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5 Tips for Rebuilding Your Credit Scores After Your 20s

5 Tips for Rebuilding Your Credit Scores After Your 20s

If you’re anything like me, your early 20s were not your most financially sound years. With a low-paying job, rent and bills to pay, and plenty of shiny gadgets tempting you at every turn, credit cards often seem to magically make it all work… until they don’t anymore.

Sadly, once you get your act together and want to start making adult purchases such as cars and houses, those foolish financial missteps can come back to haunt you. Thankfully, there are many ways to help repair your credit scores, which in turn will allow you to secure better financing on those large, milestone purchases your more mature mind is now focused on. Here are 5 suggestions to help you get there.

1. Consider Debt Consolidation

Not to be confused with debt forgiveness or bankruptcy, debt consolidation simply refers to the idea of moving all of your outstanding debts to one place in an effort to make paying them off easier. There are a few reasons why this could be a good idea, not the least of which is the path to financial freedom it provides you. Additionally, depending on how you choose to consolidate, it could serve to boost your credit scores.

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The two most popular forms of debt consolidation are personal loans and balance transfers, both have their pros and cons. First, personal loans can be good for boosting your credit scores because they will move your debt from revolving lines of credit to installments. That’s significant because your maxed out credit cards will carry more weight than installment loans when it comes to your credit utilization ratio. Since credit utilization/available credit makes up 30% of your FICO scores, paying off your credit cards with a loan should give you boost.

Sound good? Well, there are a couple of snags you should know about. As you’re undoubtedly aware, banks aren’t really in the business of lending you money for free. Because of this, you’ll want to ensure that the interest rate and APR (annual percentage rate) you’re offered on a loan doesn’t exceed what you’re paying on your credit card(s). On top of that, many lenders will charge what’s called an origination fee—a percentage of your loan amount that you pay to the lender and don’t get back. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to do the math or use a personal loan calculator when exploring your options.

Another form of debt consolidation is a balance transfer. Typically this is done by opening a new credit card with a 0% introductory rate and then transferring the debts from your other cards to your new one. Although this might save you a good amount of money in interest if you’re able to pay down the entire debt quickly, it could end up hurting even worse if you let that introductory offer end. Additionally, be aware that most cards charge you a balance transfer fee – as high as 5% of the amount you are transferring. Lastly, opening a new card will actually ding your credit temporarily since it’s a new credit inquiry, but the added credit availability will help you down the road.

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2. Keep Your Cards Open

Regardless of what method of debt consolidation you use (or don’t use, for that matter), you may be surprised to learn that closing your paid off cards is actually a terrible idea. Sure, it might feel good to call up your credit card company and tell them where to go, but closing your account can hurt your credit scores big time.

Part of the reason for this goes back to the idea of credit utilization. If you close your accounts, you’ll have far less available credit, which is a disadvantage in the eyes of FICO. Plus, a lesser (but still important) factor affecting your scores is your length of credit history. Unfortunately, when you close an account, the time you held that card no longer gets added into this average. It’s a much better idea to leave your cards open and just use them responsibly.

3. Try A Secured Credit Card

Didn’t get the “don’t close your cards” memo until it was too late? If you’ve really tanked your credit, it may be difficult to get approved for a new credit card at first. Even more frustrating, without a credit card, rebuilding your scores can be tricky. That’s where secured credit cards come in.

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What makes secured cards different from the ones you’re familiar with is that they require a deposit. The size of that deposit will depend on the card issuer and the credit limit you’re seeking, but it’s typically a few hundred dollars. Since you’re giving the card issuer collateral, these cards are far easier to obtain than unsecured ones, making them a good choice for those who are nearly out of options.

4. Pay Your Bills On Time

This may seem obvious, but it’s a huge help. Although any overdue payments you’ve made in the past will stick to your credit report for seven years (much like swallowed gum), putting those behind you and establishing a clean streak will serve you well. Additionally, while you will still see those errant payments on your report, their damage to your scores will diminish with time, so don’t fret too much.

5. Monitor Your Credit

Even if you abide by all of these tips in hopes of repairing your credit scores, how will you know if any of your efforts are paying off if you don’t bother to check? Thanks to modern technology, keeping up with your credit scores is now easier than ever, and often free.

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One place you should start is AnnualCreditReport.com, which provides you with your Equifax, Experian, and Transunion credit reports free once a year. The bummer here is that, in order to actually view your scores, you’ll have to pay. However, reviewing your report is extremely important because you may catch errors that are dragging your scores down unfairly.

As far as your scores are concerned, some credit cards now provide you a FICO score on your statement or on their website. If not, you can also try sites like Credit Karma to get a rough idea of what your scores look like. I say “rough idea” because Credit Karma utilizes the Vantage model for calculating credit scores as opposed to the more common FICO model. Because of this, you may see discrepancies, but at least you’ll be in the ballpark.

Yes, it’s true: adulting is hard. Alas, many of us make some major financial mistakes in our 20s that affect us as we attempt to be real adults a decade or so later. The good news is that, even if you’ve trashed your credit scores in the past, they do change and can recover. By paying off your debts, looking for secured forms of credit, paying on time, and keeping an eye on your credit, it will only be a matter of time before those dark fiscal days are finally behind you.

Featured photo credit: Pymnts.com via pymnts.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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