Millennials Are the Worst at Managing Debt
(Dallas, TX-National-Credit-Solutions) Millennials have had a rough entry into adulthood: not only have they struggled to find entry-level jobs in a tough economy, but they are also the worst at managing their debt.
Most Millennials (ages 19-29) have piles of student loans to pay off, shaky job prospects, and a poor understanding of how to properly manage their credit. Experian’s “State of Credit” study found that the average credit score of Millennials is shockingly low: 628.
This low number is surprising, considering that Millennials own an average of only 1.5 credit cards and carry an average balance of $2,700. While other generations have higher balances than these Millennials (the national credit card balance average for people 30-65 is $5,300), this younger generation has little knowledge of how to properly manage its debt.
Although Gen-X and Millennials are just as likely to make late payments or max out their credit cards, Gen-X has more assets and longer credit histories than the Millennials, which means that their credit scores do not suffer like those of Millennials.
Experian’s study also showed that Millennials are the most hesitant generation to accept loans, which is largely due to the unstable economy and the poor job market for young adults. Yet despite the fact that more young adults are avoiding borrowing money, their generation still finds itself burdened with debt and at a loss of good debt-management skills.
It seems as though many Millennials were never taught how to properly build credit or how to manage their debt so as not to damage their credit score. So if you are one of the millions of Millennials struggling with debt, here are three ways you can improve your credit score:
1) Get a Credit Card
More and more Millennials are avoiding credit cards, perhaps because they fear they won’t be able to control their spending habits. However, since you need credit history to have a credit score, it is essential for young adults to have a credit card. Even if you only charge a small amount to your credit card every month, you are still building good credit!
2) Pay your bills on time
This one might seem obvious, but many young adults are juggling new careers, student loans, car loans, and rent, so many of them decide that making a late payment now and then is acceptable. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Since Millennials have a short credit history and few assets, it is important that you pay your bills on time. Start budgeting your money to ensure that you can make your payments every month.
3) Choose transportation wisely
Don’t splurge on that expensive SUV that will eat away at your bank account. Instead, find a reasonable, affordable car or rely on public transportation. This will help you save money so that you can pay off your bills on time and keep your credit score strong.
Although Millennials are facing a tough job market and are wary of borrowing money, it is important for them to learn how to manage their debt more effectively in order to improve their credit scores.
Smart Credit Decisions for Entrepreneurs
(Dallas, TX-National-Credit-Solutions) Without inventive young entrepreneurs, we would have no iPhone, no Facebook, no Starbucks, and no Disneyland. Thankfully, bright young thinkers still continue to take risks and dream big, but many of the most creative entrepreneurs still have trouble funding their startups. Here is a look at how entrepreneurs can make smarter credit decisions that will help them transform their ideas into reality:
1) Open a business credit card
Many entrepreneurs do not have a long credit history, which can be problematic when applying for small business loans. However, it is crucial to start building good credit as soon as possible to further your business. Once you have enough personal credit history to open a business credit card, create a separate account for your business so that you can start funding it with credit.
2) Don’t mix business with your personal life
While there are a few success stories where entrepreneurs have used their personal credit cards to build their business, this often causes more problems than not. Separating your personal finances from your business finances can save you a great deal of stress and endless headaches.
3) Create a cash reserve
It is a good idea to build a cash reserve in case of emergencies. Entrepreneurs often hit snags in their plans, and many have to fail a couple of times before they succeed. Don’t let this deter you from pursuing your ideas, though, just consider setting aside a certain amount of cash each month in case you run into a rough spot. This cash can help bail you out of debt that could (if left unpaid) wreck your credit score.
4) Be aware of your debt-to-income ratio
While ambition is one of the most admirable qualities of entrepreneurs, it can also lead them into tumultuous financial situations. Instead of being overly ambitious and optimistic about your new business, play it a little safer so as not to max out your credit cards and become burdened with debt. Keep your debt-to-income ratio low to avoid sinking your business.
Entrepreneurs need to maintain a good financial record for various reasons: to appeal to potential partners, to obtain a loan for business expenses, to start another business, and to attract investors. It’s no secret that entrepreneurship requires risk, but it also requires attentive financial maintenance and smart credit decisions.
