn’t seem to be as much of a relationship, if any, between Fed interest rate increases and decreases. That said, there are a number of intriguing ripple effects relating to whether you should take out a mortgage loan. Say that you’re a potential homebuyer who is paying off relatively high-interest car and credit card loans after a Fed rate increase. Because of that, you have less money to purchase a home. The supply of buyers may dry up somewhat, which means that many sellers may be inclined to drop their asking price. A home may be affordable after all. If you can afford a mortgage payment, it may be a good time to take out a mortgage loan. Do proceed with caution, though. Find out about the real estate market in your area, and have enough savings to be able to weather a potential economic downturn. How a potential downturn could affect you Economists have been predicting an economic downturn for a while now. It’s quite possible that one will occur in the next 18 months, so it’s instructive to look at how the recent Great Recession affected people who had taken out loans. Recovery began in June 2009, but many people lost their jobs or had to take pay cuts. Many lost their homes and cars when they could no longer afford to pay on them. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 8.7 million jobs disappeared between December 2007 and early 2010. The next economic downturn may not be as bad as the Great Recession, but there’s always the chance it will have some sort of impact on you. If (or more likely, when) an economic downturn hits in the next few years, to what degree will you be affected? Such things can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict now. It’s hard to know if you might lose your job or have to take a pay cut. However, you can take approximate stock of these factors: Your savings Your current income How much money you have in retirement accounts How close you are to retirement Your medical costs and how much they might rise in the next few years Your current level of debt Future debts you plan to take on, their amounts and loan term lengths Your current ability to pay debts Your spending habits Whether you live below, at, or beyond your means When you take these factors into consideration, it can help illustrate how well you are positioned to weather a recession and to keep paying any loans you take out now. For instance, suppose you have a costly medical issue. Your employer offers health insurance, and you’re able to keep these medical costs under control. If you lost your health insurance, these costs could potentially increase to a level beyond what you can comfortably afford. So, is now a good time to take out a loan? All things considered, it does seem better to take out a loan now rather than later if you have a firm plan to get a loan no matter what. After all, interest rates may be rising at some point in 2020, and the economy is poised to go through tough times. It would be good to take out the smallest loan amount possible so you have less to pay back later. However, you should also keep a healthy cushion of savings in case you need it down the road. There’s a balance between spending most of your savings on a down payment and putting down very little and paying a higher amount each month. To help you predict your future costs better, opt for fixed-rate loans. That way, if interest rates go up later, your payments won’t increase. The bottom line bears repeating: Take out a loan only if you can comfortably afford the payments and still have a significant amount of money in savings. The economy seems headed for choppy seas, and now is a good time to be whittling away at your debt instead of not taking more on if you can help it. Of course, everyone’s situation is unique. Maybe you’re paying too much in rent right now, and you find a great, reasonably priced house that means significantly lower monthly payments. Likewise, if your car is in bad shape and you constantly have to pay for repairs, it may be a smart financial move to get a different car, even if that means taking out an auto loan. Everyone’s situation is different and you know your finances better than anyone else. The decision to take out a loan also depends on what you uncover about potential lenders and on factors such as interest rates. To find out about lenders, interest rates and more, check out BestCompany reviews on business loans, car loans, and personal loans. If you need help with debt relief, these companies may be able to offer the assistance you want.
With the end of the semester approaching, many students are preparing for graduation. Those on track to graduate this spring are most likely focusing on finishing end-of-semester projects, studying for finals, and purchasing their graduation cap and gown. And many of these soon-to-be graduates are looking forward to graduation gifts. What does this mean for you? If you are planning on celebrating with someone who is graduating this year, you are likely planning on giving them a gift of some sort to congratulate them. There are many different types of gifts you can choose to give your favorite college graduate, but how many of those gifts will truly help them face post-graduation adulthood? If you want to select a gift that will benefit a new graduate for years to come, choose to give them a finance-related gift. We asked a few reliable sources to see what types of financial gifts are best suited for college graduates. Here’s what they suggested: Books Patti Black, Certified Financial Planner at Bridgeworth LLC “Timeless financial books like The Millionaire Next Door (the sooner you learn 'big hat, no cattle,' the better), Your Money or Your Life, or The Little Book of Common Sense Investing. If you learn these financial principles in your 20s, you will have a much higher likelihood of achieving financial independence.”Book title: The Millionaire Next DoorBook title: Your Money or Your LifeBook title: The Little Book of Common Sense InvestingChase Lawson, Author of Financial Freedom: Breaking the Chains to Independence and Creating Massive WealthBook title: Financial Freedom: Breaking the Chains to Independence and Creating Massive WealthBook description provided by author: It is a personal finance book geared towards those in that age group and is written by a 26-year-old who personally overcame over $23,000 in credit card debt to now being a homeowner in Austin, Texas. Unlike many other books on personal finance, the author really relates to his readers and provides helpful tips and strategies that are easy to understand and cover a wide range of topics that are important for those entering the real world. It includes topics such as when/how/why to invest, buying vs. renting a home, life insurance, taxes, budgeting and so much more! It would definitely help a college graduate starting their career journey.Jackie Ducci, Ducci & Associates “This book is perfect for college grads