3 Sneaky Things Hurting Your Credit That You Can Easily Fix

Credit-ReportWhen it comes to understanding your credit, it can feel as complicated as trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. Frustrated by this confusion, many consumers neglect their credit, which can have a devastating impact on their financial futures.

A Consumer Action study recently revealed that 27% of Americans have never checked their credit report. That’s alarming, because it’s estimated that a large number of consumers have errors on their credit reports that could damage their credit.

Here are three things that could be hurting your credit:

1. Wrong Information

The wrong personal information on your credit report could hurt your credit. This could be things like your name misspelled, your incorrect home address, where you’ve worked in the past or even your Social Security Number listed incorrectly. How does a wrong address hurt your credit? Your information may be mixed up with someone else’s, especially if you have a common name, or are a “Jr.” or “Sr.” Or it could indicate identity theft — and that could really wreak havoc with your credit. By reviewing your credit report, you’ll be able to quickly see if there’s any information that needs to be updated or changed.

2. High Balances Compared to Limits

Another sneaky thing that could hurt you is your credit card balances — even those you pay in full. How can a credit card that you pay off hurt your credit? Issuers typically report your balances as of the statement closing date. But then those cards aren’t due until about a month later. So in the meantime, the balance on your reports may look high in comparison to your credit limits.

Generally you want the balance on each card to stay below 20 to 25% of your available credit. If you have a retail card with a small limit or a rewards card that you use to pay for everything to earn points, then this factor could come back to haunt you.

So you need to either pay your charges off before the statement closing date or ask for a higher credit limit. Of course, a higher credit limit should not be an invitation to overspend. You won’t improve your credit scores if you get in over your head with debt!

3. Outstanding or Delinquent Bills

The third sneaky thing that could hurt your credit score could be outstanding or delinquent bills. You’ll want to make sure you check your credit report to make sure that you have no outstanding bills or any delinquent bills that you need to get addressed.
Review your credit report and make sure you’re not being marked for anything delinquent that could be damaging your credit. This could be things like former gym memberships, old credit cards, or even medical bills.

*Article Source Courtesy of Jeff Rose of Daily Finance Online

How To Talk Money With Your College Student

SavingMoneyYour child is a college student, and you’ve successfully packed them up, moved them in, made several trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, and they’ve settled into their class schedule for the new year – you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, you’ve covered it all.  Or have you?  How about the skills necessary not to blow whatever budgetary limits that have been set for the first semester?

It’s not an easy maneuver to accomplish. The skills your child probably has to manage their own money are most likely the ones you’ve (hopefully) taught them.  And they may not have picked up as much as you think.  75% of parents say they’re having regular conversations with their kids about money, but only about 60% of kids say the same.

With that in mind, here’s a quick checklist of items to discuss with your son or daughter living at the college dorm:

  • Spending Limits

Some colleges will provide you with guidelines of how much spending money to give your kids. Northwestern University, for example, says about $2,000 will be sufficient for the 2014-2015 academic year, while the University of Arizona says $1,800 (not including books). Stretching those dollars, however, will be hard for kids who aren’t used to paying for their own pizza, let alone laundry and shampoo. It’s important to develop a basic list of what money will likely be used for – and how much those things cost,  to make sure actual expenditures fall in line with these estimates. Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com, also suggests doling the money out slowly – say a month at a time — and for specific purposes.

  • The ID Card

The student ID card gets you into the library and the dining hall. And it’s essentially a prepaid debit card, as well. Parents can put money on an account and students use that money for food, copies or whatever other campus services they need. What’s good about these cards is that you (and your student) have the ability to check what the balance is at any time. And, because the amount on tap is capped, there’s not the same risk you’d have if you handed your child a credit card (more on that in a moment). Talk about the card with your child so they can prevent spending all the money on the card right away.

  • Picking the Right Financial Institution

Although it may seem more convenient to have your child bank at the same institution you do – so that you can transfer funds into his or her account in the event of a shortfall – it may also prove to be more expensive. The Achilles heel of the college student when it comes to banking is the $3 a pop (or more) ATM fee at the campus or other local ATM. Unless your child has an account and card with one of those, these ATM charges can add up.  Be sure to investigate the banking situation – does your current institution offer Online Banking with a mobile app and remote deposit?  This may be another great, easy alternative for your student at college.