5) Know what’s on your Dunn & Bradstreet report
FICO vs VantageScore
(Dallas, TX-National-Credit-Solutions) When discussing credit scores, FICO – the credit scoring company, Fair Isaac Corporation – always comes up at some point during the conversation. Because of FICO’s dominance in the lending industry, fewer people know about VantageScore, a second credit scoring company that started as FICO’s rival eight years ago. Both FICO and VantageScore provide lenders with credit scores, but each one takes a different approach to calculating the scores. Here is a look at some of the biggest differences between the two credit scoring companies:
1) The Scoring Models
FICO’s scoring model consists of combining various elements of your credit history to obtain a score between 300-850. The higher your credit score, the less of a risk you are to lenders, which means you will qualify for better loans, top cash back, and more reward cards. If your score is on the lower end of the scale, you are considered a high-risk borrower, and therefore you may have trouble getting a loan.
The VantageScore is largely based on a 24-month review of your credit report, which includes components similar to that of the FICO score – payment punctuality, your available credit, the amount of debt you have, etc. One of the most noticeable differences between FICO and VantageScore is the scoring model: VantageScore combines a three-digit number ranging from 501-990 with a letter grade to reflect your credit standing. For instance, if you have a VantageScore of 850, you will be assigned a letter grade of “B”, and if you have a score of 920, you will have an “A”. Similar to the FICO scoring system, a high credit score is desirable, and a low score means you have poor credit.
2) Scoring Requirements
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that to have a credit score, you must have some sort of credit history. FICO requires you to have at least six months of credit history and at least one account reported in the past six months. VantageScore, one the other hand, requires only one month of history and an account reported to the Credit Reporting Agencies within the last two years.
So what does this difference mean for credit card users? It means that VantageScore can score millions more people, which can be especially beneficial for those who have just recently started to build credit or those who have not used credit recently.
3) Late Payments
Late payments can damage your credit score, which is why it is crucial to always make your payments on time. That being said, VantageScore looks at the various types of late payments differently. If you are late on your mortgage payments, your VantageScore will be negatively impacted more than it would if you made a late payment on a car. Alternatively, FICO treats all late payments similarly; so paying your mortgage late won’t devastate your FICO score as much as it will your VantageScore.
Although many experts see great benefits in the Vantage scoring system, most lenders still rely on FICO. Since FICO remains #1 on the credit scoring scene, you should focus more on your FICO score than your VantageScore. However, it is a good idea to ask your lender which scoring method they use so that you can determine what type of rate you may qualify for before applying for a loan.
How to avoid credit card fraud
It may seem odd that a small piece of plastic is more desired by thieves than a stack of cash, but your credit card offers them the possibility to spend significantly more money than if they just swipe a few twenty dollar bills out of your pocket. Unfortunately, credit cards are very susceptible to theft and fraudulent purchases, mainly because they are small, easy to lose, and you regularly enter your credit card information online. So what measures can you take to avoid credit card fraud?
Protect your credit cards – This may seem like an obvious tip, but many people are too cavalier with their credit cards, treating them like disposable pieces of plastic rather than actual money. Keep your cards inside your wallet or zipped up inside your purse at all times to protect them from sticky fingers, and never leave your credit card out in public, as thieves can easily take a picture of your card and use its information to make purchases under your name.
Invest in a shredder – Never throw away your bank statements before shredding them, as these documents contain your personal banking information that thieves can use to steal your money. To avoid someone rifling through your trash and finding your bank account number and other confidential information, shred each piece of paper before tossing it in the trash. This also applies to old credit cards: cut them up before discarding them so that your credit card number is illegible and won’t be of use to potential thieves.
Guard your credit card information – Scammers are rampant online, and guarding your credit card information while browsing the web is crucial. Be wary of online scams that ask you to enter your credit card information, such as shady online vendors or businesses that pretend to have your personal information. If you are ever suspicious of online communication with someone claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, call your company immediately to see if this is, in fact, a scam.
Keep track of your purchases – Some thieves choose to play a more coy game, where they steal small amounts of money each month in hopes that the card’s owner will overlook these small purchases (and most of them do). If you do not pay close attention to your monthly statements, you may fall victim to credit card fraud without ever knowing it. Even if a scammer only takes $20 a month out of your account, this still amounts to $240 a year that is being stolen from you. So keep track of your purchases by saving receipts or keeping a journal documenting your spending so that you can compare your purchases with your credit card statement at the end of the month.
