Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How credit use affects credit scores. Also in the news: Starting a business if you have student debt, how one couple crushed their debt, and how budgeting doesn’t have to suck if you make it a habit.

Virtual People, Real Lessons: How Card Use Affects Credit Score
Meet Cora Condo and Rebuilding Robert.

Ask Brianna: Can I Start a Business if I Have Student Debt?
Can you be your own boss?

This Couple Crushed Their Debt
How you can do it, too.

Budgeting Doesn’t Have to Suck If You Think of It As a Habit Rather Than a Task
Getting into a groove.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 ways to ride the rising interest rates wave. Also in the news: Why you should set your own credit card limits, reasons why credit isn’t as boring as it sounds, and more than 1 million student loan borrowers are in default.

Fed Rate Hike: 4 Ways to Ride Rising Interest Rate Wave
Only the third increase since the 2008 financial crisis.

Set Your Own Credit Card Limits and Improve Your Life
Knowing your limits.

3 Reasons Credit Isn’t as Boring as It Sounds
It’s about more than just cards.

More than 1 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans last year
The amount owed by borrowers has increased 17%.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t hit the brakes on uninsured motorist coverage. Also in the news: Giving your child excellent credit, the pros and cons of telemedicine, and how to trim your tax burden.

Don’t Hit the Brakes on Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Protect yourself from the unexpected.

Sean Talks Money: How to Give Your Child Excellent Credit
Making sure they’re on the right track.

Online Medicine: What to Know Before You Sign Up
The pros and cons of telemedicine.

Trim your tax burden by deducting phone, Internet bills
Take advantage of all the deductibles.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

common-retirement-mistakesToday’s top story: How to make the 10 years before retirement count. Also in the news: Tips on reining in holiday spending, which generation has the best credit score, and which insurance most car renters can say no to.

5 Ways to Make the 10 Years Before Retirement Count
Fattening your nest egg.

5 Frugality Pros Help You Rein In Holiday Spending
Avoiding the after-holidays sticker shock.

Average U.S. Credit Score Rises; ‘Silent Generation’ Wins Bragging Rights
The older you are, the better your score likely is.

Which insurance most car renters can just say no to
Deciding which insurance you need.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

babytrollToday’s top story: Why your newborn doesn’t need to be on your credit card account. Also in the news: Why paying more tax today could be your best AMT strategy, common retirement mistakes seen by financial planners, and how credit card minimum payments are meant to keep you in debt forever.

No, Your Newborn Doesn’t Need to Be on Your Credit Card Account
No need to build credit that early.

Paying More Tax Today May Be Your Best AMT Strategy
Understanding how AMT works.

Seven Common Retirement Mistakes Seen by Financial Planners
And how to avoid them.

Credit card minimums: Perfectly calibrated to keep you in debt
A cycle of perpetual debt.

Great credit is a powerful tool

Credit report with score on a desk

Credit report with score on a desk

Credit scores are a financial tool, but whether they’re a lever or a hammer depends on how good they are.

You can leverage great scores into great deals — on loans, credit cards, insurance premiums and cell phone plans. Bad scores can hammer you into missing out or paying more.

The lifetime cost of higher interest rates from bad or mediocre credit can exceed six figures. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to save thousands of dollars in interest by building great credit.

Q&A: Getting out of a bad car loan can be tricky

Dear Liz: My car payment is $465 a month with a 22% interest rate. I need to get out of this car and into a lower car payment. My credit is poor. What is the best solution to go about this?

Answer: There are a number of solutions, most of which probably won’t work for you.

If you could do without a car for a while and owe less than this car is worth, you could sell it to pay off the loan. The fact you haven’t already done so indicates that you either need a car or have no equity, or both.

Fixing your credit could help you get a better deal, but that’s tough to do with an unaffordable car payment. You need to have enough free cash flow to put a down payment on a secured credit card or make monthly payments on a credit builder loan, which are two of the best ways to rehabilitate your credit. Your finances also have to be sound enough that you don’t miss payments on any credit obligation, including the car.

If you bought an overpriced jalopy from a “buy here, pay here lot,” or you were approved at a regular dealership but your rate got jacked up at the last minute, the dealer may have violated Truth in Lending laws that would allow you to get out of the deal. You’d probably need an attorney to help you pursue this option. You may luck out and find one that can help you at your local legal aid society. Otherwise, you could check with the National Assn. of Consumer Advocates to see if you can find affordable help.

Even if you were successful in getting out of this loan, of course, you still are likely to need a car and you’d still have bad credit, which means that you probably wouldn’t get a better deal on the next car than the bad one you have now.

If you can, the best option might be to get a second job or ask for overtime hours to pay this loan off as fast as possible. Then you could get a credit builder loan, which puts the money you borrow into a certificate of deposit you can claim after making 12 monthly payments. This small loan could be enough to significantly boost your credit scores and give you some cash to make a down payment on the next vehicle.

The best ways to build credit now

Once, building credit meant taking on debt — sometimes expensive debt like a car loan or a credit card with a high rate.

Today, it’s possible to build a good credit score in a year without a big chunk of cash upfront or a large debt at the end. You can make yourself look better to lenders while keeping more money in your pocket. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to build credit the right way.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

o-CREDIT-REPORT-facebookToday’s top story: How to buy your kid a good credit score. Also in the news: What keeps us awake at night, what low-income families lose by not having bank accounts, and finance lessons Baby Boomers could learn from Millennials.

How to Buy Your Kid a Good Credit Score for $200
Starting them off on the right foot.

Money, Safety and Privacy Keep Us Awake at Night
What we worry about when we try to sleep.

Low-Income Families Are Most Likely to Skip the Bank Account — and Pay the Price
Losing interest and protection.

5 Finance Lessons Baby Boomers Could Learn From Millennials
Taking advice.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

best-emv-chip-credit-cardsToday’s top story: How your credit score affects your mortgage rate. Also in the news: Why free shipping isn’t always free, how people are feeling about chip credit cards, and the four personal finance questions you need to ask yourself before retiring.

How Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage Rate
Borrowing at higher rates.

Why Free Shipping Isn’t Always Free
Building the price into your purchase.

How much do people really hate chip cards?
Not as much as you may think.

4 Personal Finance Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Retiring
Answers you need before taking the big step.