First Financial’s has a great Student Checking Account available for 14 to 23 year old students, which includes:

  1. A free first box of checks, and an allowance of the first mistake being free+.
  2. Free phone transfers to the account by parents.
  3. No per-check charges – unlimited check writing without getting charged after writing a certain amount of checks.
  4. No minimum balance requirements.
  5. No monthly service charge for having the account.
  6. A personalized Debit Card issued instantly in one of our Monmouth or Ocean County branches.
  7. Free Online Banking with Bill Pay++.
  8. Unlimited in-branch transactions.
  • A Credit Card for Emergencies

Since the passage of The Credit CARD Act in 2009, kids under 21 are not supposed to be issued credit cards of their own unless they have either income to support their spending or a co-signer. But the credit scores of millennials have also suffered as a result.  If you want your child to have credit on hand for either emergencies or regular usage and/or build a credit history while in college, the best way to go about it is to add your child to one of your accounts as an authorized user. Make sure the card you choose actually will report on the child’s behalf to the credit bureaus. Nearly 25% of college students now also have prepaid cards in their wallets. This might solve the budgeting/emergency problem, but not the credit score issue – as prepaid card history isn’t reported to the credit bureaus.

  • Talk to Your Child About Getting a Part-Time Job

The money they’re undoubtedly going to spend on a college campus – like anywhere else – looks far more valuable when they’ve actually earned it.  If there’s room in your child’s schedule, it might be a good idea to investigate a part-time job that’s manageable.

*Article Source Courtesy of Fortune.com by Jean Chatzky

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

How to Assess a Neighborhood When House Hunting

House-HuntingWhen you buy a house, you aren’t just buying a house. In a way, you’re buying a neighborhood. After all, you’ll likely choose a home partly because it’s close to work, the schools are great, or it’s walking distance to restaurants and stores.

In fact, you could argue that picking the right neighborhood is more important than picking the right house. The last thing you want is to buy property in a place where everyone is trying to leave. So if you’re looking for a home for your house, here are some things to consider.

1. What to look for. If you’ve been focused on your dream house and not your dream neighborhood, the most popular areas tend to be ones that offer an instant sense of community to those relocating there. If living in the right community is important to you, then it’s important to think about these five factors:

  1. Aesthetics. An attractive neighborhood indicates the residents care about it.
  2. Affordability. Sure, you want an inexpensive house, but you also want to be able to afford the cost of living in the neighborhood.
  3. Safe environment. Nobody wants a criminal as a neighbor.
  4. Easy access to goods and services. Can you make a quick run to the bank or grocery store, or will every day be a headache behind the wheel due to traffic congestion or construction?
  5. Walking distance to goods and services. If exercise and a sense of community are important to you, find a house near the establishments you’ll be frequenting that is accessible by foot.

2. Online research. You probably use websites like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Trulia.com, or Homes.com to search for a new house. But there are neighborhood-related websites and apps as well. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

  • HomeFacts.com. This website contains mostly neighborhood statistics and information, but it also has data on more than 100 million U.S. homes (type in the street address of your prospective house to get the scoop on the whole area). Wondering how many foreclosures are in the area or if there are any environmental concerns? This is your site.
  • NeighborhoodScout.com. Read up on crime, school, and real estate reports for the neighborhood you’re considering.
  • Greatschools.org. Here, you can find reviews written by parents and students of schools in the neighborhood you’re considering. You can also find test scores and other data that may help you decide if this is a school you want your kids to attend.
  • CommuteInfo.org. This site offers a commuting calculator. Plug in information like miles driven and how many miles per gallon your car averages, and the calculator will give you an average cost of what your commute costs may look like in a month and in a year.

3. Red flags. As you’d expect, spotting a neighborhood on the decline isn’t rocket science. For example, pay attention to the property maintenance – overgrown lawns and shrubs, toys left outside, garbage bins not taken in – often reflect that the area is not well cared for and it can negatively affect the property value.

Though things are subject to change, selecting the right neighborhood is important. Your neighborhood’s character will likely shape your family’s character.

If you’re looking to purchase or refinance a home, First Financial has a variety of options available to you, including 10, 15, and 30 year mortgages. We offer great low rates, no pre-payment penalties, easy application process, financing on your primary residence, vacation home or investment property, plus so much more! For rates and more information, call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Lending Department.*

You can also sign up for our Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service to receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone. To be a part of the program, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** 

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

**Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article courtesy of US News Online by Geoff Williams.

Will Paying Off My Car Loan Help My Credit Score?