who are entering the workforce and are looking for the unfiltered truth on how hiring decisions are made.” Book title: Almost Hired: What’s Really Standing between You and the Job You Want Book description provided by author: When you apply for a job but fail to get an interview, call back, or offer, no one tells you why. The fact is, most job seekers are unwittingly making critical mistakes at every stage of the hiring process — because the job-seeking advice they've always been told is just plain wrong. The unfiltered truth about how hiring decisions are really made is about to be exposed.In Almost Hired, Jackie Ducci shares over a decade of real-world insight into recruiting and hiring. She shares insider knowledge of how to stand out at every stage of the process, from submitting your application through accepting an offer.Whether you're a first-time applicant, considering a career change, re-entering the workforce, or just plain struggling to gain traction in your job search, this book will help you zoom past the competition to hear those magic words: You're hired!Alice Stevens, Debt and Tax Content Manager at BestCompany.com“I would recommend a book on negotiating like Never Split the Difference. Salary negotiation is especially important for women because they tend to negotiate less often than their male peers, which turns into losses over time. Negotiating a starting salary is especially important because it's the starting point that future raises will be based on.”Book title: Never Split the Difference Credit building assistance Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider“There are plenty of financial gifts that can help ease a college grad’s transition into the real world. One option? Help the grad lay the building blocks for great credit.If you’re looking to help a college grad ease into true adult life, make sure they’re aware of all the ways credit affects everyday life. Then, if they’ve already developed credit and solid debt repayment habits, consider offering to pay the annual fee for a higher-tier credit card.A credit card with a higher annual fee generally comes with greater rewards and benefits than their low-fee or fee-free counterparts. For example, if the grad is an avid explorer, consider a travel credit card that offers miles per dollar spent and provides perks like rental car insurance or complimentary hotel upgrades. This can help grads bolster their credit scores while reaping rewards on purchases they’d already be making anyway.There’s one catch here — you have to make sure you’re confident in the grad’s ability to knock out bills in full, so you’re not simply making it easier to get lost under a mountain of debt.” Brokerage account Matthew Ross, Co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard“I think opening and gifting a brokerage account to recent graduates is extremely useful for a variety of reasons. Not only does it give the graduate a head start in terms of savings, but it also provides a multitude of valuable financial lessons. I know this from personal experience since this is exactly what my father did for me when I graduated from college. In short, he opened up an investment account with $5,000 and turned over the keys to me. Managing an investment account at such a young age was very positive development for me. It got me in the mindset to start saving and adding to the account early. Even at my first job out of college, I'd split each of my paychecks so I could consistently deposit more money into the account. It also got me interested in the financial markets. I started following the Dow and S&P and would buy stocks I felt were undervalued. I still to this day use the same account my father opened for me, except it's a lot bigger now.” Additional classes Kelsey Formost, Copywriting and Marketing Expert“The best monetary gift I ever received was the gift of a specialized class for my chosen career niche that wasn't offered by my university.I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and create my own path after graduating with honors from Davidson College. While my education was outstanding, there were a lot of things I still didn't know with regards to setting up my own business online. I came across a few platforms that offered highly-specific classes in exactly the career I wanted to build for myself, namely Marie Forleo's B-School, Amy Porterfield's Marketing class, and a few other female-forward classes for entrepreneurs who wanted to start their own online businesses.But those classes were expensive — the lowest cost being a hundred dollars and the more expensive programs coming in at $2,000-$3,000. I certainly couldn't afford it as a recent grad and entrepreneur just starting out.As a gift, my parents gave me a check that covered the expense of one of those classes. It was a huge relief to be able to afford that education I needed to jump start my career dreams. Taking those classes allowed me to start my online copywriting and marketing business that now supports me full time. I now spend my time helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses through copywriting and online marketing.Some other organizations that offer a wide variety of classes: Skillshare, Udemy, Brit & Co., and more.” Financial planner/advisor session Christine Centeno, Certified Financial Planner and Founder of Simplicity Wealth Management“One hour with a financial planner allows student to ask any questions they have about finances and investing. The agenda is open — basically, what are your biggest financial questions?The basic topics I usually cover include the following: building credit the importance of cash reserve what to look for in employee benefits/how to enroll importance of starting to save what to invest your first 401k contributions in Roth IRAs and what they are all about what I wish I knew about finances when I was 22 Jacqueline Devereux, Financial Expert at SproutCents“A great gift to give to a college graduate would be a session with a financial adviser. Make sure you are finding an adviser that is fee-based and not commission based as the financial goals and needs of a college grad are different from an established professional looking to invest. A financial adviser will help determine a plan for repaying student loans, which many new graduates find unaffordable. They will advise of refinancing opportunities or any special forgiveness plans due to the chosen career path. Your 20's are a crucial time in your financial life where you are making many decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life such as buying a home, getting married and investing in your retirement. Getting ahead of the curve and starting with excellent financial habits will set you up for success over the course of the next 30 to 40 years. A financial adviser will also help you create a budget. Now that you are a young professional and earning a salary you need to know how to