[BIG NEWS!] I Decided to Join the Qube Money Team!

[BIG NEWS!] I Decided to Join the Qube Money Team!

I mentioned two weeks ago that I quit my job as a financial planner. I had a bunch of people reach out and ask me what was happening!

I’m excited to share the new chapter of our lives with you!

The new opportunity is with a fin-tech start-up company based out of Utah called Qube Money (formerly ProActive Budget).

Qube is rebranding and relaunching in spring 2020. I’ve been watching this company since meeting them at FinCon 2018 in Orlando. This past FinCon 2019, I learned they were relaunching and adding new features. So I wanted to find a way to be a part of it!

Why I Made The Switch

“85% of people who need help financially can’t afford it.”

This is a quote from Alan Moore of the XY Planning Network at a conference in San Diego two years ago. This has driven me crazy and is one reason why I became a financial counselor.

“Many of the people who most need financial planning services and investment advice can’t afford to pay for either. To be in a position to hire someone to advise you on how to build wealth, you first have to build some wealth,” says Rick Kahler of Brightscope

Seeds of doubt have been planted in my mind for many years. Things like, you can’t make money helping people that don’t have money. But I’ve wanted to find a way to help as many everyday individuals and families with their finances as I can. One of the reasons I started a financial coaching business and this blog.

I’ve worked in academia and helped people in their 20’s. I’ve worked as a financial planner helping clients with their investments. And, I started a financial coaching practice and helped clients pay off debt and start saving. These have all been great opportunities. But it kept coming back to one problem that was hard to solve. Cash flow management.

This is one of the biggest things keeping people from reaching their financial goals and becoming financially independent. I’ve taught people the jar’s money management system with success but it was missing something.

Why This Aligns With My Purpose

I’ve been interested in the new financial apps that have released over the years like RobinhoodAcornsSimple, and Varo. They’ve all experienced rapid growth addressing needs for younger people and lowering fees. I’ve thought it would be cool to work for a new company like one of these.

Most would require us to move to San Francisco if I went that route. But this won’t require us to do that. Utah is experiencing insane growth and it’s largely driven by financial service and fin-tech companies.

What’s been done in the past to help people is moving online and I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

More About Qube Money

Qube first launched as ProActive Budget two years ago and did well. They experienced issues with their processor and shut down operations. They’re now with a better processor and rebranding. When you google proactive budget you could probably guess what kept showing in up the search results. Skincare. Which is a big-budget item for a lot of women, apparently!

This video explains what it is:

Qube money requires you to be intentional with your spending. Most people have heard of the cash envelope system because it’s powerful and it helps with spending behavior. The problem is cash is a hassle and writing down each transaction sucks.

Qube is like digital cash envelopes. If you don’t have money in your qube for a certain purchase it will decline the transaction.

No other financial app makes you think before you buy, changes behavior and is effective long-term.

I believe this has the potential to impact millions and help them live healthier financial lives.

I can’t share everything yet but a lot is happening behind the scenes that make this super exciting!

What’s Going to Happen to Simplifinances?

Don’t worry, Simplifinances isn’t going anywhere. I’m still trying to figure out what my plan is for 2020. I will most likely scale back on how much I write. For two years, I’ve published one article a week and at times that can be a lot. Especially on top of a full-time job, school, family, church, etc. I may write once or twice a month or whenever I feel like I have something to share.

I’m excited about the new opportunity and feel grateful to be a part of it! This is something I would have never had the opportunity for if I wouldn’t have decided to start Simplifinances.

I don’t write a ton about blogging and growing an online business because that was never my intent from the beginning. But this week I’m going to share a course with you if blogging has been something you’ve wanted to try. I am an affiliate for the course and I think it will give you a great starting point.

Make sure you join my mailing list and look out for an email in the next couple of days.

If you’d like to learn more about Qube and be a part of the launch join the waiting list at www.goqube.io.

Where to Stash Your Cash

Where to Stash Your Cash

Each dollar of yours is like an employee. If you let them sit around and do nothing, it will hurt your business. If you “employ” them, which means to put to work or make use of, it will benefit your company. Is every dollar of yours benefiting your personal finances or are there lazy dollars sitting around doing nothing for you?

Below I’m going to show you 5 places to stash your cash based on goals that are one to five years away to get the maximum value from each of your green employees. 

Depending on your financial goals, where you stash your cash will determine if you reach those goals. If you plan to spend the money within one year, be safe with it. If you plan to spend it in one to five years, go for a higher rate of return.

Where I save my money depends on the goal. I’m willing to invest my savings for something like a vacation fund because the cost of a vacation varies and when we go is flexible. On the other hand, if I’m going to put money down on a house soon I don’t want to lose any of that money.

SHORT-TERM VS. LONG-TERM GOALS

Let’s use three examples of goals:

  1. Saving for a vacation
  2. A down payment on a house
  3. And building an emergency fund

Using these three examples, where is the best place to stash your cash if your goal is one to five years out for each of these?

When it comes to long-term goals like saving for retirement I would look at different options than what is mentioned below. 