Credit-Score-325x222There are a lot of different kinds of credit out there. One of the most common forms is the auto loan. Though we are all itching to pay off our long-term debts and own something free and clear, there are a few precautions to know about before racing to get that statement to read zero.

To determine if paying off your car loan will help your credit score, it is important to understand several factors that go into your credit score.

Multiple facets of FICO

First, it’s important to understand the components that make up your FICO credit score. There are five key elements that are used to makeup that all-important number:

  • 35% of your score is weighted toward your payment history
  • 30% is weighted toward the amounts owed on your credit cards
  • 15% is devoted to length of credit history
  • 10% is generated by new credit
  • 10% comes from types of credit used.

The relative importance of each category depends on the consumer themselves.

If you have an auto loan that you’ve been diligent about paying, you’ve benefitted from that 35% devoted to payment history. By paying it down, you are also contributing to that 30% element of amount owed, since theoretically you are decreasing your credit utilization rate. However, if you’ve been increasing the balance on other forms of credit, that may cancel out some of that good behavior.

If you have a 3 to 5 year car loan, you also have length of credit history going for you. The new credit category doesn’t really apply in this scenario.

Types of Credit

But what’s interesting is the 10% weighted to types of credit used. On a positive note, a car loan alters the types of credit you have, assuming you have things like credit cards or even a mortgage.  However, if you pay it off, you may eliminate this type of installment loan as a type of credit used (this is a very different type of credit than a credit card).

Your ability to pay installment accounts, in addition to others, demonstrates that you are responsible and diligent enough to plan your finances around all these different types of credit.

The Biggest Factor

Weighing against all this, however, is a large factor that requires you to look more holistically at your credit lifestyle. A general rule of thumb is that if you can pay off a debt of any kind, in full, do so (with the exception of a mortgage).

Article courtesy of Nerd Wallet Online

The Smartest Post-College Money Plan: Start Budgeting Now

budget deficit - recession 3d conceptIf you’ve recently graduated from college, and especially if you don’t have a job, it might seem ridiculous to turn your attention to budgeting. You’re exhausted from exams, and you have no money to budget. Why worry now, right?

It’s a fair question, but as anyone who has been there knows, this is precisely the time to avoid money mistakes. Unless you’re lucky and your parents are willing to pay your way for the time being, from free rent to food, to going out with your friends, you’re going to be spending in the near future – and spending too much can naturally lead to trouble.

For instance, many recent college graduates rely heavily on credit cards. When you don’t have a job, it’s not the best idea to pile all of your expenses on your credit card and figure you’ll pay it off once you get a job.

So if you’re an unemployed recent college graduate, here are some strategies to consider implementing to set yourself up for a bright financial future – debt free.

Get a job. It may not necessarily be your dream job, but find a job. It’s recommended that you visit temp agencies and recruiters to find an emergency job. It’s important to have some money coming in, even if the position isn’t closely related to your major or what you want to do in life.

New grads should not be so picky. It isn’t necessary that you get your dream job right out of college, you have to work your way up to get that job. Don’t worry, it’s okay to take a week or two off after graduation to recoup and relax – but generally, try not to waste too much time and start looking for a steady source of income.

Don’t stay in that hastily found job for long. Start looking for a better career move as soon as possible – you want the money coming in, not satisfaction settling in. If you’ve been at the job for more than six months, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and ask everyone you know for recommendations, or put yourself out on LinkedIn – because when it comes to job hunting, it always helps to know someone.

Live cheaply. You know what it’s like to live on a college budget, so don’t go crazy with spending your money on entertainment, clothes, travel, or going out. It’s not the best idea to spend money carelessly if you don’t land a job soon because the more you spend, the deeper you will dig yourself into debt.

It may be tough to go the frugal route and watch TV with your parents instead of going to the movies with your friends, but you should think about your new spending habits as “financial yoga – hurts now, helps later.” Even if you have a new, promising job, it’s smart to keep your expenses as low as possible – think about getting roommates.

That might be the last thing you want to hear if you had a bunch of roommates in college and you’re itching to finally live solo, but roommates will allow you to cut back on your rent and utilities in a big way. Whatever you do, keep expenses low so you can see what your budget can handle. You don’t want to get an apartment, update your wardrobe and buy a car, then realize your entry-level paycheck can’t handle the financial stress.

*Click here to view the article source by Geoff Williams of US News.