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WHY WORRY ABOUT MY CREDIT SCORE?

A Snapshot of Your MoneyWhy Worry About My Credit Score?

Why should anyone worry about a credit score? I know many people who think that worrying about raising a credit score is so “Old School.” Many people think if they have a cell phone, pay their rent and lease a car, they must have “good” credit, but there is much more to this story!
Almost 49% of people polled don’t realize that a credit score measures credit risk. Do you know how a score affects your life? Do you know how to read a credit report? Why worry about my credit score? One reason: It is your responsibility to manage your credit, understand your credit score and know what’s being documented by businesses and institutions.

Your credit score is unique, much like your fingerprint. It identifies your risk & financial health and follows you everywhere. In fact, your credit score can fluctuate daily without you doing anything. Creditors report their data about you at different times during the month and depending on the data added to your report; your score will go up or down.  It is not an exact science, and each credit company has its own scoring models that can differ from each one. So you could have a different score on Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. You can check your credit score here: https://www.creditkarma.com/

Thus, it is critical to worry about your credit score and check the pulse of your credit situation every six months or at least annually. You need to have good credit to function in the world. Contrary to many “quick-fixes” you may read about, the best way of increasing your credit score is good payment behavior over time and a healthy mix of credit types.

Here are a few things that your credit score determines:
•    What kind of insurance rates you can receive
•    If you can qualify for a home mortgage and at what rate
•    Whether or not particular companies will hire you
•    If you are eligible for an auto loan and at what rate
•    What credit cards you can qualify for and if you will receive special rates or travel perks

Makes sense to schedule a summer check-up of your credit health today! Why worry about your credit score? It could save you tens of thousand of dollars when purchasing a home and getting the best credit cards with the most generous benefits!

Stay green, my friends!

~Bob

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AFRAID OF THE IRS

IRS-Agent

It’s amazing how many people are terrified of the IRS. They view this government organization as the ultimate parent or authority figure. Even when they know they’ll get a refund, the process of getting their financial numbers together (and the fear of a possible audit) are enough to make some people avoid dealing with their taxes altogether.

Some even believe they’ll end up in prison if they have avoided filing taxes for years. Debtor prison ended a long time ago, but fines for filing taxes late are real. Ignoring tax responsibilities does not make them go away, it merely increases work later and often has a penalty attached.

When you fear authority and do not take responsibility for your finances, you essentially put the responsibility on others to make your decisions. If you’re not taking action out of rebellion, you’re saying, “I don’t like your ideas, so go ahead and do whatever you want.” If you’re relinquishing your financial responsibilities because of insecurity, you might say, “I’m afraid of doing it wrong, so I will do nothing.” Although the intentions are different, the result is the same.

Sam, one of my of my clients, came to me one day to talk about his taxes. He said, “Um, I don’t want anybody to know this, but I haven’t filed my taxes in ten years.” He was very embarrassed. I completed his returns, and it turned out he would have had tax refunds, but lost all the money due to him because the IRS deadline to collect the refunds had passed.

Once Sam became current with his filings, he was relieved and promised he would never let it happen again. The next year, I called him to remind him to send me his tax information … and the next year and the next. I finally stopped calling him. Caution! There is no time frame if you owe the IRS money. Sam was literally paying the IRS 5,000 dollars per year to not file! It is truly amazing how expensive inaction can be—and inaction is often triggered by fear.

One way to avoid fear is to be intentional as you journey through the year. Purchase an accordion folder this week & start stashing paperwork into categories. File them as soon as you pay the bills or get a paycheck. Breaking the entire fiscal year into a weekly routine of filing paperwork into your different categories will make that big April 15th chore much more manageable!

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Christmas Shopping Savvy

3x3 ChristmasYou are scrambling to get your last minute shopping done, or you may have received some gift cards and now you are in a mad dash to get it all done. The stores are offering huge discounts and it is easy to blow your budget! Remember to bring your friends, “a budget and a list.” Having a clear sense of what you want to purchase and sticking to your plan will keep you on track. Finding the perfect present for family and friends shouldn’t cause you emotional and financial pain in January.

