Cleaning Up Credit Inaccuracies

Discovering an error on your credit history can be a rude surprise when you’re attempting to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Though most people don’t think about the details of their credit report until the need to secure a loan, it’s a good idea to check your report for inaccuracies periodically.

If you do find an error, the best way to attempt a correction is through a dispute letter. Dispute letters allow you to formally request a fix by the reporting agency. Though it may take a little time to get the errors removed, cleaning up these mistakes can have a direct (and favorable!) effect on your credit score, helping you secure lower interest rates and better terms.

Here’s what you’ll need to include for each mistake you find:

  1. Which account shows the mistake.
  1. Specifically what’s incorrect about the account where it appears in the report.
  1. What changes should be made and why those changes should be made.
  1. Any supporting evidence or documentation which will bolster your claim.

For example: “On my report, the Chase Visa ending in XXXX shows my account is still active. I closed this account in 2012 and should be shown as closed, not active. Included is a letter from Chase bank, confirming the date of my the account’s closure.”

It’s a good idea to keep copies of everything you send. Also, be sure to send the correction to all three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) as well as the original creditor (i.e. the credit card company, utility, etc.). You can find the current dispute mailing addresses on these company’s websites. Federal law mandates that agencies must help you within 30 days. Keep records of your disputes and when/how you communicated with the agencies.

Getting your credit in shape is an important step to take when you’re preparing to buy a home. I help buyers prepare every day! Get in touch: Teresa Butler, 614-565-8161 or Teresa@TeresaButler.com

 

Make “Financial Fitness” Your Goal for 2008

(ARA) – When the New Year’s parties are over and the rich foods and gooey desserts have been put away, most of us start thinking about getting our bodies back in shape. But how “fit” are the other parts of your life — such as your finances — for the year ahead?

“The key to financial fitness is preparation. Whether preparing for retirement, college for your children, a dream vacation home or even the unexpected, everybody needs to take time each year to reexamine what they’re doing and the progress they’re making in order to reach those milestones,” says Christopher Pinkerton, senior vice president, North American sales and marketing for Foresters, a leading fraternal benefit society that assists people in achieving financial security.
Here are some easy ways to put together a financial fitness plan so you’re better prepared monetarily for the days and months to come.
Saving Money
It’s a new year and a new opportunity to examine your expenses, spending and savings habits. Start the year right by creating a month-by-month budget, setting a savings goal and projecting your financial needs.
A good rule of thumb is to set aside three to six months of salary for unexpected events such as a job loss, major car repairs or large medical bills. In addition to preparing for the unexpected, identify ‘known expenses’ that are coming up such as college costs, a new home, new car or a new addition to the family, and build them into your budget. Give yourself adequate time to save for these expenses a little each month. Before you know it you won’t even feel as if you’re saving and you’ll be a step ahead.
Taxes
They’re definitely something you can count on year after year. Review the withholding on your paycheck and adjust it if necessary. Take time to gather and sort out your receipts from the past year to identify tax deductions. While you’re at it, set up an organized system to keep track of receipts for next year, so you don’t misplace something and miss out on any deductions moving forward. And speaking of deductions, this is also a good time to determine which charitable contributions you made in the previous year, and which ones you plan to make in the coming year.
Retirement
Review the status of your 401(k), IRA and pension plan. If appropriate and consistent with your savings goals, sign up for any automatic increases offered through your employer. Take note of your retirement plan status at this stage of your life — are you on track for growth, or is it time for an investment change? Even periodic small changes can have a big impact on your ability to build strength through investments.
Also, review your spouse’s retirement plan, and agree on a plan for building wealth. Determine a strategy that allows you to increase your contributions during the good times as well as make changes during challenging times. For example, mark your calendar to review your investment performance with a financial advisor each quarter.
Estate Planning
The need for this may seem like a long way off, but it’s a good idea to plan for your family’s financial security. Do you have a will, trust or health care directive? If so, review the beneficiary designations to make sure the plans reflect your current wishes. Ensure that you have a guardian named for your children, and that you’ve outlined how your assets will be transferred.
Also at this time, consider whether there will be significant tax consequences for your survivors, who has title to what property and who will oversee your estate plan. If you don’t yet have these items in place, an estate planning professional can help you sort things out, saving your family added complications upon your death. Your family will appreciate your forethought and be comforted by knowing that you made plans for them.
Life Insurance
An important step in financial fitness is financial security, and life insurance can be the backbone of financial security.
Remember, life insurance is the piece of the puzzle that makes sure your family can keep the house, send the kids to college or sustain the family’s livelihood if there’s a loss of one or both income providers. Some life insurance products can also provide savings and investment options for a home, a family bequest or a dream vacation.
“At the start of a new year, many people resolve to re-evaluate their investments or bump up their 401(k) contributions. However, as your life changes so will your life insurance needs. Be sure to check the beneficiaries. And consult with a life insurance representative on a regular basis to help you determine if you have the coverage that fits your needs,” says Pinkerton.
Conventional wisdom recommends households should carry anywhere between two to 10 times your annual income in life insurance. If you don’t have a life insurance policy — or any of the other financial plans mentioned above — now is the time to get those parts of your life in shape. With the help of qualified professional advisors, you can put a financial fitness plan in place and prepare both you and your loved ones for the future.
Courtesy of ARAcontent

