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Your Credit Score and Borrowing Money

For the first entry in Friday’s Financial Fitness series, we thought it would be appropriate to discuss how your credit score impacts your borrowing opportunities.  You hear everyone talking about the importance of raising your credit score to “improve your credit.”  But what does this improved credit bring?  Which specific advantages will you have by doing so?  Bottom line: why should you be motivated to raise your credit score?  Let’s take an in depth look at an important advantage you will have-why raising your credit score increases the amount of opportunities you will have to borrow in the future.

First, it is important to review what your credit score represents.  Your credit score is basically a snapshot that assesses your financial stability.  It tells a story of how much outstanding debt you have, how much debt you have already paid off, as well as the likelihood that you will pay your bills on time in the future.  Ranging from 300 to 800, the higher your credit score, the better.

Raising your credit score puts you in healthier financial standing, which in turn makes it easier to borrow.  How does this work?  Let’s say you are looking to buy a house.  You have a plan-you have been looking at houses and you’re ready to take the plunge.  After assessing the amount of money you have in the bank to pay your down payment and your future mortgage, you realize that in order to make your dream of owning a house a reality, you need a loan.  When you meet with a potential lender, they will be basing their decision about whether or not to grant you a loan on the amount of risk you present.  Banks need to have a certain level of confidence that you are going to be able to pay back this loan over time, which comes in the form of your monthly mortgage payment.

So where can they look to determine the risk they’re taking?  Banks go straight to your credit report.  They want to see how much debt you have and how on-time you are with other payments.  Since they may know nothing about you prior to your loan appointment, this is a sure-fire way for them to assess your financial situation.  With good credit, you will increase your chances of getting that loan approved in the first place.  Also, once your loan is approved, having good credit will lower the interest rate the bank charges you each month.  Over the life of a 15 to 30 year mortgage, a lower interest rate can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!  If you have what the bank considers bad credit, they may not approve the loan in the first place, as they may feel that your payment history is not reliable.  If they do approve your loan, despite your bad credit, your interest rate will certainly be higher.  Furthermore, the initial down payment on your dream house will be higher because of your low credit score.

So the next time you hear someone mention the importance of raising your credit score, know that doing so will not only give you peace of mind; it will also increase the amount of opportunities you have to borrow money in the future-at a lower interest rate!

Spending Habits – The Changes We Need to Make

In order to fix the financial mess we are in, we must look at how we as a nation got here.  The changes we must all make are deep.  We must examine the habits that we have exercised every day; maxing out credit cards, buying the expensive cars, spending more then we make, and living outside our means.  This behavior cannot continue, as we have recently learned that the markets and our economy cannot support or sustain this way of life.

This sad reality check has proven that we as a country are a true debtor nation.  From the government down to the individual, we have issues with borrowing way more then we ever should.  Since the government borrows excessively on a regular basis, why can’t we place the blame on them?  Well, that is one way to look at it; however, the financial responsibility of every individual is on the individual.  Accountability is key here.

So what do we need to do?  Well, borrowing money to buy something you truly cannot afford is no longer an option.  Never again will Americans who cannot afford a true mortgage get a loan.  This was ridiculous in the first place.  But like our President said, in those days, reform was not a priority.  Well, not reform is a priority.  Every time you are about to make a purchase and pull out your credit card and NOT your debit card, you need to truly ask yourself, “is this something I need?  Is the reason I am using the credit card because I cannot pay cash for the item?”  If this is the case, then you should reconsider.  Many Americans took into no fax payday loans and failed to pay them back.

As Americans, we have always enjoyed the spoils of the best and the nicest things.  We have to realize the days of enjoying these things without consequence are over. It is inevitable that living outside an individual’s or a country’s means will come back to bite you.  No one will continue to supply you with loans if you only take news loans to pay off the old ones.

So Long to Declare a Recession

Why did it take so long to declare that America is in a recession?  If a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, then why did the government finally declare that we have been in a recession for 12 months?  I mean come on—did they think the public was that stupid?  You and  I knew it.  We knew it every time we went out to eat, every time we filled up our gas tank, every time we looked at out bank statements, and every time we heard about another close friend getting laid off.  Why did it take  the National Bureau of Economic Research so long to “officially” confirm it? My guess is they didn’t see it when more and more mortgages were going into default.  I guess they didn’t see if after more and more homes were going into foreclosure.  Did they see it   when the government set up $700 billion to bail out the banks?  Well actually we did hear about the recession in early December, so maybe the bailout triggered in the light bulb?

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