Tracking Progress With Your 2015 Financial and Credit Goals
- February 2, 2015
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The first month of 2015 is in the rear view mirror and now we are looking ahead to February and left to wonder are we on track (at all, a little, a lot) for the financial goals and resolutions we identified we wanted to hit this year?
1. Get your credit card utilization to less than 10%. Credit scores love to see a very low utilization. If you can get it down to less than 10% you could see significant improvement in your credit scores.
2. Be sure to claim all three of your free credit reports this year. And, you may be entitled to more than three. Staying on top of your personal credit report, credit scores and inquiries is a great way to get your scores up and protect yourself.
3. Do a better job of protecting yourself from identity theft. There are many inexpensive ways of keeping fraudsters out of your life. Looking at ways to protecting your personal identity clearly means being proactive in 2015 and staying ahead of the potential scammers.
4. Work to get any negative information removed from your credit reports. We all have the right, as stipulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to ask that any information on our credit reports be validated for accuracy. And, any information that is incorrect, outdated or misleading must be corrected or removed from your credit reports.
One of the lesser known facts is that even if something is completely accurate it still must be verifiable or it must be removed from your credit reports.
If you can be successful getting negative information removed from your credit reports then your credit scores should skyrocket. That means lower interest rates on any future credit that you apply for. So go for it. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?
5. Consider I-Bonds. Rather than traditional savings accounts or mutual funds that have a very low interest rate yield (currently anywhere between .5% and 3%), look into other low risk savings options such as I-Bonds (current interest rate is 6.73%). I-Bonds are a lower risk savings product. You can purchase them in almost any denomination and you earn interest while you own them. You are guaranteed your interest earnings. There are a few restrictions that you should become familiar with before investing in I-Bonds. You have to own them at least 12 months. And, if you redeem them before you own them for 5 full years then you will have to forfeit the most recent three months of interest. Most financial institutions sell I-Bonds in paper form. You can also buy them online at www.treasurydirect.gov. If you buy them online you have more flexibility with respect to fees, denominations and scheduled purchases. If you have money that you don’t need for the next few years and are tired of earning an embarrassing amount of interest from your bank or credit union then I-Bonds might be right for you.
6. Think about Dripping. A DRIP (or Dividend Reinvestment Program) allows you to buy shares of stock directly from companies who offer these programs. For example, you can buy GE or Home Depot or IBM stock directly from them. They are an easy and inexpensive way to begin building a portfolio. All you have to do is own 1 share of stock in a company and you are eligible to participate in their DRIP program. And, you can normally buy that 1 share directly from a brokerage company for a very small fee.
Essentially what a DRIP allows you to do is invest a small amount of money each month into a company and begin accumulating small amounts of their shares. This amount can be as little as $25 per month in some cases. And, any dividends that are paid are reinvested back into more company stock for you, hence the name “dividend reinvestment program.” And, since you are investing a small amount at the same time each month you’ll be somewhat immune to large swings in the stock price. You’ll be buying more shares as the price falls and fewer shares as the price increases. This is called Dollar Cost Averaging and is a smart way to buy stock, especially if you are an amateur at playing the market. It’s pretty much on cruise control once you sign up.
Another little trick is that once you’ve signed up for a company’s DRIP program you can buy larger amounts of stock directly from them rather than from a brokerage company. So, why pay a brokerage company a $29.95 commission (or more or less in some cases) to buy stock when you can buy it directly from the company for, in most cases, a service fee of a couple of bucks.
You can sign up to have the monthly investment taken directly out of your savings or checking account and after a while you’ll forget about the program and it’ll be like a monthly bill. But, you’ll be building for your future…automatically.