Debt Doesn’t Have to be a Four Letter Word

(ARA) – For the average American, debt is a fact of life. But not all debt should be considered detrimental. Buying a house or a car, or funding your education can be positive, wealth-building steps even though they often require incurring some debt. The key, then, is not to avoid taking on debt at all costs, but to only take on specific, well-considered debts, and manage them wisely so that you control the debt, rather than letting the debt control you.

No matter what kind of debt you are thinking of taking on, there are some basic steps you can take to manage it.

* First, make sure you are getting the best deal, and therefore taking on the least debt, by comparison shopping before you buy. “Whether shopping for a car or a cell phone plan, consumers should do their homework,” suggests Stephen Semprevivo, president of LowerMyBills.com. “A few minutes of research could add up to big savings.”

* Think about making a sizeable down payment. Financing as little as possible will help ensure that you are able to pay the debt off in a timely manner.

* Look for room to negotiate. Many companies — yes, even credit card companies — may be willing to negotiate in order to win and keep your business. Always negotiate whenever possible. Hopefully, if you take steps to manage the expense, you may be able to comfortably take on those necessary, and often beneficial, debts that many of us incur without putting your financial stability in potential jeopardy. Of course, there are many consumers for whom debt has already become a burden. If this is your situation, take steps to alleviate the problem and get yourself back on the track to sound financial management.

* If you carry a large balance on your credit card, start making bigger payments. If the calculated minimum payment is only on the accrued interest, then you would need to make a larger payment to hit the principal of the debt. By finally hitting the principal, and discontinuing use of the card for purchases, you should see the balance begin to drop.

* If you own your home, consider refinancing to potentially achieve a better rate or terms on the mortgage, or to use equity to pay off other high-interest debt. “Interest rates are still low,” notes Semprevivo. “Refinancing to a lower rate may free up money each month that can be used to pay down unsecured debt such as credit card debt.” Web sites like LowerMyBills.com can help you evaluate your refinancing options.

* If you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Debt counseling may help you if you are feeling overwhelmed by assisting with possible ways to help prevent you from defaulting on your debt. The Internet has made it easier than ever to find help. Sites like LowerMyBills.com can help you find the right debt solution for your needs.

*Finally, remember that it’s always a good idea to check with your personal financial and legal advisors for additional information.

Once you’ve taken control of your debt, you can keep on top of things by spending responsibly and living within your means. That way, when the time comes to incur some positive debt, you’ll be ready to make the most of the opportunity.

For more information on how to save money on your monthly bills, visit www.LowerMyBills.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent