Categories
Budgeting & Saving

How to Fix Bad Credit?

Wondering how to fix my credit myself? Or how to fix bad credit? There’s no doubt that living in the modern world requires credit. Yes, you can live without a credit card and survive on cash or cashback debit cards.

I know because I did it for over two years as I paid off credit card debt. But what I really wanted to do was improve my credit score immediately.

However, when you are ready to buy a house, you’ll need to get your credit straightened out. In this post I’ll discuss getting a credit repair service as well as what steps you need to take if you decide you want to fix your credit score yourself. You might even be able to fix your credit in just 6 months.

These steps are so easy. Perfect guide for do it yourself credit repair.

Related articles from our approved partners:

  • Three Tips to Get Approved for Better Loans at Better Rates
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  • Save $50 off Credit Repair Service

How Can I Fix Bad Credit Myself? – 6 MonthCredit Repair Guide

First, watch this video from my friend Dominique over at Your Finances Simplified. He’s going to tell you exactly how to fix your credit.

Watched the video? Good.
Feeling overwhelmed at the next steps?
Yep. I understand.
Let’s take this step by step.

Take a deep breath. People think that having bad credit is the worse thing that can happen. But just calm down. You are taking the first steps which puts you on the right track.

Remember, it’s just money.

No one is going to die. Take control and get back in the driver’s seat!

Fix 1: Check Bad Credit

The first thing you’ll need is your creditor information. Get the most recent credit card statements, loan balances, and installment loan reports along with addresses and phone numbers. I recommend printing everything old-school style. It’s going to come in handy later.

Fix 2: Get a Free Credit Report

Then, take a second to get your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Each year you are able to pull your credit report for free from the three providers Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

Optional: Get Your Free Credit Score

You can check an approximation of your credit score for free at Credit Sesame one of our approved partners, but if you are trying to fix your credit, you probably already know your credit score looks a little like this….

bad credit personified

But that’s ok. We’re going to put you on the good foot.

Fix 3: Review your credit report for errors (highlight each error).

You’re getting ready to take charge and stop being a victim. Most people don’t even realize what they could get removed from their credit just because of errors.

What should you look for?

Wait a minute. So, you’re telling me you didn’t watch the video above?

Scroll back up for me right quick and you’ll find out exactly what you should look for.

Or keep reading…

Dispute incorrect names, addresses, SSN, and date of birth via the certified mail.

You will need supporting documentation and letters. You will have to write a dispute letter and include the specifics of the inaccuracies. You want to dispute inaccurate, erroneous, outdated, misleading, and unverifiable information in your credit reports.

Tired of being harassed by your creditors? Maybe you’d prefer that someone else handle all of this for you?

In that case, you might was to work with a credit repair company to improve your credit.

Are you ready to…

  • Remove bankruptcies to rebuild credit?
  • Permanently delete foreclosures and repossessions?
  • Erase debts that were in collection?
  • Completely get credit cards under control?
  • Get approved for loans?
  • Get the best financing on cars and homes?

In that case, check out our partner Lexington Law for more details on how they can help you clean up your credit report.

Finally, fixing your credit permanently also means creating good habits and getting out of debt.

How getting out of debt is like the MTV show, I Used to Be Fat.

I used to watch this TV show on MTV called I Used to Be Fat. The show documents young adults, usually high school seniors and high school graduates who want to lose weight before they start college. Each episode features a different teen. I absolutely LOVE this show. I like seeing the determination and perseverance of these kids, they are really focused on their goals. Most of them thought about quitting along the way but each one makes it to the end and they usually reach their goal.

I was thinking the other day about how the TV show is very similar to a battle with debt. When you’re in debt, it can feel like you’re carrying around a second person, experiencing frugal fatigue, or that you have a spare tire of bills around your waist. I know because I’m working on getting out of debt myself. I realized that there are 3 major points we can learn from the MTV show I Used to Be Fat when trying to take control of our debt.
debt

Improve Your Credit Step 1 – Give Yourself a Deadline

Before the teens even begin a weight loss program, their coach/personal trainer gives them a large tear off number calendar to place on their wall. It has the total number of days until their program completion date, and every day they rip off the next number.

It is a good idea, when you are paying off debt, to set a deadline for your debt-free date, like 6 months. Setting a deadline is a way of making your goal specific. Every time you look at that calendar or see that date it will push your brain consciously and subconsciously to make it to your ultimate goal, to reduce spending and get out of debt.