budget it. You are most likely paying rent now and with student loan repayments kicking in you need to create a manageable budget. A two-hour session with a financial planner costs between $150-$400. There are firms that specialize in working with Millennials and Gen Z-ers and you can meet with them in person or virtually.” Investments Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, CEO and Founder at EnrichHER"The best gift you can give to a college graduate, especially an entrepreneur, is an investment. Investments can come in many shapes and sizes, but in particular, an investment that will help the grad launch their career is the most worthwhile. This may mean opening stocks in their name, starting a retirement fund, or investing in their business. Getting capital funding for businesses is the main aspect that blocks many entrepreneurs from bringing their ideas to life. Without capital, it's impossible to manufacture a product, invest in technology, or hire employees — all pieces of the puzzle that must be in place in order to own and operate a business. By giving a recent college grad any financial investment, you are investing in their future, setting them off on the right foot that is necessary for success down the line."Amy Eury, Marketing Strategist at MyBankTracker.com“Gifting individual stock shares or cash for mutual funds or bonds will help them start to invest and build wealth. There are sites where you can choose individual shares (FrameAStock or GiveAShare) or Betterment lets you buy stocks and bonds and transfer them to your grad’s online account. For mutual funds, you’ll buy them up front and then transfer them.” Life insurance Sa El, Co-founder of Simply Insurance“I think a great gift would be life insurance paid up for an entire year. It will help get them started on a strong financial journey. I recommend life insurance paid up because it gives them a year to get things in order to be ready to pay for coverage themselves and it also helps them get something that far too many people procrastinate about. The price is based on the individual; however, a term life insurance policy is usually super cheap.” Mark Charnet, Founder and CEO of American Prosperity Group“I have been a financial advisor for 37 years; the best answer I can suggest is to remind the graduate of their two greatest financial assets: youth and health — both of which will be fleeting over time. Everyone gets older and probably not as healthy as when they graduated from college. There will be pressing financial needs along their financial life, such as a mortgage, children to raise, education to pay for, and ultimately, a retirement to fund. While planning for these events, there may be hurdles to overcome like sickness, disability, and even death.Fortunately, there is a program that can tackle most of these scenarios at the same time. One that can provide for emergency funds during life’s journey, benefits in the case of a prolonged disability or a long-term care event, a terminal illness diagnosis, or even an untimely death. Better still, if none of these occur, the program will allow for a tax-free income stream during the graduate’s retirement years to supplement their IRA, 401k and Social Security.This contract will benefit when the stock market rises and will not suffer a loss when it falls. The account value will grow tax-deferred and is accessible tax-free when called upon, whether for an emergency or to produce a retirement income in the future. Under current tax law, the value is exempt from the financial aid calculation when applying for college financial aid for children or one’s self, thereby maximizing grant and loan eligibility and non-creation of debt. It’s an overfunded life insurance policy (OFLI) but a very specific variety called Fixed Indexed Universal Life. It is a versatile platform that can do so much and when designed properly, under safer interest assumptions, will over-deliver with a multitude of benefits to the policy owner.I wish my dad had started an OFLI policy for me when I was younger for many of the reasons outlined here, but one more as well. When I was age 30, I became a diabetic and was no longer offered a standard rating and totally uninsurable sometime after that, denying me 100 percent of the benefits discussed. Suffice it to say, as a father now myself, my four children will not suffer the same fate as they all have an OFLI plan that was started for them before they graduated college, a legacy and gift I am most proud to discuss.” Money coaching sessions Michelle Clark, Founder of Shake Your Money Tree“I’ve had quite a few parents purchase money coaching sessions as a graduation gift to help get their new grads off on a good financial footing. The "Master Your Money" coaching session ($277 for 90 minutes) I offer teaches them the basics of financial wellness such as reconciling their bank account/checkbook, paying bills on time with a bill payment calendar or automation, managing credit and debt (especially if student loans are in play), creating a spending plan based on their new or increased income, knowing the differences between types of loans and interest rates, and protecting themselves and their belongings through the right types of insurance.” Emergency fund Amy Eury, Marketing Strategist at MyBankTracker.com“Every grad needs savings in case disaster strikes, but a recent study showed 45.9 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds have no emergency savings set aside. When on the hunt for their first job, having that cushion can keep them from ending up in debt if unexpected expenses arise. Steer your grad toward an online savings account; they tend to charge fewer fees and pay higher interest rates. If you're giving money to your child, think about setting up a joint account if you want to add money in the future.” Student loan payments Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher and VP of Research at Savingforcollege.com“The best financial gift for college graduates is to help them pay down or pay off their student loans. College graduates worry more about their student loans than anything else. This gift can be in any amount the giver can afford and will be greatly appreciated by the college graduate. It saves them from having to sell a tangible gift on eBay to recover the money to pay down their debt.” Scott Butler, Financial Planner at Klauenberg Retirement Solutions“Paying off student loans before they become debt may be one of the most effective gifts for a graduate. We often suggest that our clients pay for a student’s last year of college. This strategy will lessen the graduate’s student loan burden, while not having a negative impact on their qualification for financial aid, assuming they will not be moving on to further schooling next year. Plus, tuition paid directly to the school does not count against your gift tax exclusion.” CD ladder Amy Eury, Marketing Strategist at MyBankTracker.com“Grads want to save for things like their first new car. Setting them up with a CD ladder makes it easy for them to keep earning interest until they need to use the money since you agree to leave the money alone until it matures. The longer the terms, the more interest earned. After the maturity date, they cash it out with the earned interest. Since the grad isn’t a minor, you’ll need to name him or her as the co-owner.” Roth IRA Amy Eury, Marketing Strategist at MyBankTracker.com“Help start a Roth IRA for his or her future nest egg. Since they’re funded with after-tax dollars, withdrawals are tax-free. Even if grads don’t max it out each year, you’re helping them get started which helps if their employer doesn’t offer a 401k. Single graduates who earn less than $31,500 for 2018 may be able to get a saver's credit on their taxes for some or all of their IRA contributions.” The bottom line In the end, it’s up to you to choose what type of gift you will give. If you do decide to give a finance-based gift, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable with and something that won’t compromise your own financial standing. Financial gifts can be a great way to show your favorite college graduate that you care about them long-term and that you want to help them start their financial journey on the right foot. ---- Do you have a product or idea that would be a good fit for this gift guide? If so, feel free to reach out to [email protected]
For most people in their early to mid-twenties, life can be challenging. After all, by the time you turn 25, you’re expected to have life figured out — where you live, what job you have, what car you drive, etc. Probably one of the most important factors of life that you are expected to figure out by the time you are 25 is credit. According to a recent poll conducted by Branded Research, 68 percent of those between the ages of 18-24 said they currently have a credit card they use regularly. That number increases to 78 percent for those in the 25-34 age range. The poll results also showed that approximately 41 percent of those who are 18-24 who do have a credit card, used their credit card primarily to build up credit. Meanwhile, 35 percent of those in the 25-34 age range used their credit cards to primarily earn rewards and only 29 percent of them used their credit cards to build up credit. If you are approaching your mid-twenties and still have a ways to go to establish a strong credit foundation, you should know you’re not alone. Here’s what the experts say you should know about credit by the time you turn 25: Why credit is important “Your credit can affect your everyday life far more than you might think. Credit scores are instrumental in helping lenders determine your interest rates, and your likelihood of being approved for credit cards also depends on your credit history. What’s less commonly discussed is how negative credit can even affect your ability to rent desirable properties or get certain jobs.” — Sean Messier, Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider “By the age of 25, everyone should be aware that their credit score is crucial to set themselves up for financial success because most people typically need to start out borrowing money to get themselves through the early years when cash outflows are high compared to cash inflows. People need to understand that the basis of borrowing money from banks begins with an assessment of their credit score. Banks typically are highly reluctant to lend money to someone with a low credit score. Additionally, just because someone has a high credit score doesn’t necessarily mean that banks will lend to them. Banks want to see a track record of credit history and that the track record is scored within an acceptable range using the FICO scoring system.” — Michael J Bús, CEO and President of PNW Financial“Your credit score is the most important factor in your entire financial life. It determines the mortgage rate you’ll pay, the car loan you’ll receive, and whether you’ll get approved for an apartment or credit card. It can literally be the difference between spending an extra six figures over the life of your mortgage or saving six figures.” — Mike Pearson, Founder of Credit Takeoff “A healthy credit report and score can help you out considerably in the future and save you a lot of money over a lifetime. Credit is used to determine many things that lie ahead, such as auto loans, mortgage, qualifying to rent an apartment, in some cases employment, etc. Maintaining a healthy credit will grant you lower interest rates, lower deductibles, higher credit limits, etc.” — Jacob Dayan, CEO and Co-founder of Community Tax and Finance Pal What makes up a credit score “Although they each use their own mathematical formula, credit rating companies...base their scores on the same criteria: Payment history, length of credit history, debt to credit limit ratio, number of credit inquiries, and type of credit accounts. Any late payments, collections activity, high account balances, and credit inquiries can lower your score." — Richard Best, writer for Dontpayfull.com“You can’t win the game unless you know the rules. To get and maintain a good credit score, you have to know how your credit score is calculated in the first place — most people have no idea. Study up on things like payment history, credit utilization, and credit inquiries. Know what goes into your score so you can take action to stack the odds in your favor.” — Pearson“You should know how your credit score is calculated. Too many people think that their credit score is just some magical number that is vaguely related to how many missed payments you have. While paying your bills on time is certainly a part of your credit score, the whole story is a bit more complicated than that.There are actually five factors that go into calculating your credit score: Payment history: Your payment history — that is, how responsible you've been with paying your bills, especially on credit cards and installment loans — makes up an enormous 35 percent of your credit score. Utilization rate: Your utilization rate, or the ratio of your credit balance to your total credit limit, makes up 30 percent of your credit score. Ideally, you don't really want to be carrying a balance on any of your credit cards. If this isn't possible, aim to keep your total utilization of any one card's credit limit to 30 percent. So if you have a credit card with a $10,000 credit limit, do your best to keep your credit utilization under $3,000. Length of credit history: Your length of credit history comprises 15 percent of your credit score. There's not much you can do about this credit scoring factor other than to continue to handle credit responsibly, year in and year out, and also make sure that you don't close your oldest credit card. New credit: New credit is a factor based on how many loan applications, credit