Monday’s need-to-know money news

crop380w_istock_000009258023xsmall-dbet-ball-and-chainToday’s top story: How high your credit score needs to be in order to refinance. Also in the news: Tips on getting out of debt from people who have paid off thousands, ways to save on monthly housing costs, and how to avoid the scariest credit card fees.

What credit score do I need to refinance?
Reaching the magic number.

How to Get Out of Debt: Lessons From People Who Paid Off $100,000
Learning from the masters.

4 Ways To Save On Monthly Housing Costs
Every little bit helps.

The 5 Scariest Credit Card Fees – And How to Avoid Them
Paying even an hour late could cost you big bucks.

8 Online Banks That Let You Skip the Fees, Enjoy the Interest
Thinking outside the branch.

Q&A: Forgiving credit card debt

Dear Liz: Recently you wrote about debt being forgiven after seven years, but in your book “Deal With Your Debt,” I’m sure you said after four years credit-card debt is usually not collectible. Could you clarify? When I tell debt collectors about this, they merely laugh.

Answer: That’s understandable, because there is no forgiveness for most debt. It’s legally owed until it’s paid, settled or wiped out in Bankruptcy Court.

Each state sets limits on how long a creditor has to sue a borrower over an unpaid debt. Those limits vary by state and the type of debt. In California, credit card debt has a four-year statute of limitations. Creditors may continue collection efforts after four years; they’re just not supposed to file lawsuits.

Seven years is how long most negative marks, such as unpaid debts, can remain on your credit reports. Technically, most unpaid debts are supposed to be removed seven years and 180 days after the account first went delinquent.

Q&A: Credit cards vs student debt. Which should be paid off first?

Dear Liz: I have $8,000 in savings. Should I use it to pay the accrued interest on federal student loans that go into repayment soon? Or should I pay credit card debts of $662 at 11.24%, $3,840 at 7.99% and $3,000 at 6.99%?

Answer: Pay off the credit card debt. The interest isn’t tax deductible, and balances you carry on credit cards just eat into your economic well-being.

Your student loans, by contrast, offer fixed rates, a wealth of consumer protections and tax-deductible interest. You needn’t be in any rush to pay them off, particularly if you’re not already saving adequately for retirement and for emergencies. Federal student loans offer the opportunity to reduce or suspend payment without damaging your credit scores should you face economic difficulty and the possibility of forgiveness. Those aren’t options offered by credit card issuers.

If your student loan payments exceed 10% of your income when you do go into repayment, you should investigate the federal government’s “Pay as You Earn” program, which offers more manageable payments for many people, especially those with large debts and small incomes.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to improve your credit score by strategically using your credit cards. Also in the news: Avoiding common debt traps, five store credit cards you should avoid, and what to do when your financial situation leads to depression.

7 Credit Card Strategies to Help Your Credit
How to use your cards to improve your credit score.

Pay, Spend, Pay: How This Debt Mistake Can Set You Back
Avoiding the debt trap.

Don’t get credit cards from these 5 stores
Not unless you’re comfortable with interest rates in the mid-twenties.

7 Steps to Defeat Money Depression
What to do when financial stress gets the best of you.

How To Compare Home Insurance Companies
How to make sure you get the right policy for your home.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

credit-score-repair1Today’s top story: Meet the credit score you didn’t know you had. Also in the news: What to do when you’re debt free, how to break out of a financial slump, and what single people need to do to protect their money.

You Have a “Secret” Credit Score That Could Be Working Against You
That late payment on your rent ten years ago could come back to haunt you.

Life After Debt: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Healthy Finances
Debt free. Now what?

4 Ways to Overcome Financial Inertia
Stop treading water.

3 Things That Make Single People Financially Vulnerable — And How To Beat Them
Because being single wasn’t depressing enough.

Is Your Credit Card Debt Average? And What’s Average?
One of the few times when being below average is a good thing.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What can be learned financially during a parent’s last days. Also in the news: How to reduce your credit card debt through balance transfers, what new college grads should know about money, and should you buy life insurance for your kids.

5 financial lessons from a parent’s last days
What can be learned during a difficult time.

Save Thousands on Credit Card Debt with Balance Transfers
Playing the balance transfer shuffle.

What New College Grads Need To Know About Money
The “real world” is expensive.

Should You Buy Life Insurance for Your Kids?
Determining the best savings strategies.