Improve Your Credit Step 2 – Check in Regularly with a Coach

Every week, the kids had a weigh in. Their personal trainer was making sure that they were on track with how much weight they were supposed to be losing at each stage in the process. Sometimes they were attempting to lose one pound a day! I never thought that was possible or healthy, but most of the teens actually accomplished it under the supervision of their coach.

If you really want to prioritize your goal of becoming debt free then you really have to give yourself check points. You can enlist the help of a friend or even a debt counselor to help you along the way. Having a good support system can make all the difference.

Improve Your Credit Step 3 – Get Rid of Old Habits and Create New Ones

When one of the teens was at a restaurant with her friends, she ordered a lean meal instead of the greasy french fries that her friends had. The personal trainer also taught her how to cook healthier meals so that she would be able to maintain her new lifestyle change.

Becoming debt-free is not a one-time goal. It has to be a lifestyle change. When I decided to start getting out of debt, I had to first evaluate why I was in debt in the first place. I had to eliminate my habit of impulse spending and replace that habit with a good habit. Now I impulse buy stocks and my portfolio loves it! It’s not easy to change a habit that took years to cultivate, but with a good support system, it is entirely possible.

Are you ready to make a change?

Some of you may be thinking, I’m still young, so why should I care about my credit score? Lots of people have debt and less than stellar credit, but they’re still enjoying a cushy lifestyle. As long as I’m able to buy the things that I want, why should I be concerned? The answer is simple. Life is easier when you have good credit.

Take a look at it this way. Landlords, employers, and lenders need to determine whether they can trust you, and they look at your credit score as an indicator of your financial reputation. You may not think credit affects you greatly, but it does. When you ruin your financial reputation (a.k.a. credit score), it will take you a long time to restore it.

Poor credit affects your ability to rent, buy a car, get a home loan, and even open up accounts. Creditors don’t want to work with people with bad credit because the risk of not getting paid is very high. How can they trust that you will pay them back if you haven’t even paid others? If you’ve already tarnished your credit, here are some tips to help you fix your credit score and reestablish your life.

Improve Your Credit Step 4 – Make Your Payments on Time

This may sound trivial, but we all know that money can be tight, and skipping payments on one bill can help pay for other expenses. But, timely payments are the biggest factor affecting your credit score. Keep a budget, and make sure you have sufficient funds to make your credit card and loan payments on time.

Improve Your Credit Step 5 – Consider Getting a Secured Credit Card

Obviously, it will be very hard to get a regular credit card if you have bad credit. If you don’t qualify for a credit card, you can get a secured card instead. This is when the bank gives you a credit line equal to the deposit you make. If used wisely, a secured card can help nurse your poor credit to better health.

Improve Your Credit Step 4 – Add an Installment Loan

You can improve your score quickly if you show that you can be responsible for both major kinds of credit: revolving (credit cards) and installment (mortgages, auto, student loans, etc.). If you don’t have an installment loan and feel you are ready to handle one, consider adding a small personal loan. Stay away from expensive finance companies and “teaser” deals, and use a company that reports the loan to all three credit bureaus.

Improve Your Credit Step 5 – Avoid the Minimum Payment Trap

Credit cards come with high interest rates. We all know how our $2,000 computer ended up costing $8,168 because we only made the minimum payments at 20% on our credit card. Ouch, that hurts! Keep constant payments on your credit card (and don’t run them up again) and your balances will drop.

Improve Your Credit Step 6 – Use Your Credit Cards Lightly and Check Your Limits

Even if you pay your bills on time and in full each month, having big balances can hurt your score. Try to limit charges to 30% or less of your card’s limit. Lenders typically like to see a big gap between how much you’re charging and your available credit limit.

Improve Your Credit Step 7 – Keep Old Credit Cards

Don’t close out old credit cards. The longer your credit history, the better. Leave the accounts open but once you pay them off, stop using them. Closed accounts tend to bring down your score.

Improve Your Credit Step 8 – Suspend Credit Inquiries

The more credit inquiries you have, the more your credit score drops. Fix your credit and wait a while before allowing your credit to be pulled again.

Improve Your Credit Step 9 – Get a Goodwill Adjustment

If you have been responsible about paying your credit cards on time, the lender may agree to erase a late payment from your credit history. For more troubled accounts, communicate with your lender about possible options to erase previous delinquencies. If the lender agrees, it will improve your overall record.