pulls, and new credit accounts that appeared on your credit report in the past six to twelve months. This factor accounts for 10 percent of your credit score. The more loan applications, credit pulls, and new credit accounts that appeared on your credit report recently, the more this "new credit" factor will work against you. Credit mix: Credit mix is a factor based on the variety of credit accounts appearing on your credit report. Revolving credit accounts such as credit cards would be one kind of credit account. Installment loans such as a car loan would be another. Like the new credit factor, this factor accounts for 10 percent of your credit score. Like it or not, the theory here is that if someone has experience handling different kinds of credit responsibly, the more responsible of a borrower they are overall.” — Logan Allec, CPA and Owner of Money Done Right What affects your credit score “Hurting your credit score is easy. Rebuilding your credit score is hard. A single late payment on your credit report will be visible for seven years. It's critical to pay your bills on-time because 35 percent of your credit score is based on your payment history.” — James Garvey, CEO of Self Lender “[...] a lot of young individuals don't realize just how many things affect credit score. For example, items such as parking tickets, medical bills, cable bills, library fees, and even gym memberships can affect your credit score believe it or not. A lot of millennials just brush these bills to the side not knowing they might come back to bite them later on when they apply for a loan.” — Matthew Ross, Co-owner and COO of RIZKNOWS and The Slumber Yard How to check your credit reports and credit score “The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that all borrowers receive a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. It is important to get into the habit of requesting a report from each throughout the year. Order one every three months so you can monitor your credit all year long. Go to www.Annualcreditreport.com and register for your free copies.” — Best “There are no reasons to pay for a credit report. You can check your credit reports and scores for free with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.” — Elise Nguyen, Personal Finance and Lifestyle Blogger for Little Seeds of Wealth How to use a credit card and how to build credit “Credit cards allow you to build credit history, which is important for your financial health. Having a credit history allows you to take out a loan, finance a car or even buy a house. Establishing a trail shows lenders that you’re able to make payments on a frequent basis. Paying your credit card bills on time will allow you to obtain a strong credit score, apply for items that require credit and receive lower interest rates. Building credit takes time and patience, but it’s worth the wait.Overspending can lead to a high balance or not enough available credit. Your utilization rate, or the amount of available credit you have, can also negatively affect your score. In addition to your overall balance, pay attention to the amount you have. Make it a rule to keep your utilization rate below 30 percent on your credit card at all times. Maxing out your credit cards or leaving a part of your balance unpaid won’t work in your favor.” — Erin Ellis, Accredited Financial Counselor at Philadelphia Federal Credit Union (PFCU)“You should know what the credit utilization ratio is and understand that you should only be using 30 percent of the credit you have access to. Many young adults are maxing out their credit cards and don’t understand the damage they are doing.” — Jacqueline Devereux, Credit Expert for SproutCents“Making only the minimum monthly payment can hurt you in the long run. Making the minimum payment on your credit card accounts will help you avoid late fees, but it has its fair share of consequences. You’ll still accumulate interest, which can cause debt to spiral out of control faster than you might expect. Plus, a high utilization ratio — your balance versus your overall credit limit — can damage your credit scores.” — Messier“Here are my three rules for young adults who want to start building their credit. Do these before applying for credit.1. Have a budget in place and use it for at least six months2. Have a bank account with a debit card and go 12 months without having a purchase denied for insufficient funds3. Build an emergency savings fund equal to one month of your incomeDon’t try to start building credit with the big, national bank credit cards. Start smaller and closer to home. A tire shop, retail store or gas station card is easier to qualify for.” — Todd Christensen, Education Manager at Money Fit and author of Everyday Money for Everyday People“Credit cards have very high-interest rates because the loans are not secured by any tangible asset. Pay off your credit card debts on time to avoid accumulating interests. Start working on improving your credit score as early as possible. Bankers and lenders use credit scores to know if you are a good borrower and pay on time. You don't want to miss out on a home you want because of poor credit scores.” — Nguyen “High-interest rates will make it much more expensive to pay back the money you borrow. So remember, making minimum payments on credit cards is fine, but a big chunk of those payments will be going toward interest, not toward paying back your debt.” — Gerri Detweiler, Education Director for Nav Key Takeaways: Make sure to know these things about credit by your 25th birthday. • Why credit is important • What makes up a credit score • What affects your credit score • How to check your credit reports and credit score • How to use a credit card and how to build credit The bottom line Credit is clearly important. Your age shouldn’t be the only thing that motivates you to start building your credit, even though you may experience a financial reality check the closer you get to your mid to late 20’s. Facing your credit head-on at a younger age can help you in the long run. Work on building good credit and fixing your bad credit before you hit your 25th birthday, so you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
