Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How today’s low taxes can nurture your nest egg. Also in the news: 4 questions to ask before you DIY, how a single mom masterminded a $700K swing from debt to savings, and how the new UltraFICO credit score will work.

How Today’s Low Taxes Can Nurture Your Nest Egg
New tax laws present a golden opportunity.

4 Questions to Ask Before You DIY
Doing it yourself could end up costing more.

Single Mom Masterminds $700K Swing From Debt to Savings
Learn how she did it.

Here’s How the New UltraFICO Credit Score Will Work
FICO scores are in for a big change.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to keep investing when the stock market trembles. Also in the news: What to buy (and skip) on Black Friday, financial companies are hiding complaints, and how age affects your credit score.

When the Stock Market Trembles, Fight Your Fear and Keep Investing
Keep calm and invest on.

What to Buy (and Skip) on Black Friday 2018
Putting your Black Friday gameplan together.

Financial Companies Rack Up Complaints, but Good Luck Finding Them
Companies are hiding their complaints.

What does age have to do with credit scores? Plenty
A lot more than you’d think.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why your financial advisor has a financial advisor. Also in the news: Is a rent-to-own home right for you, what really matters with your first credit card, and why FICO credit scores are now at their highest levels ever.

Why Your Financial Advisor Has a Financial Advisor
Taking off the blinders.

Is a Rent-to-Own Home Right for You?
The pros and cons.

What Really Matters With Your First Credit Card
Knowing the basics.

FICO credit scores are now at their highest levels ever … here’s why
The average score is now 704.

Q&A: Why it’s important to pay bills on time

Dear Liz: I recently checked one of those free credit score sites and saw three delinquent department store accounts from over a year ago. I was 30 days late but paid all three accounts in full last year. What can I do to remove that from my credit report?

Answer: You can ask the store credit card issuers, in writing, if they’d be willing to remove the late payments from your credit reports. If this was a one-time mistake, they may grant your request.

If they don’t, you’re pretty much out of luck. Accurate, negative information can remain on your credit reports for seven years. The effect on your credit scores will wane over time, but your scores may not be fully restored for as long as three years. This is why it’s so important to make sure all credit accounts are paid on time, since even a one-time lapse can have serious repercussions.

Q&A: Auto dealers must abide by credit check limits

Dear Liz: I have loans and have paid my credit cards in full for over 30 years. My FICO score is 829. I don’t really care as I don’t plan to borrow in the future. I check my score and reports occasionally to check for a possible error or scam. Other than this, is there any reason at all that I should care?

I did notice a car dealership checked my score when recently I submitted a down payment check to order a car for which I would pay in full. I don’t believe they would refuse to sell me the car for cash if I had a lousy credit score, so they probably wanted some measure of reassurance about whether I have a lifestyle that could afford completing the deal.

Answer: You have many FICO scores, not just one, but if any one of them is 829, then the rest of them are probably pretty good, too.

Credit scores are used for more than borrowing decisions. In most states (but not California), insurance companies can use credit information to set premiums. Cellphone companies, landlords and utilities use them as well.

Car dealerships, however, aren’t supposed to pull your credit scores without your permission. That’s a violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

If the dealership got your permission by telling you a credit check was necessary for a down payment (or an all-cash deal, for that matter), then it misled you.

To prevent money laundering, dealerships are required to ask for identification and a Social Security or Tax ID number from buyers who are purchasing a car for more than $10,000 in cash. That’s it.

But some dealers pretend the anti-terrorism Patriot Act requires them to check your credit when you pay cash, which is nonsense. Typically, dealerships run credit checks to see if they can make an extra buck by financing the deal. Those checks are coded as hard inquiries that can damage people’s credit scores. (That’s in contrast to what happens when you check your own credit, which creates “soft” inquiries that don’t affect scores.)

Your scores are high, so the credit check probably didn’t ding them much. But the dealership was accessing information about you that it didn’t need to have. Plus, the more outfits that have your credit information, the greater your risk of identity theft.

If you didn’t give your OK, you could file a Fair Credit Reporting Act lawsuit to collect up to $1,000 from the dealership. If you did give your permission, strongly consider withholding it the next time if you’re not interested in financing your vehicle.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Home loans with 3% down. Also in the news: How one man paid off nearly $100K in debt, a travel rewards bucket list, and the possibilities of postal banking.

HomeReady and Home Possible: Loans With 3% Down for 2018
You’ll need a good credit score.

How I Ditched Debt: Smart Solutions for ‘Stupidest Decision’
How one man paid off nearly $100K in five years.

Travel Rewards Bucket List: Showering on a Plane
Hope the water pressure is good.

What Is Postal Banking?
New legislation could add banking services to your local post office.

Q&A: Do credit scores punish you for not carrying debt?

Dear Liz: I am fortunate to be able to afford homeownership without having to obtain a mortgage. The same is true of owning cars without a car loan. I pay my credit card bills in full each month. In short, I do not carry any debt.

However, it seems to me that I am being “punished” by not carrying a load of debt. My credit score is reduced by this lack of debt and I am wondering why this is.

Answer: The most commonly used credit scores don’t “know” if you’re carrying credit card debt or not. The balances used in credit score calculations are the balances the card issuers report to the bureaus on a given day (often your statement balances). You could pay the balance off the next day, or carry it for the next month, and it would have no impact on your scores.

A small part of credit scoring formulas measure your mix of credit, or whether you have both revolving accounts (such as credit cards) and installment loans (mortgages, car loans, student loans, etc.) You may get higher scores if you added an installment loan to your mix. If your scores are low, it can be worth adding a small personal loan to boost them. If your scores are good, though, it may not be worth the effort and interest expense.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Managing debt in retirement takes some planning. Also in the news: Why your credit score means both everything and nothing, 5 ways to save on energy during the dog days of summer, and what the Dept. of Ed’s proposed new rules on debt forgiveness requirements means.

Managing Debt in Retirement Takes Some Planning
What you can do to still retire comfortably.

Your Credit Score Means Everything — and Nothing
Don’t be afraid to look.

5 Ways to Save Energy During the Dog Days of Summer
Baby, it’s hot outside.

What the Department of Ed’s Proposed New Rules on Debt Forgiveness Requirements Mean for You
Rules are tightening up.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: This could be the biggest blow to your retirement. Also in the news: How one couple ditched their debt, why good credit is essential when remodeling a home, and how to apply for a credit card with no credit.

This Could Be the Biggest Blow to Your Retirement
The battle with healthcare costs.

How I Ditched Debt: ‘It Became Like a Game to Us’
One couple’s story.

Remodeling Your Home? Good Credit Offers a Strong Foundation
The better the credit, the better the offers.

How to Apply for a Credit Card With No Credit Score
Exploring the options.