Improve Your Credit Step 10 – Check Your Credit Report for Errors

You can check your credit report without negative scoring (once per year, for free) with the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure to look for any mistakes that could be hurting your score. If you see something wrong, make the effort to have it corrected.

Improve Your Credit Step 11 – Seek Professional Help

If you are overwhelmed with debt and don’t feel you can handle the problem on your own, consider working with a professional debt relief agent. They can help you explore your options and give you guidance on this post

It’s very easy to ruin your credit, but it takes time to build it back up. No matter how bad your credit is, you can take steps to make it better.

Sometimes we mishandle our budget, and we spend more than we should. (You know that you shouldn’t have bought that expensive flat screen TV). And, sometimes we end up in tough financial situations because of things beyond our control. Whether you have experienced job loss, illness, or another type of financial disruption, it’s important to know that you can turn things around.

It may not be easy, but step by step, you will be able to fix your financial situation. Just don’t delay facing the issue. The longer you wait, the harder it is for you to recover.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Here’s The Budget One Woman Used Before And After Paying Off $32,000 Of Debt

It was very difficult for me to reveal this information and I tried to be as open as possible without completely eliminating my privacy. Here’s the story on Business Insider about how I budgeted for my debt payoff. 

___

In 2011, LaTisha Styles decided it was time to pay off her $22,000 of credit-card debt and $10,000 auto loan.

The process took her three years and one month.

“In November of [2011], I moved to my own place in the city, single and without children,” she remembers. “I took a job with an investment adviser and slowly began the process of paying off my debt.”

At the time, her debt was delinquent (meaning she hadn’t been making payments), since she had graduated college without a job and went to live with her parents outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

On the day she was offered her new job, she sat down and created a budget, using a basic spreadsheet and working with Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions to manage her consumer debt.

Here, she shares an average monthly budget from 2013, when she was furiously paying down her debt, as well as one from 2014, the year she paid it off. Note that these are averages taken from a year’s worth of spending, so a single month isn’t represented, and the budget was created for her after-tax income. Continue reading on Business Insider.

 
Or, watch this video first about my debt payoff strategy.


 

Originally posted 2015-01-07 13:00:09.

Categories
Investing

TradeKing Review Online Trading

There are numerous options for those looking to begin the process of online trading. Few, however, offer the range of features exhibited by discount brokerage firm, TradeKing – and no other site provides these features at such an affordable cost.

Site Overview

TradeKing is an online broker site that specializes in the online trading of stocks, bonds and other options. The site ranks #1 among online brokers for site usability, so it offers a comfortable starting point for trading beginners. With excellent customer service, managed portfolio options and educational resources, the site is comprehensive in its overall features, as well.

Competitive Pricing

Cost is always a deciding factor when choosing the right brokerage site, and TradeKing offers the most competitive price point in the industry. TradeKing charges only $4.95 per trade, a steal when compared to fees at other well-known brokerage sites. Scottrade costs $7 per trade, while OptionsXpress costs $8.95. Both E*Trade and TD Ameritrade charge $9.99 per trade.

TradeKing’s flat-fee trade rate adds to the site’s user-friendliness and simplicity. While regular stock trades cost the flat $4.95, options trades cost $4.95 plus $.65 per contract. The site is not ideal, however, for penny stock traders given than stocks less than $2 per share still cost the flat rate plus a penny per share.

Tools

TradeKing stands out from other sites due to its extensive site features, including research reports, interactive charts and technical analysis tools. The site understandably boasts the fact that Barron’s ranked TradeKing 4 out of 4 stars for a solid eight years in a row in the company’s annual review of online stock and option brokers.

Education Center

TradeKing’s community education center is especially helpful for those starting out in the business of stock trading. Beginners can easily ask questions to more experienced members or choose to scour forum discussions to learn the ropes based on previously posted topics. Either way, a plethora of helpful information and potential mentoring opportunities is found through the site’s forums and available resources.

TradeKing LIVE

TradeKing LIVE is a streaming platform that is readily offered free of charge to TradeKing customers who perform more than one trade per year or maintain a minimum balance of $2,500. The platform features streaming quotes in real time, all customizable to your own unique market preferences.

Customer Service

TradeKing is perhaps best known for two things: affordability and impressive customer service. SmartMoney Magazine even ranked TradeKing #1 for customer service in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The site also boasts a live chat feature that connects customers immediately with a customer service representative. This feature is available Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. Representatives are also available via email and phone.