Love is clearly a powerful emotion. It can make even the most normal people do crazy things. Unfortunately, love can also be powerful enough to hide a person's dark side. That's why hundreds of people fail to see the reality of their bad relationships right away. A financially abusive relationship is just one of the countless bad situations that many people eventually find themselves in. What exactly is financial abuse? According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), "financial abuse is a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt but in general, include tactics to conceal information, limit the victim’s access to assets, or reduce accessibility to the family finances." We asked experts to share their insight into why financial abuse occurs, warning signs, and advice for recovery: Why financial abuse occurs Stephanie Nilva, Executive Director of Day One: "Financial abuse is one of many ways abusive partners attempt to control others. Creating financial dependence can isolate the victim and cause them to rely on the abusive partner more heavily. Without friends or family for support, the survivor has much more difficulty ending the abusive relationship. Sometimes there might be cultural or gender 'norms' about who is the wage-earner taken to an unhealthy level." Ellie Thompson, CEO of Money Therapy: "Abuse really comes down to the abuser not feeling powerful within themselves. So, instead, they abuse other people to feel powerful. Financial abuse is the same as any other type of abuse but it is being used with money." J. Hope Suis, Relationship Coach at Hope Boulevard: "Financial abuse is about power and control. One person needs to control every aspect of the relationship and money certainly is a huge factor in that. Also, they need the other person dependent on them to feel powerful. If they cannot purchase anything without checking in, or if they have no access to money, they must completely rely on the one with the power. This sets up a very unhealthy and one-sided relationship dynamic." Kalen Omo, Personal Finance Coach and owner of Kalen Omo Financial Coaching: "My opinion is that financial abuse occurs because of pride or shame. When a single person is entrusted to take on the burden of managing the financial household, and things don't work out as expected, the first reaction is to try to fix it yourself. This leads to the beginnings of financial abuse." David Bakke, Personal Finance Expert at Money Crashers: "Generally speaking, financial abuse occurs with people who at times experience levels of low self-esteem, or who more importantly have never managed their own finances and therefore won't recognize the signs. And then there's always the argument that emotion can overtake money as far as folks who feel too strongly about an individual to put a stop to the abuse." Warning signs of financial abuse Nilva: "Having a partner control the finances in a relationship, such as taking someone’s paycheck, forcing the other person to pay for things, forcing them to work or preventing them from working. One person in the relationship might keep all of the couple’s finances in their name. For young people, this might show up as manipulating a person around money, such as taking their MetroCard or money, destroying their property (such as a cell phone), or making them pay for everything." Thompson: "Warning signs of financial abuse can show in the behavior from the person being abused. You may start to notice they are justifying every purchase they make even something as simple as basic needs. You may also notice they don't want (to) 'indulge' in normal activities such as going out to lunch, buying a new shirt, or purchasing a coffee. This behavior is different from someone who is simply cutting back on expenses. The person being abused might express a fear of getting in trouble instead of saving money." Suis: "You should always have access to and control of your money. Obviously, in a marriage, there are combined accounts/bills and ideally one person handles the finances to avoid confusion, however, both parties should be able to view all transactions. Being kept in the dark, especially when you contribute, is a huge red flag. Discussions should be made on large purchases, but no one person should have to ask permission or turn in receipts for everyday items or purchases. It is also possible that someone will use your information and take out loans and make purchases without your knowledge. This is against the law and not just abuse of your trust." Omo: "Some of the signs of financial abuse are couples with separate checking accounts and a lack of communication when it comes to money. These two are strong signs that there is a lack of trust between husband and wife to work together to tell their money where to go." Bakke: "One sign of financial abuse is when your partner or significant other restricts your access to your own money or even credit. Another sign is when that individual uses your funds or money for their own purposes without asking permission. A third sign is when money is borrowed from you without asking. But there are others." Financial abuse recovery Nilva: "Counseling and support from peers can contribute to healing. Sometimes ending the relationship might be sufficient. A credit counselor or someone experienced with assisting survivors can help disentangle a couple’s finances or direct a survivor to victim compensation funds." Thompson: "Recovering from financial abuse will take time but it can be overcome. The fact of the matter is that no one should have authority over your finances except you. Finding support groups in your community or online can be the first step to heal from your experience." Omo: "Seeing a good financial coach that can address the money-related issues and, in some cases, marriage counseling to identify the root of the cause are good steps to take to recovery." Bakke: "Get help. It doesn't matter from whom but get a third-party, uninvested individual so to speak, who can give you some straight talk. Get out of a relationship that involves financial abuse as well. From there, start with the basics of managing your own money, and try to learn how to avoid individuals who might attempt to exploit you." Advice for those experiencing financial abuse Nilva: "Financial abuse is one element of what could be a harmful relationship where violence or other forms of control are present. Getting therapeutic counseling can be useful in identifying boundaries and how to end any abusive relationship. Speaking to an attorney experienced with intimate partner violence can alert someone what, if any, other help might be available, such as getting an order of protection or potential criminal penalties for theft." Thompson: "Financial abuse should not be tolerated in any form. An abuser will not stop their behavior and there is no begging or pleading that will get them to change. You need to change your situation whether that is a personal or business relationship. Use your skills to find a new job or new income opportunity. Visit sites like upwork.com or visit your local community center to find opportunities." Suis: "If you are just in a relationship (not a marriage), then you need to find a way to get out. Unfortunately, having someone step up to handle everything seems like a blessing, but if you are out of the loop entirely and have no control over your money, that is not a healthy relationship. If you are in a marriage and the victim of financial abuse, the first step is to try to talk with your spouse. Calmly express your concerns and ask to have more of an active role in the bills and financial decisions. If