Report lost or stolen cards immediately – As soon as you notice your credit card is missing, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and have them cancel the card. If you report a loss or theft immediately, you will decrease your chances of being charged for any fraudulent purchases. Similarly, if you begin to notice fraudulent activity on your bank statements, contact your bank immediately and notify them. The sooner you become aware of credit card theft, the less damage you will be responsible for.
If you do happen to be the victim of credit card theft, your first thought may be that it will damage your credit score. Fortunately, fraud alerts do not hurt your credit score, but it will make creditors more cautious when approving a credit application in your name. In order to make sure that a thief is not applying for credit under your name, they will go through a double-check process, which can slow down the process of getting a loan.
So if you are the victim of credit card fraud, report it immediately, as this will likely save you money and stress, and will not harm your credit score.
Why Students Should Start Building Good Credit Now
For many college students, the idea of establishing credit rarely crosses their minds; or if it does, they assume that credit is something that they won’t have to worry about until far after graduation. This isn’t the case, however, as building good credit during your years in school is crucial for preparing you financially for life after college.
Why Good Credit Matters to Recent College Grad
1) Employment Opportunities
Your credit score can start impacting your life immediately after college. Many employers conduct credit checks of potential employees, and a bad credit score could make you seem financially irresponsible, which could ultimately deter an employer from hiring you. If you choose to follow your dream of becoming an entrepreneur instead of finding a job right out of college, a good credit score is even more important. Most young entrepreneurs do not have the capital to successfully start their own businesses, and therefore must rely on receiving small business loans, which are difficult to obtain without good credit.
2) Living Situations
Aside from your career, your credit score also affects your day-to-day life. Unless you plan on moving back in with your parents, having a good credit score will help you find a place to live after graduation. Many landlords will conduct credit checks when you apply for a rental to ensure that you have a good history of paying off your debts, and a bad credit score could cause landlords to turn you away.
Finding a method of transportation can also be difficult when you have bad credit, as both leasing and buying a car is easiest and most affordable with a good credit score. Most recent grads do not have the cash to buy a car, which means that a loan is necessary. Not only does your credit score determine whether or not you qualify for a loan, but it also helps lenders decide on the interest rate of the loan. Establishing a good credit score while you are still a student can help you save money by avoiding high interest rates on car loans.
Ways College Students Can Build Good Credit
Many students are under the impression that they can only start building credit once they have a reliable source of income. Whether you work part-time at your school’s cafeteria or babysit occasionally on the weekends, you can (and should) start building credit immediately.
1) Ask your parents for help
Owning a credit card is a huge responsibility, as you must realize that every time you swipe the card, you are using real money that you are obligated to pay back. Because of the weight of this financial responsibility, students can ease into establishing credit by “piggybacking” on their parents’ account. The parents can monitor the student’s spending since the child is an authorized user of the account, and if the parents have good credit, the student’s credit score will also improve.
2) Apply for your own credit card
It is surprisingly easy for most college students to get a credit card, as many lenders assume that your parents will help you out if necessary. When deciding on which credit card to apply for, make sure to consider the card’s interest rate, credit limit, fees and penalties, and rewards program. Be extremely cautious when using your credit card, however, as many students tend to get carried away with spending when their credit limits are high. To avoid this, ask your credit card issuer to keep your credit limit low so that you can easily pay off any balances you incur.
3) Make small purchases
As a student trying to build good credit, it is important that you do not spend more money than you can afford to pay off. Try to keep your spending under 30% of your card’s limit, and use it mainly for occasional small purchases such as food, music, or movie tickets.
4) Pay off your balance every month
The most important step in building good credit is paying off your balance every month. When you are first trying to establish credit, it is a good idea to avoid carrying a balance on the card. To do this, though, you must be strict in your spending habits and only purchase things that you know you can afford.
College is not only a time to receive a good education and to learn how to live independently, but it is also a great time to start establishing yourself financially. Building and maintaining good credit in college can be easy and hassle-free if done correctly, and a good credit score can be invaluable after graduation.
We really strive to help and educate our National Credit Solutions customers and friends. Here are some books that we have written and/or recommend:
From the Nation Credit Solution family of business and self help writers:
This is the first book by the NCS president, Brad Boruk. Brad collaborated with Ray Clark to write this book in 2013. Brad and Ray share their insight on how to manage personal finances and how to recover when you are in a bad financial spot. Let’s face it, most of us end up in a bad financial spot at least once in our lives. This book will help you organize your finances and get back on track.
