You will also need a big lump sum of cash. Borrowing from your 401(k) retirement plan is an option if you have no alternatives. It isn’t considered an actual loan, so it doesn’t show up on your credit report. You can borrow up to 50% of your plan balance without penalty. However, before taking that route, see if a wealthy family member may consider giving you a loan instead, as dipping into your retirement savings can be disastrous in the long run.
Know where you are at financially. Check your credit report to see exactly where you need to improve. Do you have a lot of missed or late payments? Is your debt utilization too high? These clues can help you figure out what items to tackle first. You are entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus one a year (so, three total). You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the official site run by the three credit bureaus) for your free reports. You can also order reports directly from each of the three bureaus:
By co-signing, you agreed to be the backup payer on the account in case the primary folks defaulted (as it appears that they did). If the debt is past due by six years, check your state's Statute of Limitations for debt collection - many states only give creditors 3-4 years to collect on a debt, after which point they cannot bring you to court. A Partial payment will re-set this clock. You may also hit the 7 year limit for how long it can stay on your report (7 years from the date it was first past due with the cable company).
Be persistent. You won't see your credit score dramatically change overnight. Repairing your credit actually means repairing your credit history. The score then reflects this. The best things you can do now, are pay your bills on time and pay down debt. Even then, it will probably take at least 30 days before these actions impact your credit.
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