People always remember their "firsts." Their first kiss...first concert...first job...first thing they bought with a credit card. Well okay, maybe I'm the only one who remembers the first thing I charged to a credit card. It was a bag of groceries (and I think I paid interest on my Fruit Loops for six months).
As a whole, we are not that well educated on credit. And we like to spend. In fact, the government said the personal savings rate for the nation in 2005 was negative 0.5 percent. That means consumers not only spent what they earnedthey also spent money they didn't have.
Credit cards and loans have a lot to do with that spending statistic. The thing is, most of us need credit, especially when it comes to buying a car, a house, or even a new wardrobe for that dream job. The key is educating yourself and knowing how to manage your credit.
Whether you're 22 and just getting started or 42 and want to clean up your credit, understanding the way things work can be a big help.
Review your credit report
As you accumulate credit card accounts and apply for loans, you build a credit history. This history is tracked on your credit report, and it includes everything from the types of accounts you open to the number of late payments you make. All your information is broken down into six sections so it's easy to review.
Check for danger signs
There are certain things on a credit report that lenders just don't like to see and this could hurt your chances of being approved for loans; or you could pay higher interest rates. For example, late payments and maxed-out credit card accounts can damage your credit. By getting rid of these types of danger signs, lenders will see you as more credit worthy.
Consider loan consolidation
If you have to pay back a school loan or any other outstanding debt and the amount is pretty hefty -- usually around $10,000 -- you may want to consider consolidation. The main advantages of loan consolidation are being able to lock in on a fixed interest rate and you'll have just one payment to make (that can really cut down on paperwork).
There are, however, some drawbacks of consolidation. When you consolidate during the loan grace period, you have to begin repayment immediately and may lose possible interest benefits on subsidized loans. And, if interest rates go down, you will not be able to take advantage of the lower rates.
Create a plan
When you know what to do, it's a lot easier to do it, right? By making an effort to improve your credit, you'll slowly but surely get to where you want to be.
Even doing something as simple as signing up for automatic payment to avoid late payments may cause a positive change in your credit. Or maybe the first step is creating a spending plan, there's a handy worksheet that can help show you how.
If you're just getting started, make a plan to build your credit history. You'll see doing a little homework now can save you money and headaches down the road.
Through a suite of educational materials, free monthly newsletters, and easy-to-use products, TrueCredit.com empowers consumers to achieve greater financial well-being. TrueCredit.com's online products include credit reports, insurance and credit scores, credit monitoring, debt management tools, and identity theft insurance services. For more information, visit: TrueCredit.com.© 2008 Elena Laramie
The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.