Summary of Features

Positives

  • Affordable
  • Flat-rate fees
  • Accessible customer service
  • User-friendly site
  • Resources for beginners
  • Streaming market platform
  • No account minimum

Negatives

  • Penny stock fees
  • Mutual fund fees
  • Limited research options

Overall, TradeKing is an ideal site for newbies in the stock-trading world. With remarkable customer service and lower trade costs than its competitors, TradeKing is a great place to start when venturing into online trades.

Originally posted 2014-12-27 06:00:54.

Categories
Young Finances

5 Easy Ways to Minimize Student Loans

It’s likely that you will have to take on some type of debt to complete a college degree. According to the U.S. Department of Education,

“The average total cost of attendance in 2011-12 for first-time, full-time students living on campus and paying in-state tuition was $21,000 at public 4-year institutions…”

That means that a 4 year degree at a state college would end up costing you over 80,000 dollars!

With those costs in mind, its no wonder that you may be considering taking on student debt to cover your college costs. However, there is no need to use student loans for the full cost. Here are 5 ways you can minimize student loans.

1) Only Borrow What You Need

If you know your major and you decide to take out a loan, only borrow what you can expect to make in your first year. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the starting salary in 2012 for a communications major is around 43,000 dollars. Your total student loans for all four years of college should be less than or equal to this. If you make a commitment to save half of your income each year, you can pay off your student loans in less than three years!

2) Use Parental Support

While you’re in high school and have the benefit of free food and housing, you can work and save money for college. Learn to live within your means now so you can minimize the amount of student loans you will need.

Living at home while in college is a great way to save money. This option will not apply to everyone but if you live close enough to your college then you can live at home and save money.

3) Community College first, then University

Living at home is much easier if you are going to a community college. You can earn the college credits that you need in the first two years at a much cheaper rate than a full 4 year university. Once you have your two years completed, then you can complete your full degree at a University and enjoy the benefit of a degree from a big name school without the added cost. You just saved over forty thousand dollars! Good job!

4) Work During College

You can work full time while you are in school. While you won’t get to participate in the ‘College Lifestyle’, you can start paying off any student loan debt that you had to borrow. Paying off the debt while in college will help you avoid unnecessary fees and interest that has been accruing while you are in school.

5 Easy Ways to Minimize Student Loans | Young Finances

5) Apply for Scholarships and Grants

All financial aid is not created equal.
The most valuable financial aid comes in the form of grants, scholarships and work-study programs. These are considered the most valuable aid because essentially you are getting “free” money that does not have to be repaid.

Grants typically come in the form of federal financial aid such as: Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Academic Competitiveness Grant.

Individual states also have grant programs such as a Lottery Tuition Assistance.

Scholarships can come in many forms. There are many state supported scholarships and then there are literally millions of private local organizations from all over the country, that provide funding for scholarships.

Also, consider applying for scholarships at the school you plan to attend. Many private schools have large endowments that are awarded through scholarships to deserving students. And public colleges often have alumni that provide scholarships.

There are also athletic, academic, and ROTC scholarships available at most colleges. The top tier of financial aid also includes the federal work-study program, although it is important to note that a work-study position is a part time job. You are paid a weekly or monthly salary based on the hours you worked, and your per-hour rate.

What if I Don’t Have a Major?

DO NOT BORROW MONEY.

If you are not sure what you want to do when you graduate, chances are you will be in school a long time, changing majors and racking up a big bill. If you are not sure what you want to do, start working full-time.

You’ll at least find out what you don’t want to do, and it will put you closer to deciding what you do want to do.

How do you plan to minimize your need for student loans?

This post was originally published as a part of the PNC Achievement Sessions helping you get smarter about money. Click here for more articles.

Originally posted 2014-11-22 10:00:04.

Categories
Investing

E-Trade Stock Broker Review

When seeking personal finance solutions, E-Trade is one of the first companies that comes to mind, thanks to a national ad campaign and lengthy track record (the company was formed in 1982). E-Trade was one of the first online brokerage services, initially aimed at more lucrative investors willing to pay high fees to be one of the first to access online investing tools. Today, it is an option for investors large and small.

Pricing and Services

E-Trade still caters to premium investors, while also offering accessible low-cost packages to young professionals seeking to hone their personal finance abilities. E-Trade’s $9.99 standard commission per stock trade is average compared to competitors. Where E-Trade separates from the pack is via its several exclusive services, including 1,300 no-fee mutual funds, nearly 100 commission-free ETFs and a variety of banking services, which is ideal for convenient fund transfers.