Five Little Money Leaks That You Can Plug Right Now
Stopping the drips.

Q&A: How long do unpaid accounts and judgments remain on credit reports?

Dear Liz: My credit reports don’t show any of my old unpaid collection accounts. I also have one judgment that is not showing from 2005. My wife (who has perfect credit) and I are looking to apply for a mortgage. What will the lender find? I recently applied for a credit card to start rebuilding my credit. The issuer approved me for a card with a $1,000 limit and told me my score was in the high 700s. I am so confused.

Answer: If your collection accounts are older than seven years, your lender shouldn’t see them when it reviews your credit reports. Most negative marks have to be dropped from reports seven years and six months after the date the account first went delinquent. Civil judgments also have to be dropped after seven years unless your state has a longer statute of limitations; in that case, the judgment can be reported until the statute expires. California’s statute of limitations for judgments is 10 years.

If none of those negative marks shows on your reports and you’ve handled credit responsibly since then, your credit scores (you have more than one) may well be excellent.

Since you’ll be in the market for a major loan, you and your wife should get your FICO scores from MyFico.com. Mortgage lenders will look at all six scores (one from each of the three credit bureaus for you and your wife), basing your rate and terms on the lower of the two middle scores. If that score is 740 or above, you should get the best rate and terms the lender offers.

Your FICO scores will cost $20 each, which is a bit of an investment. You can get free scores from various online sites, but those aren’t the FICO scores that mortgage lenders use and are of limited help in understanding what rate and terms you’re likely to get.

Does Paying Off Old Debts Help Your Credit Score?

Dear Liz: How can I get a clear and complete picture of the debts that are hurting my credit score? I have my credit report already. I’m a bit lost and I need to get my credit cleared up to buy a home.

Answer: You actually have three credit reports, one at each of the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Your mortgage lender is likely to request FICO credit scores from each of the three, so you need to check all three reports.

You get your reports for free at one site: http://www.annualcreditreport.com. There are many sites masquerading as this free, federally mandated site, so make sure that you enter the URL correctly. You may be pitched credit scores or other products by the credit bureaus while you’re on this site, but you won’t be required to give a credit card number to get your free reports. (If the site is demanding that you give your credit card number, you’re at the wrong site.)

You should understand that old, unpaid bills may be depressing your scores, but paying them off may not improve those scores. In other words, the damage has been done. You may be able to reduce the impact if you can persuade the collectors to remove the accounts from your reports in exchange for payment, something known in the collections industry as “pay for delete.” But you probably can’t erase the late payments and charge-offs reported by the original creditor before the accounts were turned over to collections, and those earlier marks against you are even more negative than the collection accounts.

That’s not to say you should despair. Over time, your credit scores will improve as you handle credit responsibly. But you shouldn’t expect overnight miracles.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s big story: What you can get removed from your credit report. Also in the news: How to tell if your partner is a sound financial match, which Olympic medal would your savings plan win, and why online dating can be hazardous to your wallet.

What Can I Get Removed From My Credit Reports?
Patience is key.

Want To Know If Your Partner Is A Financial Match? Take These 8 Steps
Financial compatibility is crucial in a relationship.

Which Olympic Medal Would Your Savings Habits Win?
Go for the gold!

The Financial Risks of Online Dating
That dreamboat on the screen could actually be a nightmare.

How I went from $50,000 in debt to $50,000 in savings
It can be done!

How to pay off your credit card debt

Dear Liz: I’m confused about paying down credit card debt. Some say to pay the lowest-balance cards first and others say the highest balance or the one with the highest interest. I have almost $16,000 on credit cards ranging from a $4,930 balance on a card with an 8.24% interest rate to $660 on a card with an 18% rate.

Answer: Actually, the first question you should ask is “How much credit card debt do I have compared to my income?” If your balances equal half or more of your annual earnings, you may not be able to pay it all off. You should make appointments with a legitimate credit counselor (such as one affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at http://www.nfcc.org) and a bankruptcy attorney (referrals from the National Assn. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys at http://www.nacba.org).

If your situation isn’t that dire, the fastest way out of debt is to pay the minimums on your lower-rate cards and send as much money as possible to your highest-rate card. Once that’s paid off, concentrate on paying off the next-highest-rate card, and so on. Some people instead like to target balances from smallest to largest to get a quicker feeling of victory, but you typically pay more in interest with that approach.