this does not work, I suggest seeking outside counsel in order to protect your assets and decide your path going forward. If someone has unlawfully obtained money or loans in your name, then you should report this activity to law enforcement." Omo: "My recommendation would be to meet with a financial coach to begin identifying the pain points related to a lack of trust regarding money. In some severe cases of financial abuse, such as financial infidelity, marriage counseling may be in order to address the root of the issue." Bakke: "If you think you're experiencing financial abuse, reach out. It could be to anyone but the best bet is to do so through a family member or friend, or better yet, a financial counselor. You could even reach out to someone at your church you trust, who can point you in the right direction as far as other resources. Financial abuse is a serious problem, and the best thing you can do is to recognize it, then step up and get the help you need to make sure it never happens to you again. Empowerment is the key." The bottom line Financial abuse may be more common than you think, and it can cause lasting emotional and financial damage. It can impact everything from your credit score to the amount of money you have in your savings. Communicating with your significant other and/or seeking professional outside are two ways you can start addressing a financially abusive relationship. Keep in mind that it's possible to miss seeing the signs of financial abuse, especially if you are blinded by the idea of a loving, new relationship. Although a person may seem like "the one" in the beginning, they may turn out to be the one controlling and restricting your financial agency if you're not careful.
Have you ever heard the expression "live below your means," and wondered what it meant? According to the Huffington Post, living below your means is when "you live a lifestyle below your net income." Basically, if you focus on living a more frugal lifestyle than the one you could currently afford, you will be setting yourself up for a brighter financial future. Personal Finance Expert and Owner of DollarSprout.com, Jeff Proctor, explained that it's important to "start planning for the future. A lot of people, especially millennials, justify overspending because they’re living in the now and not thinking much about 1, 5, or 20 years down the road. Decide what you want to accomplish in life and what kind of future you’d like to build. Envisioning yourself in your ideal future will motivate you to work harder to achieve it." Although living below your means is an obvious recipe for financial success, many people struggle with this idea because they don't know where to start or have a difficult time letting go of their current financial habits. Proctor advised that you start by asking questions. He said "a simple way to start living below your means is to question every purchase. I recommend asking yourself three questions before buying anything: 1. Do I need it? 2. Will I use it? 3. Can I get it for less? Asking yourself these questions forces you to reflect on the purchase before making it. You’ll start to become more aware of your buying habits and more selective in your purchases." Ellie Thompson, CEO of Money Therapy, explained that "to live below your means you need to focus on the big-ticket items in your life. Instead of focusing on your everyday spending, evaluate things like your car payment, mortgage, and insurance. Usually, if you are living above your means your fixed expenses are usually too high. Try using the 50/20/30 rule. This means 50% of your income goes to your fixed expenses, 20% goes to your savings goals, and 30% goes to guilt-free spending." Thompson suggested that "the best way to start living below your means is to reduce your fixed expenses. If you are simply unable to do that, you need to evaluate your earning potential. Budgeting is like a diet, you know the only way to have more money is to spend less or earn more but you may look for ways to get around this. The truth of living below your means includes the other side of the equation which is you may need to earn more. Don't sell yourself short." Even though some may see the idea of "living below your means" as a restriction of financial freedom, Proctor and Thompson say otherwise. Proctor explained that "if you value freedom, then yes, living below your means is worth it. If you’re constantly spending as much as (or even more) than you make, you’re not able to save for the future and will eventually find yourself stuck in a less than ideal situation without the means to escape (e.g. a job you dislike). Living below your means is a key part of achieving financial independence." Thompson said "living below your means is essential to save money. If you are always living above them you will be trapped in debt and unable to save for your family or yourself. Instead of viewing living below your means as a punishment, view it as a favor to your future self." Living below your means doesn't have to be all about restricting yourself or avoiding any non-essential spending. It's simply a way to ensure that you are securing your financial future and proves that you are able to control your spending and saving habits. The sooner you start planning for the future and developing solid financial habits, the better. Begin with a self-diagnosis of your current credit standing, financial habits, and budget. From there, try adjusting your lifestyle so you can live below your means to reach your future financial goals.
Most friends, family, and coworkers love to give advice. If you've asked them for credit advice, however, you've probably heard some pretty terrible suggestions. There's nothing wrong with seeking advice about your finances, but make sure you do your research before you start implementing others' ideas into your own financial game plan. After all, following bad credit advice could dig you into a deep hole of debt and regret. Fortunately, you can fix your bad credit if you do happen to follow someone's bad advice. To help you determine the difference between good and bad credit advice, here are a few real accounts of the best and worst credit advice people have received: Adam Jusko — Founder and CEO of Proudmoney.com Best Credit Advice: "When I bought my first car, I was determined to pay it completely in cash. I mentioned my plan to an older co-worker, and he suggested that I instead make a big down payment but take out a small loan to pay the rest. That way, I’d have a track record of making payments responsibly. He’d paid for a car outright in his 20's and regretted it because when he went after a mortgage, later on, his lack of a strong credit history made the process more difficult. He also knew I was using almost every penny of my savings to buy the car, leaving me with little cash in case of an emergency. I followed his advice because rates were low and