Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

wall_street_zombie_moneyToday’s top story: How to handle “expired” debt. Also in the news: Ways to avoid a disclosure catastrophe after closing on your new home, why your small business should have its own credit score, and why you should skip the extended warranty and save the money instead.

How to Handle Time-Barred Debt
Beware of “zobmie debt.”

5 Ways to Avoid a Disclosure Catastrophe After Closing
Pay close attention to the listing language.

Your Small Business Should Have Its Own Credit Score
Protecting your personal credit.

Skip the Extended Warranty and Save the Money Instead
Build a repair savings account instead.

Q&A: Free credit score? Be careful

Dear Liz: As a financial planner, I am surprised you pointed someone in the direction of paying for a credit score. Your score can be accessed at several credit sites for free. Why would you want your readers to pay for something they could get free? 

Answer: As a financial planner, you should understand that “free” is a squishy concept.

Some sites do offer free credit scores in return for your private financial information, including your Social Security number. Most of these sites are committed to protecting your information — the credit bureaus they’re working with insist on that — but the sites may use your data to market financial products and services to you. As the saying goes, if something on the Internet is free, then the product being sold is you.

Many people are comfortable with that trade-off. Others aren’t. The other and perhaps more important reason to buy your credit scores from MyFico.com is that you’ll be getting numbers created from the same FICO formulas that most lenders use. The sites handing out free scores typically offer VantageScores, which is a FICO competitor. This particular reader wanted to see the auto FICO scores his lenders would use, and for that the best source is MyFico.com.

Q&A: Where to find FICO scores

Dear Liz: I’m looking to buy a car and I’d like to see the FICO scores that lenders use. I already visited MyFico.com, but I want another site that shows my real FICO scores for auto lending. If you could point me in the right direction, that would be great.

Answer: You were at the right site. When you buy one credit score for $19.95 from MyFico.com, you actually get several scores from the same credit bureau. Those include FICO 8, the most commonly-used score, as well as the FICOs that bureau typically supplies to mortgage, auto and credit card lenders. If you want to see FICOs from all three bureaus, you can buy them for $59.85 and get a total of 25 different scores.

The scores lenders actually use to price your loan may be somewhat higher or lower from the ones you’ll see because credit scores change all the time. But if you apply for a loan shortly after buying your scores, they should be pretty close to the ones you see.

Q&A: Conflicting credit scores

Dear Liz: Why is there such a difference between my FICO 4 and FICO 8 scores? My FICO 4 score is 646 while my FICO 8 score is 678. I want to buy a home and I know some lenders may still use the FICO 4.

Answer: Most (not just some) mortgage lenders use outdated versions of the FICO credit scoring formula. The agencies that buy most mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, accelerated acceptance of credit scores in the mid-1990s when they made FICOs part of the underwriting required for the loans they purchased.

But the agencies haven’t authorized lenders to use the newest versions or alternative scores, such as VantageScore. So an old collection or other misstep that’s ignored by modern versions of the FICO formula could hurt your efforts to get the best rates and terms on a mortgage.

There are several ways you can boost your scores in the coming months. First, get your actual credit reports from all three credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. (You don’t need to provide a credit card. If you’re asked for one, you’re on the wrong site.) Scan the reports for errors, such as accounts that aren’t yours or late payments showing when you paid on time. Dispute those and prepare to follow up with any creditors that insist on reporting false information. (Complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you get the creditors to cooperate.)

Make sure you’re making all credit account payments on time and pay down any credit card balances. Your goal is to use 10% or less of your reported credit limits, and to pay your balances in full each month. (Homeownership is expensive enough without dragging costly credit card debt into the financial picture.) It may take a few months to start seeing improvements, but they should come.

When you’re closer to pulling the trigger on a home purchase, consider buying your FICOs for all three credit bureaus from MyFico.com. In addition to the FICO 8, which is the one other creditors use most often, you’ll get your FICOs for the mortgage, credit card and auto loan industries, which can give you a clearer picture of where you stand.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

iStock_000015900242LargeToday’s top story: Critical steps to prepare your finances for divorce. Also in the news: Tips on taking over the family business, getting your credit back on track after moving back to the United States, and how to tell if your 401(k) is helping or hurting your retirement savings.

6 Critical Steps to Prepare Your Finances for Divorce
Protecting your assets during a vulnerable time.

Tips on Taking Over a Family Business
Making a smooth transition.

After Moving Back to U.S. From Overseas, Credit Card Is First Step to Rebuild Credit
Getting your numbers back on track.

Is your 401(k) helping or hurting your retirement savings?
Finding a best-in-class 401(k).

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

business girl with shopping bagsToday’s top story: How to find the best deals for Memorial Day sales. Also in the news: Money mistakes to avoid for new grads, why Americans are pretty clueless about their credit cards and scores, and deciding what to do with an old 401(k).

Memorial Day Sales: How to Snag a Good Deal, Guaranteed
The most bang for your buck.

New Grads: Avoid These 5 Money Mistakes
Don’t start off on the wrong foot.

Survey: Americans are pretty clueless on credit cards and scores
We need to do better.

To Roll Over or Not to Roll Over: What to Do With That Old 401(k)
What works best for you?

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

scamToday’s top story: The red flags of a toxic online loan. Also in the news: What to do when you can’t get enough financial aid, why 43% of Millennials have bad credit, and 10 questions to help start getting your financial life in order.

5 Red Flags of a Toxic Online Loan
Who are you really borrowing from?

Can’t Get Enough Financial Aid? Here’s What to Do
Take a deep breath.

43% of Millennials Have Bad Credit, TransUnion Says
Subprime scores.

Get Your Financial Life In Order By Answering These 10 Questions
Taking the first steps.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Checking your credit doesn’t hurt your scores. Also in the news: Personal finance tips from NerdWallet moms, why you should prepare now for the death of a spouse, and the benefits of easing into a new savings budget.

Checking Your Credit Doesn’t Hurt Your Scores
Not checking your scores could hurt much more.

NerdWallet Moms Share Their Personal Finance Tips
Sharing lessons learned.

Why You Should Prepare Now for the Death of a Spouse
Making things easier down the road.

Boost Your Savings By 1% At a Time to Slowly Adjust to a New Budget
Easing into a new budget spares you from a shock to the system.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

2Today’s top story: How the new advisor rule will effect your retirement investments. Also in the news: Why a better FICO score leads to a better retirement, how to avoid retirement rip-offs, and protecting your tax returns from criminals.

What the New Advisor Rule Means for You, Your Retirement Investments
Introducing the fiduciary rule.

How a Better FICO Score Leads to Better Retirement
What you save in interest could improve your retirement.

5 ways to avoid retirement rip-offs
Choose wisely.

How criminals could steal your tax return
Criminals are going tax phishing.

‘Alternative’ Credit: Your Scores Still Matter

Startup and traditional lenders alike are looking for the new prize: creditworthy people who don’t have good credit scores.

To find them, companies are experimenting with all kinds of alternative data that’s typically not part of credit reports, such as utility bills, social media posts and how often you change your address.

In addition, some online lenders proclaim they don’t use credit scores in their decisions or don’t have a minimum score requirement.

In my latest for NerdWallet, why thinking credit scores no longer matter could be an expensive mistake.