Grow your credit score through intentional monitoring
Did you ever imagine that the luck o’ the Irish could help you build a better credit score? Well (tongue in cheek), it can! I’m part Irish, and I’m going to give you my best lucky advice to help you build and maintain healthy credit. And, yes, I’m having a little fun, but bad credit is no joke. It can affect your life in more ways than you ever imagined. With bad credit, you could pay higher interest and insurance rates, and you could even be passed over for a job. So, sit up, take note, and don’t leave your credit to chance. Let’s get serious about building healthy credit.
L—Limit yourself. Having a good credit score has lots to do with moderation and using credit wisely. Build a better credit score by making sure your outstanding credit is no more than 20% of your total credit available. Your lucky number is seven, though! According to myFICO, those with the highest credit scores use 7% or less of available credit.
U—Understand credit. You will have better luck with your personal finances and your credit score once you understand that credit should be used only sparingly, and only as a tool—not a solution—to achieve a higher goal. For example, if your goal is to own a home someday, use credit sparingly as a tool to build a credit history and credit score that will eventually enable you to qualify for a mortgage. Avoid using credit as a solution, such as to pay bills, buy necessities, or make up for an income shortfall.
C—Check your credit reports. Don’t leave what your credit reports say about you to chance. It’s only intentional monitoring of your credit reports by you that will help grow your credit score. You need to check reports from all three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) twice per year. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free reports. Look for inaccuracies, bad debts, and possible signs of fraud, and get issues resolved right away. Remember to document everything and keep any documentation sent to you.
K—Keep up the good work! By following my LUCK recipe, you will be on the road toward building and maintaining healthy credit. Make a point to pay all your bills on time and in full. Many people don’t, so if your payments are on time, you will again be increasing your credit score and your peace of mind. What a relief, right?
Remember to put these luck o’ the Irish healthy-credit tips to work for you, and you can expect Lady Luck to be smiling down on you this year.
Jeanne Kelly, ESME's Resource Guide for Work and Finance, is a Solo Mom who founded the Kelly Group, a company that provides credit counseling to individuals and organizations. She has appeared on the Today show and has also been quoted in media outlets such as CNN, Money, and the New York Times. Kelly is the author of the book The 90-Day Credit Challenge.
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