his experience made sense to me. I still paid for over 50 percent of the car upfront, though. Even with the low rates, I hated the idea of paying interest." Worst Credit Advice: "The worst credit advice I’ve ever received (and I still hear people give this advice) is that you need to carry a small balance on your credit cards to improve your credit score. The theory seems to be that carrying a balance shows you are using your credit without overusing it, thus showing some level of self-control and responsibility. In reality, carrying a balance is worse for your credit score because higher credit utilization is worse than lower credit utilization and you pay interest for no good reason." Makenzi Wood — Personal Finance and Frugality Blogger at Picky Pinchers Worst Credit Advice: "The worst credit advice I ever received came from my dad. To establish my credit, he helped me get several store credit cards in my name. He then instructed me to blow through the cards and spend up to my credit limit. I was 18, so he didn't have to beg me to splurge on myself with some retail therapy. Anyway, once I racked up all the charges, he said I could only pay the minimum payments moving forward. It took MONTHS to pay off all the debt with the minimums. He said it's important to 'let the companies make a little money on you' to boost your credit score." Janice Lintz — Freelance Writer at janicelintz.com Best Credit Advice: "The best advice I received was to pull all three credit reports for free to confirm the accuracy of the information before applying for a credit card. My statements incorrectly stated that I worked at a pizza shop and had a lien filed against me which I didn't. My FICO score dramatically increased after the data was corrected. The credit card companies could have denied me a credit card based on wrong information.” Dan Wesley — Founder of CreditLoan.com Best Credit Advice: "The best piece of credit advice I’ve heard is to not max out your card and make each payment in full and on time. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to improving your credit. However, showing that you are a responsible borrower by keeping your utilization at a minimum and not carrying a balance is one of the easiest ways to improve your credit score." Worst Credit Advice: "One of the worst pieces of advice that I’ve heard is that you have to max out your credit card to show that you are able to pay it back. This is not sound advice. Your credit utilization rate makes up roughly 30 percent of your credit score, so you want to keep your overall use below 30 percent. If you have a $300 credit limit, try not to use more than $90/month." Jesse Harrison — Founder and CEO of the Employee Justice Legal Team Best Credit Advice: "The best credit advice that I got came from my best friend, and the advice was, "you need credit to live in this country." I am an immigrant and in my country, there is no credit, everything is cash. To buy a house, you need to have the entire price in cash. Since I did not grow up in the United States, I did not understand the value of having a credit history. I was still a believer in all cash. I did not want to buy anything unless I could pay for it in cash. I thought buying something on credit is irresponsible behavior, because after all if you don't have cash, why are you buying? My friend changed my mind by explaining to me that everything here works on credit and I could improve my financial situation by improving my credit. I finally got a credit card in my late 30's (before I only used my debit card) and slowly built my credit. I ended up purchasing my favorite luxury car and several properties based on my credit. Had it not been for my friend's advice, I would be struggling to buy my first property because I wouldn't have enough cash on hand to completely pay it off.” Sacha Ferrandi — Founder and CEO of Source Capital Funding, Inc. and Texas Hard Money Best Credit Advice: “The best credit advice I have received and given is to pay more than the monthly minimum whenever possible. With the average credit card interest rate being about 15.59 percent in 2017, paying the monthly minimum can quickly put you into a hole. According to NerdWallet.com, the average household with debt owes just over $15,500 on credit cards. That being said, if you were to pay a minimum 3 percent of the balance each month at an interest rate of 16 percent, it would take you nearly 21 years to eliminate the debt. In that time you would have paid almost $12,000 in interest. However, if you were to pay even just 2 percent more (5 percent) of the balance each month, you would pay just over $5,000 in interest and eliminate the debt in 19 years. Although this is still a significant amount of time spent paying off the debt, it can help cut the amount of interest paid over that time in half.” Holly Wolf — Director of Customer Engagement at Solo Laboratories, Inc. Worst Credit Advice: "Don't pay off your mortgage because it's tax deductible. Why pay a penny more interest than you need to and the government doesn't give it all back to you (from friends and coworkers). I ignored this advice and paid off our mortgage in five years for the first house and seven years for the second. Manage to a payment. So, instead of negotiating the price, say, 'I can only afford $X per month.' Okay, they'll finance those appliances for 10 years at 20 percent interest and your payment will only be $50 per month (from a coworker and a relative). I never took this advice." Jeff White — Staff Writer at Fit Small Business Best and Worst Credit Advice: "The best and worst credit advice I was ever given was to use a credit card every month. On the one hand, this builds my credit as I pay it off every month. However, if I were to lose my job then it would become very easy to continue the habit of using that credit card since it helps me get things I now can't buy any other way. That could easily put me in a hole when I'm using a card without the funds in my bank account. Using credit cards can be great for people to build their credit or overcome extremely short-term cash flow gaps that they know they can pay off in a week or two. However, they also can be damaging to your future if you misuse them in any way. You should treat that responsibility the same way you treat a 16-year-old getting their driver's license for the first time — it's a great responsibility." Your Credit Future When it comes to taking and following credit advice, first determine if the person giving you the advice is actually good with credit. For instance, if an aunt or uncle with a poor credit history gives you credit advice, let it go in one ear and out the other. Although it may be difficult to ignore bad advice coming from family members or close friends, your credit future will be much brighter if you only follow advice from those who expertly manage their credit and finances and if you do your own credit research.