Along with saving money that you can use for vacations, holidays and retirement, experts suggest putting money regularly into a savings account dedicated to emergencies. If you don't set aside money for emergencies, you can easily get saddled with – and stay in – debt, says Erika Jensen, president of Respire Wealth Management in Houston. "Debt occurs when income minus expenses equals a negative number," she says. "In the absence of savings, that extra spend is going on credit cards. We all know that there will inevitably be months where our expenses exceed our income," she explains. "Everyone knows that scenario. If there isn't any savings, then both of those expenses are covered again by debt."
Bad credit is not a life sentence, which is good news for the roughly one-third of people with credit scores below 620. So if your credit is damaged, there are indeed steps that you can take to rebuild. After all, rebuilding credit is a process that takes time and requires focus on the fundamentals. And we’ll explain exactly what you need to do below.
Applying for and opening up a new credit card increases your overall credit limit compared to the amount you have used. This, too, can result in a nice credit score bump the following month, but only works if you have good credit. One drawback: You may initially receive a 10 to 25-point new credit score ding which will readjust after a few months of responsible credit behavior.
Assuming you are consistently paying on time (the No. 1 thing you can do to help your credit), take a look at your debt-to-available credit ratio. You want to get that to under 30% (under 10% is even better). Your credit mix is also a factor. If you have the income to make more than minimum payments, though, that is the best way to make an impact. You can read more here:
What is it? A debt management plan, or DMP, consolidates your credit card payments — not your credit card debt. Instead of making several payments to various creditors, you make one payment to your DMP and your credit counselor will use that payment to pay the debt you owe to various lenders. Your counselor may also try to negotiate lower rates and fees associated with your debt.
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Despite anyone's diligence in managing their money wisely, sometimes financial hardships happen because of a job loss, medical condition, divorce, or other life events. If you have problems making ends meet, contact your creditors or a legitimate non-profit agency that specializes in credit counseling services for assistance. Do this as soon as possible to see how consolidated debt can help relieve the burden of financial stresses. The longer you wait, the more challenges you'll encounter. Consolidating debt is often your best alternative in these situations, and a counselor can help you with the process.
“If you have to choose between debts to pay, skip the credit card bill because it's unsecured and a creditor can't repossess anything. Luckily, credit card delinquencies hurt credit scores less than bigger debts, such as home or auto loans,” says Sarah Davies, senior vice president of analytics, product management and research for VantageScore Solutions.
Become familiar with the information contained in each of your credit reports. They'll all look very similar, even if you've ordered them from different bureaus. Each credit report contains your personal identifying information, detailed history for each of your accounts, any items that have been listed in public record like a bankruptcy, and the inquiries that have been made to your credit report.
If you’ve missed enough payments that an account was sent to collections, it can be a tricky proposition. Leave it alone, and it will continue to appear as a blemish on your credit report for a long time. But pay it off, and it still might hurt your score in the short term. Luckily, there’s another way to deal with collections that will help—not hurt—your score, and that’s paying for deletion. Just like it sounds, you’ll contact the collections agency (which will love to hear from you!) and make a deal; if you send in full payment, the collections company will erase the negative reporting from your credit. They may even take less than 100 cents on the dollar to do so – as many debts settle for far less than what was originally owed. Just make sure get this arrangement in writing and mail a check to them certified mail with “Cash only when you delete the account from my credit report” written right above the endorsement line.
If you have impossibly high interest on those credit cards, then do cancel them. It doesn’t help to have open credit cards if the interest rate makes it nearly impossible for you to get the balance down. In fact, banks currently have hardship programs, where they will reduce your interest rate TO ZERO if you agree that they will cancel your cards. Yes, you wll take an immediate hit on your credit score, but that will quickly improve as you pay down your credit cards, which you can now do because you don’t have those usurious interest rates to pay.