Improving Your Credit Score

Ray’s Take: We all have memories of preparing to take a really hard test. Up all night studying, lots of caffeine, stressing up until that very moment you sit down with the paper and pencil knowing that everything you worked so hard for depends on the answers you mark on that one piece of paper. And then you have to wait for the results. The waiting may be harder than the test itself. I think this is how many people feel about getting their credit score.

 

Unfortunately, your credit score doesn’t depend on one test. It is determined over time and takes many years to build a good one. If you’ve had overdue student loans, carried high credit card balances over a long period of time or had a foreclosure, your credit score may not be good, but it can be repaired.

 

If your score is good, there’s always room for improvement. According to FICO, only 1.4 percent of U.S. consumers have a perfect credit score of 850. And the average national FICO score is a 700.

 

So how can you improve your credit score if it’s not even close to 700 or 850? Here are some simple ways to start:

 

Pay off all your bills on time going forward. Late or missed payments are the single most detrimental thing you can do to your credit.

 

Don’t close credit cards as a short-term strategy; instead pay down the balance and don’t open up any new cards.

 

Keep your balances low on the credit cards you already have and pay them off completely if you have the financial means to do so instead of making ongoing payments.

 

I think concern over one’s score isn’t such a good use of time. It only matters if you want to borrow more money, and you only need to borrow money if you want to buy something before you have saved for it. I would rather spend my time and energy figuring out how to earn a bit more or spend less. If you do that, you won’t need to borrow as much money and your score really doesn’t matter!

 

Dana’s Take: A credit score measures how well one has borrowed money and repaid it. Too bad we don’t have a saving and investing score. Perhaps we do – it’s called net worth.

 

Is your family creating a culture of financial success? What kind of stories do your kids hear around the dinner table? Do they hear you envy those who are spending or do they hear tales of those building savings and investing?

 

Look for opportunities to create a family culture where stories of hard work and success are celebrated. Encourage children and teens to ask adults and elders about their paths to success. Change your family’s narrative from big spenders to big savers and investors.

 

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