This book is only available from Amazon in a Kindle edition. The great news is that you do not need a Kindle to read the book. You can read if from most computers and iPads. Click on the picture of the book to go to the Amazon page for the book:
From other self-help and business writers we recommend:
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell is an indispensable book on leadership. Click on the picture below to see the Amazon page for John’s book:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni is a leadership book that is recommended by Brad and Boiler. Both credit this book with inspiring their leadership. Click on the book below to go to the amazon page for this book:
At National Credit Solutions we are avid researchers and readers. If you would like to recommend a book not on this list, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
New information has come to light in the past few days regarding HAMP, or the Home Affordable Modification Program. Aside from the fact that they need someone new in Washington to come up with better acronyms, the HAMP program was designed to assist homeowners in danger of foreclosure by reducing their mortgages and interest rates.
The HAMP website provides the following description of their mandate and the tools they’ve been given to achieve them:
The Home Affordable Modification Program is designed to help as many as 3 to 4 million financially struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure by modifying loans to a level that is affordable for borrowers now and sustainable over the long term. The program provides clear and consistent loan modification guidelines that the entire mortgage industry can use.
Borrower eligibility is based on meeting specific criteria including:
1) borrower is delinquent on their mortgage or faces imminent risk of default
2) property is occupied as borrower’s primary residence
3) mortgage was originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009 and unpaid principal balance must be no greater than $729,750 for one-unit properties.
After determining a borrower’s eligibility, a servicer will take a series of steps to adjust the monthly mortgage payment to 31% of a borrower’s total pretax monthly income:
• First, reduce the interest rate to as low as 2%,
• Next, if necessary, extend the loan term to 40 years,
• Finally, if necessary, forbear (defer) a portion of the principal until the loan is paid off and waive interest on the deferred amount.
It all sounds pretty good if you’re in danger of losing your home. There are even built in incentives for banks to extend these loan medications to buyers so they’re not just taking a huge hit in the bottom line. As I wrote about in the previous blog on loan modification banks don’t seem as keen to extend these modifications as one might hope. Only a fraction of the 3-4 million the program was supposed to assist have been granted modifications, and to make matters worse, the people still jumping through hoops to get their loan mods are now discovering that their credit has been ruined.
The way the program is supposed to work, on paper at least, is you contact the bank that holds your mortgage note and let them know you’re in a hardship situation and either in danger of defaulting on your mortgage, or are already late. They are then supposed to negotiate a lower payment and interest rate, which you and the bank agree to, for a trial period while they investigate the hardship and create a more permanent arrangement on your loan. This is where things are falling apart though. While the banks drag their feet for months, requiring obscene amounts of documentation on your hardship, many times more than once, the payments at the reduced rate are being reported as late because they are less than the original mortgage payments. Want to ruin your credit? Have your mortgage reported late for a few months. Trust me, that’ll do the trick.
So the obvious counter to this is, at least you have a reduced mortgage rate so you can keep your home and stay afloat, that’s a good trade off for a lower credit score. That reasoning ignores the ramifications of the damage done to your credit. The fallout from your lower credit score has the ability to actually raise your monthly bills. When your credit scores drop 100 points, which has been widely reported by consumers in the HAMP program, you’ll see your interest rates skyrocket on your credit cards, leading to higher monthly payments and credit limit reductions or freezing, eliminating what may be your last safety net. In addition, unless you had an 850 credit score to start with, a 100 point credit score drop is going to eliminate your ability to obtain a traditional loan modification, will ruin the chance of getting any other type of loan, for instance a debt consolidation loan to take care of the high interest credit cards, and greatly increased interest rates on new purchases, such as automobiles. The increased credit card payments alone have been enough to push some people over the edge that they had been teetering on before the loan modification.
So if you’re considering HAMP assistance, inform yourself of the downsides before you start down that road. If you’re already carrying a large about of credit card debt the increase in interest and fees resulting from the program’s impact on your credit scores may more than offset the reduction in your mortgage payment. With anything, it’s best to know what you’re getting into—and be sure you’re doing your own research because the banks certainly aren’t going out of their way to educate the home owners seeking assistance on the ramifications of them dragging their feet for months while they decide if they’ll provide the loan modification.