Plan your purchases ahead of time and you will save yourself from extra bills and hidden costs. Prioritize your list and set an amount for each person. Be honest with yourself. What do you REALLY want or need to buy? What are you REALLY going to spend? Invest time to find coupons, comparison shop online and maybe add an app like Red Laser to your phone. You can then “price match” items in your hand by comparing prices at other retails outlets & most retailers will match the lowest price.

Bring a calculator and add up your items before you get to the cash register. You may be shocked at the total and can swap out a few items or select what is most important BEFORE you are standing at the register with a credit card in hand. Another trick is to take cash. When you hand over the money you took out of your wallet, there is a much more tangible feel to the purchase. Zipping the credit card along the side of the machine is like pushing a button on a slot machine; so quick and simple – no pain at all – until later, when you have no money left and have incurred some major debt.

Just because an item is on sale doesn’t mean it is the best value. Spending $3,000 on a new TV because it was such a deal doesn’t save you money. One way to take advantage of sales is to buy ahead for next year when everything is half-price. Buying disposable items out of season at half-price, knowing you will be wrapping presents next year makes great sense.

Remember to keep it simple and not get carried away with extravagant expectations. Keep it real and the true Christmas spirit will shine through.

Have an abundant week!

Bob

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Hidden Costs

What is the real cost of careless money management or your lack of decision making?

Choosing to look the other way, sticking your head in the sand when “things” get overwhelming or not assessing your current financial situation can become your default method of reacting to life. Instead, select how you want your life to unfold.

Hidden costs show up on many levels. There are COSTS that cannot be seen or are not included in a purchase that can often affect you negatively in the future.

Smoking is a good example; a pack of cigarettes may cost you five bucks today. Be aware of the implications from hidden costs. Decreased health and a higher cost of insurance and medical bills due to lung cancer may be a much greater cost than you want to pay in the long run. Those high health bills could be a hidden cost that most people don’t ever expect to face, but studies have shown are a real risk.

Another example is the hidden cost of winning. My aunt used to win every contest she ever entered. Of course, as a child, I thought this talent for winning was the greatest! However, there were numerous costs associated with every FREE prize. One year my aunt won a boat. She and my uncle were so excited, they named the boat “Wee Won.” First they had to pay extra income taxes on the free boat. Second, they had to purchase boat insurance. And third, they needed to buy a trailer so they could get it to the ocean and back to the house. Next they took lessons because neither one of them knew anything about boating. Then, of course, each trip required a tankful of gasoline to zip out into the ocean! Honestly, they LOVED that boat and had years of enjoyment, but they also spent tons of money on that one free gift!

Let’s zoom in on one hidden cost many of us are affected by and may not always know about. That is the ever-increasing interest rates that credit card companies and banks charge for the privilege of using their services. This is an area where buyers really need to be smart.

Invest some time into exploring various vendors. Investigate what their rates are and what happens to that rate if you make one late payment. You may pay the full amount due on time and still get hit with interest charges if you pay after the billing cycle ends. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Also, check to see if the interest rate goes up after your first year. That 0 % card may be great for the first year and then it may balloon up to 17% or 23% moving forward. That is a huge chunk of your hard-earned money! If you work to keep your credit score high, you will be rewarded with better rates, some as low as 7% for select credit cards.

Be curious and shop for the best deal you can find. It will save you thousands of dollars in a five-year period! Knowing what all the hidden costs are will help you make the best decision. You now have a more complete picture of how you manage your dollars, your cost of doing business and staying focused on a few long-term goals.

If you slip up and overuse credit cards, put a freeze on them – literally! Fill up a container with water, dump your cards in there and stash them in the freezer. You may have a burning urge to use them, but by the time the ice melts, the urge may have cooled!

Use your knowledge and a little bit of humor to take back your power and choose the best direction for your financial freedom!

Bob