What is Credit?
Credit is your reputation as a borrower. It tells others how likely you are to repay your debts. Credit is made up from information about your borrowing history. Most of the information comes from your credit reports.
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report contains information about your borrowing history. Lenders provide information that ends up on credit reports. How much you borrow, your repayment history and other details about your borrowing behavior are on your credit report. When someone wants a credit report, it is requested from a credit reporting company. These agencies collect and distribute all of your information.
What is a Credit Score?
Credit agencies use your credit history to determine a credit score. These scores are determined by a computer program that runs through your credit report. It looks for patterns (such as on time payments), characteristics and any red flags that may need to be tended to. Credit scores are used for multiple areas in your life such as lending decisions for cars or mortgages, insurance and even employment approvals.
The Need to Build Credit
If you do not have a credit history, lenders do not know if they should lend you money. It is not able to be determined if you are a responsible debt-payer or a bad risk. You need to build credit in order to prove your creditworthiness. Young adults who are just starting to learn about financial responsibilities need to build credit. However, remember that credit can be a useful tool but it can also get you into trouble. After you begin building credit you may be inundated with tempting new credit offers. Banks, credit card companies and others will want to loan to you as you are a good borrower. Don’t take every offer — only borrow money when it is truly beneficial to you.
How to Monitor Credit
After you build credit, you must monitor it. The US Government requires that the credit bureaus provide an annual free credit report to you and you should take advantage of this right by visiting the site below under additional resources.
Basic Guidelines for Credit Card Use
Getting your first credit card is a big step and one that affects your future. A credit card is serious. Credit card companies are lending you money and you have responsibilities.
One card is most likely enough. Avoid the temptation of having more than one card.
Keep the balance as low as possible. Pay off your balance each month of possible. If that is not possible, pay as much as you can over the minimum payment each month. Use the card for emergencies and keep cash and checks for everyday purchases. Create a spending and budget plan. Do not let credit card payments exceed 20% of your monthly income.
If having a credit card turns into a problem, stop using it for a while until it is back under control.
What is Personal Finance?
Personal finance is the application of the principles of finance to the monetary decisions of an individual or family unit. It addresses the ways in which individuals or families obtain, budget, save and spend monetary resources over time, taking into account various financial risks and future life events. Components of personal finance might include checking and savings accounts, credit cards and consumer loans, investments in the stock market, retirement plans, social security benefits, insurance policies, and income tax management. The key component of personal finance is financial planning, which is a dynamic process that requires regular monitoring and reevaluation.
In general, it has five steps:
- Assessment – One’s personal finance situation can be assessed by compiling simplified versions of financial balance sheets and income statements.
- Setting goals – Goal-setting is done with an objective to meet certain financial requirements.
- Creating a plan – The financial plan details how to accomplish goals. It could include, for example, reducing unnecessary expenses, increasing one’s employment income, or investing in the stock market.
- Execution – Execution of one’s personal financial plan often requires discipline and perseverance. Many people obtain assistance from professionals such as accountants, financial planners, investment advisers, and lawyers.
- Monitoring and reassessment – As time passes, one’s personal financial plan must be monitored for possible reevaluation and/or adjustments.
What is Debt Management?
Simply put, debt management is the act of managing debts. However, it can also refer to a credit counseling service that consolidates your unsecured debt into one monthly payment, which is sent directly to your creditors by the credit counseling service.
Debt management is one of many options that consumers have for reducing their credit card debts. Consumers can try to manage their debts on their own. Financial experts recommend that consumers should be tracking how much money they pay out every month, not only in terms of what they pay to reduce their various debts, but also for everyday and cost-of-living expenses. By doing so, they may be able to identify ways to cut costs for luxuries and other purchases before making more radical decisions.
Basic Rules to Budgeting and Money Management
Assess your financial situation. Determine your living expenses, periodic expenses and monthly debt payments you owe. Compare your expenses to your monthly net income. Be aware of your total debt.
Develop a realistic plan. Create a worksheet to document your monthly expenses. Record where and what you are spending money on. These expenses could be fixed (housing, utilities, child care, student loan payments, etc.) or flexible expenses which vary from week to week or month to month (unexpected emergencies, medical and prescription bill, eating out, etc.) Once you know what you’re spending money on, you have the ability to take control of your finances by creating a budget.
Determine the difference between needs and wants. Create a sound budget by taking care of your needs first (food, housing, clothing, transportation). Money should be spent on wants only after needs have been met.
Don’t allow expenses to exceed your income. Make adjustments in your budget when you are close to over spending. Take your lunch for the week instead of eating out. Evaluate the importance of expensive luxuries such as cell phones, cable TV, and designer clothes.
Pay bills on time. Maintaining a good credit rating and avoid late charges. If you are unable to pay your creditors, call, explain your situation and set up a payment agreement.
Use credit wisely. Determine what you can comfortably afford to purchase on credit by reviewing your budget. Don’t allow your credit payment to exceed 20% of your monthly paycheck. Pay more than the minimum on charge accounts. Add a few extra dollars to your payment. Avoid borrowing from one creditor to pay off another. Make a conscious effort to use paper (actual dollars available) not plastic (credit cards).