Q&A: When a lower credit score might not be cause for alarm

Dear Liz: I sold my house, paid off my mortgage and then got a new mortgage for another home in 2021. When I applied for the new mortgage, my credit score was 830. After buying the home, my score dropped to the low 700s. It’s gone up only 2 points in seven months. I have no other debt. What’s going on?

Answer: Remember, you don’t have one credit score, you have many. When you applied for a mortgage, you typically would be shown three older-generation FICO scores — one from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Your interest rate would have been based on the middle number. If your scores were 840, 830 and 700, for example, your rate would be based on 830. Any score over 740 typically gets the best rate and terms on a mortgage, all else being equal.

The score you’re monitoring now was probably created from a different scoring model. If the score is a FICO score, it probably was created from an updated formula such as FICO 8 or FICO 9. It’s also possible that you’re viewing a VantageScore 3.0 or 4.0. VantageScore is a FICO competitor.

If you’ve been monitoring the same score all along and it actually dropped 100 points since your application, then something else is going on. Please check your credit reports from all three bureaus and look for a skipped payment, a collection or some other serious problem.

Q&A: Where to park cash?

Dear Liz: I turned 72 in December and took my first required minimum distribution. With the goal of purchasing property next year, should I put the funds — $6,000 — in my Roth IRA or just put it in my bank savings account? Also, should I convert my traditional IRA to a Roth or just […]

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Q&A: HELOC situation improves

Dear Liz: Your recommendation that a retired couple consider a home equity line of credit to pay for home repairs astonished me. According to news reports, HELOCs are becoming harder and harder to find. Banks that still offer them have gotten stricter. And to suggest a reverse mortgage for a couple who only need $10,000, […]

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Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to get more joy while giving to good causes. Also in the news: How a financial therapist can help shift your money mindset, a new episode of the Smart Money podcast on making your dream life, and 6 options for when you buy now and can’t pay later. How to Get […]

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Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 things you can do to fortify your finances. Also in the news: How hotel elite status is shaping up in 2022, what airline elite status looks like in 2022, and where to get reimbursed for spoiled food after a power outage. Struggling? Here are 5 things you can do to fortify […]

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Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Inflation can spell disaster for some 40% of Americans. Also in the news: 5 reasons why ‘Shoulder Season’ is the best time to travel, a new episode of the Smart Money podcast on paying for college, and how a strong college application remains possible even with transcript gaps. Inflation Can Spell Disaster […]

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How to get more joy while giving to good causes

We may think spending money on ourselves will make us happier than spending it on someone else. That belief can make it hard to carve money out of our budgets to give to good causes. But research shows that spending money on others is more likely to make us happy. This seems to be a […]

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Q&A: Social Security and government pensions

Dear Liz: You recently mentioned the windfall elimination provision that affects pensions from jobs that don’t pay into Social Security. I’m wondering what those jobs are. Are they just part of the gig economy, or is there some other category of jobs that don’t pay into Social Security? Answer: Gig economy jobs are supposed to […]

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Q&A: What is the capital gains tax, and how big a bite does it take?

Dear Liz: We own stocks with enormous capital gains — as in, six figures or more. The tax would be a lot. Any advice on how to limit the tax bite? Our income consists of Social Security and a teacher’s pension. Answer: Capital gains taxes may be less of a problem than you fear. If […]

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Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: This year, resolve to leave no gift card unused. Also in the news: A new episode of the Smart Money podcast on saving for your dream retirement, how to have the wedding you want for less, and comparing car insurance rates. This Year, Resolve to Leave No Gift Card Unused Most gift […]

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