Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You.

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You

It wasn’t until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husband’s credit score wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t qualify as “excellent.” This got me thinking about how newlyweds’ financial histories can affect both spouses’ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this reality—ideally before getting hitched.

Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Manisha Thakor cuts right to the chase in her book On My Own Two Feet: “Your credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.”

Aiming for an excellent credit score—generally defined as 750 or more—is a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loans—for instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employees’ credit scores during the hiring process.

A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that you’ll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when you’re paying over the odds in debt repayments, you’re committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.

photo credit: LendingMemo via photopin cc

Till Debt Do Us Part

Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.

However, that doesn’t mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouse’s poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.

That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the other’s credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.

But, this is not just about loan applications—poor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.

What Do You Do After You’ve Said I Do?

While bad credit isn’t good news, it’s not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, it’s not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do this respectfully and compassionately to minimize blame and financial stress. (If you’re the type of person who’d like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are now dating sites catering just to you.)

Once you’ve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, it’s time to take action. Here are four top tips for taking immediate action:

1. Check your credit report for mistakes: Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. Check your report at least once per year.

2. Make payments on time: Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said! Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth says, “35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.”

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit you’re utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).

4. Pay down your debt faster: Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.

photo credit: natloans via photopin cc

Alongside these tips, it’s super important to remember that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes you’re making. As Mary Beth notes, “The most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.” In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.

So, don’t be discouraged—be patient and give it time.

And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!

There are always two sides to every coin so, while you’re following the tips above, make sure that you’re not unwittingly hurting your score and negating your good work.

Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Opening too many new accounts: This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.

2. Closing too many old accounts: Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).

3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs: Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.

4. Over-utilizing your credit. Mary Beth advises, “If you’re depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but aren’t able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.”

In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.

This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance

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Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Before you make any big financial decision, it’s crucial to learn how it may affect your credit score. If you’re looking to refinance, it’s natural to wonder if it might hurt your credit.

Typically, your credit health will not be strongly affected by refinancing, but the answer isn’t always black and white. Whether you’re still considering your options or already made your choice, we’ve outlined what you need to know about refinancing below.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing is defined by taking on a new loan to pay off the balance of your existing loan balance. How you approach a refinancing decision depends on whether it’s for a home, car, student loan, or personal loan. Since refinancing is essentially replacing an existing debt obligation with another debt obligation under different terms, it’s not a decision to take lightly.

If you’re worried about how refinancing will affect your credit health, remember that there are multiple factors that play into whether or not it hurts your credit score, but the top three factors are:

1) Having a Solid Credit Score

You won’t be in a strong position to negotiate refinancing terms without decent credit.

2) Earning Sufficient Income

If you can’t prove that you can keep up with loan payments after refinancing, it won’t be possible.

3) Proving Sufficient Equity

You’ll also need to provide assurance that the payments will still be made if your income can’t cover the cost. It’s recommended that you should have at least a 20 percent equity in a property when refinancing a home.

 

criteria-for-being-able-to-refinance-successfully

 

How Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Refinancing might seem like a good option, but exactly how does refinancing hurt your credit? In short, refinancing may temporarily lower your credit score. As a reminder, the main loan-related factors that affect credit scores are credit inquiries and changes to loan balances and terms.

Credit Inquiries

Whenever you refinance, lenders run a hard credit inquiry to verify your credit score. Hard credit inquiries typically lower your credit scores by a few points. Try to avoid incurring several new inquiries by using smart rate shopping tactics. It also helps to get all your applications in during a 14–45 day window.

Keep in mind that credit inquiries made during a 14–45 day period could count as one inquiry when your scores are calculated, depending on the type of loan and its scoring model. Regardless, your credit won’t be permanently damaged because the impact of a hard inquiry on your credit decreases over time anyway.

Changes to Loan Balances and Terms

How much your credit score is impacted by changes to loan balances and terms depends on whether your refinanced loan is reported to the credit bureaus. Lenders may report it as the same loan with changes or as an entirely new loan with a new open date.

If your loan from refinancing is reported as a new loan, your credit score could be more prominently affected. This is because a new or recent open date usually means that it is a new credit obligation, therefore influencing the score more than if the terms of the existing loan are simply changed.

How Do Common Types of Refinancing Affect Your Credit?

Refinancing could help you pay off your loans quicker, which could actually improve your credit. However, there are multiple factors to keep in mind when refinancing different types of loans.

 

main-types-of-refinancing-that-can-affect-your-credit

 

Refinancing a Mortgage

Refinancing a mortgage has the biggest potential impact on your credit health, and it can definitely affect your FICO score. How can you prevent refinancing from hurting your credit too much? Try concentrating your credit inquiries when you shop mortgage rates to a 14–45 day window — this will help prevent multiple hard inquiries. Also, you can work with your lenders to avoid having them all run your credit, which could risk lowering your credit score.

If you’re unsure about when to refinance your mortgage, do your research to capitalize on the best timing. For example, refinancing your mortgage while rates are low could be a viable option for you — but it depends on your situation. Keep in mind that losing your record of paying an old mortgage on time could be harmful to your credit score. A cash-out refinance could be detrimental, too.

Refinancing an Auto Loan

As you figure out if refinancing your auto loan is worth it, be sure to do your due diligence. When refinancing an auto loan, you’re taking out a second loan to pay off your existing car debt. In some cases, refinancing a car loan could be a wise move that could reduce your interest rate or monthly payments. For example, if you’re dealing with an upside-down auto loan, you might consider refinancing.