Some E-Trade services are lower in cost compared to competitors, such as a commission-associated mutual fund of choice being priced at $19.99 instead of the more common $50 fee at other sites. Also, E-Trade ranks among the most accessible in terms of the minimum deposit required to open an account at just $500. A margin-enabled account requires a $2000 minimum deposit.

E-Trade’s cost is particularly attractive for active traders; investors who make between 150 and 1,500 trades per quarter qualify for a reduced commission rate of $7.99, which is a substantial $2.00 off the normal fee. If you make more than 1,500 trades per quarter, you can also negotiate an even bigger discount.

Strengths

In addition to providing convenient banking services and having low initial minimum deposits, E-Trade has various research tools, which include:

  • Investing Insights – provides investing ideas influenced by trends such as relevant investing topics and market trends.
  • Analyst Research – Commentary from respected sources like Credit Suisse, S&P and Thomson Reuters are provided, with in-depth analysis and comparisons of stock options.
  • Community Activity – E-Trade users can directly ask financial pros questions on current trends or recent market events.
  • Stock Screener Tools – the ability to screen stocks via E-Trade allows users to discover stocks worth investing in based on their personal criteria.

 

In addition, E-Trade offers access to foreign markets – Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK, in particular. It’s a nice perk for anyone more specialized in foreign markets.

Weaknesses

Although there are certainly users who have no issues with E-Trade’s customer service, a one-star rating on Consumer Affairs after over 240 reviews suggests there are some issues, mostly citing poor communication by customer service. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that most banking institutions have poor reviews online, so E-Trade is not too different than its major competitors in this regard.

Another potential criticism of E-Trade is that it is not accessible to every type of trader, in terms of frequency. Those who trade very infrequently or rarely may find lower fees elsewhere, but for average or above-average traders, E-Trade offers a great platform where you can lower commission rates through increased activity. Some fees – like broker-assisted market orders being an extra $25 per trade – are irritating, but for the large part E-Trade is very fair in terms of pricing.

Overall, E-Trade is a recommended option with a variety of tools and platforms that make up for some higher costs.

Originally posted 2014-11-20 13:00:00.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

7 Places to Find Money for College

College can be a big expense. Unless you have parents who saved for your tuition and agree to pay, you will likely have to figure out how to finance your college education yourself. If you get creative with your financing, you can minimize your need to borrow funds for college.

1) Complete the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is your first step in looking for free money for college. Often, there are grant programs or scholarships that work in conjunction with this federal application. You may also be eligible for grants that you were not aware of. The FAFSA can help you automatically apply for these grants.

2) Win Scholarships via Alumni Clubs and Religious Organizations

Check for scholarships offered by alumni clubs or religious organizations that you or your parents belong to. I applied for a scholarship that was awarded by a club that my mother was a member of. It was a small scholarship of $500, but every little bit helps.

3) Apply for Grants via the Federal Government

One of the most popular places to get free money for college is the federal government. Yes, they supply funds for direct loan programs, but they also have grant programs. Grant money does not have to be repaid and can help you pay for tuition, fees and supplies.

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is awarded based on financial need. The grant is awarded to low­ income undergraduate students. In some cases, graduate students may qualify.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant

The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is also awarded by the federal government based on need. Priority is given to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need.

4) Ask the College

You may qualify for a scholarship directly from the college you plan to attend. Often the college will have donors that provide scholarship money. At my college, completing the FAFSA was the first step in applying for these scholarships. Some scholarships require a short essay or demonstration of interest in a particular major.

5) Serve with AmeriCorps

Serving for 12 months in AmeriCorps will qualify you for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. This award may be used to pay education costs at eligible post­secondary educational institutions (including many technical schools and GI­-Bill approved educational programs), as well as to repay qualified student loans.

6) Qualify for the GI Bill

Serving your country will qualify you for the Montgomery GI Bill. You can also qualify for funds if you have a parent or spouse in the military with unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. These funds do have to be repaid and can be used for tuition, fees and supplies, as well as housing.

7) Try Professional Organizations

There are professional organizations that offer monetary awards if you demonstrate interest in a particular career path. For example, the American Marketing Association Foundation awards several scholarships, and the National Association of Black Journalists awards scholarships to foreign or American-born students pursuing careers in journalism.

There are many ways to secure free money for college. It will take a little effort but it is worth it. Take the time to research these ways to finance your college education and chase the degree you’ve been dreaming about.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.

Originally posted 2014-10-30 13:00:23.