Whether your New Year’s resolution is to improve your credit score or pay off some debts, now is a good time to take a look at your finances.
Your credit is your financial reputation and it’s important to your financial future that you pay attention to your credit, and show that you can successfully handle your money obligations.
With that in mind, here are some questions we often get from our customers about their credit and how to manage debt:
Q: How much debt is okay to have?
A: Your monthly personal debt payments or revolving credit lines – such as your mortgage, car payment, and credit cards – should not total more than 36 percent of your gross monthly income. By keeping your debt below this level, you will have sufficient funds for day-to-day needs, along with the ability to generate a savings plan both for emergencies and for long-term needs.
Q: What are a few ways I can improve my credit rating?
A: Your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score, so paying your bills on time is vital. Consider using online bill pay and auto-pay options to ensure they are paid on time.
Work on getting your credit card balances below 50 percent of what you have available, or pay them down as often as you can. Consider only having one or two, and no more than four cards, but keep the older cards to show history with a lender.
Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express are always preferred over store and gas cards by the credit bureaus. Always pay more than the minimum payment for credit cards, and try not to pull your credit score and the details that make it up very often, but do pull it once a year to look for identity theft.
Q: How can students and young adults build credit?
A: For students and young adults, it’s important to build a financial record before thinking about qualifying for such things as a home mortgage. An excellent way to start is to get a secured credit card independently or with a guarantor – where another person, such as a parent, agrees to be responsible for your debt under a contract if you fail to pay.
Q: How can someone take the right steps toward making a big purchase?
A: When thinking about making a big purchase, such as a house, it’s helpful to first see a mortgage advisor, as that person can help you prepare months to years in advance. They’ll give you advice regarding what home you can afford and go over the requirements for obtaining the loan. They can also work with you on a pre-approval, which will make looking for a house much more focused and will make your contract stand out against other offers.