However, there are many factors to consider before making an auto loan refinancing decision. If the loan with a lower monthly payment has a longer term agreement, will you be comfortable with that? After all, the longer it takes to pay off your car, the more likely it is to depreciate in value.

Refinancing Student Loans

When it comes to student loan refinancing, a lower interest rate could lead to major savings. Whether you’ve built up your own strong credit history or benefit from a cosigner, refinancing can be rewarding.

Usually, you can refinance both your federal and private student loans. Generally speaking, refinancing your student loans shouldn’t be detrimental in the grand scheme of your financial future. However, be aware that refinancing from a federal loan to a private loan will have an impact on the repayment options available to you. Since federal loans can offer significantly better repayment options than private loans, keep that in mind before making your decision.

Pros Cons
If the cost of borrowing is low, securing a lower interest rate is possible Credit scores can drop due to credit checks from lenders
If your credit score greatly improved, you can refinance to get a better rate Credit history can be negatively affected by closing a previous loan to refinance
Refinancing a loan can help you lower expenses in both the short term and long term Refinancing can involve fees, so be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis

How to Prevent Refinancing from Hurting Your Credit

By planning ahead, you can put yourself in a position to not let refinancing negatively affect your credit and overall financial health.

Try to prepare by reading your credit reports closely, making sure there are no errors that could keep your credit application from being approved at the best possible rate. Stay one step ahead of any errors so you still have time to dispute them. As long as you take preventative measures in the refinancing process to save yourself time and money, you shouldn’t find yourself struggling with the refinancing.

If refinancing makes sense for your situation, you shouldn’t be concerned about it hurting your credit. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it’s extremely common and typically relatively easy for your credit score to bounce back.

If you notice that your new loan from refinancing causes alarming changes when you check your credit score, be sure to reach out to your creditor or consider filing a dispute. As long as you’re prioritizing your overall financial health through smart decision making and budgeting, refinancing shouldn’t adversely hurt your credit in the long run.

 

 

 

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What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me?

Have you ever applied for a credit card, car loan or mortgage? If so, then one of the first things the lender looked at was your FICO score. It has a major impact not only on getting approved in the first place, but also on the interest rate you will receive after approval.

On August 7, FICO announced some pretty major changes in how they will be calculating that ever-important number. Before you can understand how the changes will or won’t impact you, you need to have a firm grasp of the basics.

What is my FICO score?

Your FICO score, or credit score, is a number ranging from 300-850 that shows lenders how reliable you will be in repaying your debts. A bad score is anything below 560, not very good is 560-659, good is 660-724, very good is 725-759, and anything above 760 is classified as great. While it is best to be in the great range, you can sometimes qualify for the best available interest rates with 720 or above.

In order to calculate your credit score, FICO pulls information from your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When banks and other lending institutions consider your application, they look at several factors. The first is usually your FICO score, which will either get you in the door or get it slammed in your face, but after that they consider other aspects of your finances, such as income and the detailed history on the credit report itself.

What are the changes, and how will they affect me?

There will be four notable changes to how FICO evaluates your credit score once the announced new model is released. Some of them will be very good for some people, some of them will be bad for others, and some of them may prove to show negligible changes.

The first, and biggest, is that medical debts will no longer be considered when calculating your score. This is a huge relief. Many otherwise fiscally responsible people go into massive debt when a medical emergency happens. Others don’t even know they owe money on medical bills in the first place, as they thought their insurance was going to cover their costs. When they realize they owe money, the responsible consumers pay it back, but it still leaves a scar on their credit report and, therefore, their FICO score.

With this new change, your FICO score will not be impacted. In fact, if you have no other negatives on your credit report (which would mean you most likely have a halfway decent score), you can expect to see your FICO score increase by up to 25 points.

Changes will also be made in considering debts that you have paid off. Currently, after you’ve paid off a debt, it stays on your credit report for seven years. That will continue to be the case after FICO’s updates go into effect, but FICO will no longer look at those debts, even though they show up on your credit report. If you have consumer debts that you have paid off, and they’re the only thing holding you back, you may see your score improve, as well.

There will also be an update to consider the creditworthiness of people who do not have an extensive report, taking into consideration things beyond just paying your month-to-month bills on time. (A lot of times, the people you are paying those bills to don’t even report that anyways.) Depending on how this is done, it could be a boon for those who are unable to get credit not because they are irresponsible, but simply because they have never chosen to borrow money before.

The final update is not good news for those who hold consumer debt. If you owe money and it isn’t paid in full, you can expect to see your credit score take a hit.

Hold your horses – and your enthusiasm.

While FICO has announced that it will make these changes, the new model has not gone into effect. It will not be ready to release to lenders until late 2014 or early 2015. Even then, banks have to choose to adopt it. Thismodel will be FICO 9. FICO 8 was introduced in 2009, and some lending institutions still have not updated since FICO 7. Just because they are releasing a new model doesn’t mean that your lending institution will apply it to their evaluation process.

Another thing to remember is that while your FICO score gets you in the door, banks will look at your credit report. All of those things FICO ignores will still show up. If your medical debts are deemed too oppressive for you to possibly be able to pay for a mortgage on top of them, you may still be denied. And while FICO will ignore debt that has been paid off and closed, it will still stay on that pesky credit report for seven years for all of your potential lenders to see.

While these changes could be a great way to get your foot in the door with lenders, they’re not a holy grail to your credit problems. The same tried and true wisdom will still apply: Spend responsibly, make sure the information on your credit report is accurate and pay off any debts as quickly as possible.

Femme Frugality is a personal finance blogger and freelance writer. You can find more of her writing on her blog, where she shares both factual articles and esoteric ruminations on money.

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