1. CASH

Some people suggest you keep cash somewhere in your house. Other than the internet disappearing or banks seizing to exist, it doesn’t do you good to have cash under your mattress because those are lazy dollars that need to wake up!

Some people like cash because it’s tangible. If you’re new to budgeting or teaching your kids to manage money, using cash is powerful! 

Cash is good for teaching. It’s a powerful tool because you can hold it and feel it. And let’s be honest who doesn’t love holding a wad of cash! We live in a world where money is more of an abstract idea than a physical object. 

Cash is good for changing behavior. I used cash for years as a teenager to manage my money. Now, I don’t have more than $5 – $10 of cash on me unless I am traveling (No thief would be happy to rob me). 

If you struggle with spending, cash is harder to spend than swiping a card. According to a study, people spend 17% more money when using a credit card than if they were to use cash. 

Other than for behavior change or teaching purposes, I think you’re better off doing something else with your dollars in place of using cash.

2. SAVINGS ACCOUNT

My bank is my central hub for my money and everything else flows from it. This allows me to transfer money easily to savings, investments or paying bills. The best part is I can track exactly where I spend my money unlike using cash.

Some people don’t like having their money sit in a savings account because most banks pay an interest rate of 0.000Nothing%. I don’t blame them with the average interest rate on savings being 0.06%. But, having money in your savings accounts could be good for a few reasons: 

  • Liquidity – It’s easy to get to when you need it
  • Security – Your money is FDIC insured up to $250,000
  • Safety – Essentially no risk (except for one major risk below)

Although the peace of mind of having your money in a savings account is nice, you run a risk of leaving it there. That risk is called purchasing power risk. $100 today will buy you less in 10 years due to inflation. Inflation can fall between 2-4% per year. So if you’re not earning at least enough interest to keep up with inflation, the value of your dollar decreases over time. It’s not a good idea to leave too much money in a savings account.

3. HIGH-YIELD ONLINE SAVINGS ACCOUNT

Many online banks now are willing to pay a higher interest rate to keep up with inflation. Online banks have lower overhead costs because they don’t have to pay for physical branches. That means they can pass the savings to the consumer by offering higher rates. The interest rate is important when you’re looking for a place to keep your money, but it’s not the most important thing. Other things to consider are:

  • Your savings rate
  • The credibility of the bank
  • Terms and conditions

One of the downsides of a high-yield savings account is not having all of your money in one place. If you need to transfer money into your primary bank quickly it could take a couple of days. Don’t put your everyday spending money in one of these accounts. I’ve looked into savings accounts that offer up to 3% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) which is changing all the time. Let me know if you know of any good ones!

BANKS VS. CREDIT UNIONS

When deciding where to stash your cash should you use a bank or a credit union? There are pros and cons to both.

Banks are for-profit enterprises, while credit unions are nonprofits. Credit unions also offer higher interest rates on deposits, lower rates on loans and lower fees.

WHY CHOOSE A BANK?

  • More branches in the region or across the country
  • Typically quicker to roll out new apps and new tech

WHY CHOOSE A CREDIT UNION?

  • Typically has lower fees and higher interest rates on deposits
  • Emphasis on customer service

I go for the best of both worlds and use USAA for my personal banking and Wells Fargo for my business banking. I’m happy with USAA and would recommend them to anyone. Think of it as an online credit union with low fees, great customer service and always at the front of technology. They were the first bank to introduce biometric sign in. I was using my face to log in to my account back in 2014.

Although I’m happy with USAA, I’m always looking for something better.

4. MONEY MARKET ACCOUNTS (MMA)

Money market accounts are federally insured short-term interest-bearing instruments that generate a variable yield while preserving principal. They tend to have interest rates that are higher than savings accounts, but they often require a higher minimum deposit.

The difference between a savings account and an MMA is what the bank can do with your money. The bank is restricted in how they can loan your money. With an MMA the bank may put your money in a CD, low-risk mutual fund or government securities. Many people have an MMA already and don’t realize it. That’s because in your investment account there is typically cash waiting to be invested that is stored in an MMA. I wouldn’t be too concerned about these accounts for your goals. 

5. CERTIFICATE OF DEPOSIT (CD)

A certificate of deposit (CD) acts as a savings account and has a fixed interest rate. It also has a fixed date of withdrawal, known as the maturity date. I call these certificates depression:). If you want to invest your money for the long run the interest rate is measly. Although it’s higher than a typical savings account or money market account your money is going to be locked up for a period of time. For example, at my local credit union the terms of a CD are:

  • 2.00% 1-year CD 
  • 2.50% 4-year CD
  • 3.15% 5-year CD

I don’t use CDs anymore because I had a bad experience. I deposited $5,000 into a 2.5 year CD back when I was 19 and made $50 in interest after two years. My car broke down and I needed to access the money early and paid a $25 fee. Then, I had to pay taxes on that $50 which was $7.50. So my $50 return went to $17.50 which is a 0.0035% return. Basically the same as if I would have left it in the bank.

I could have found a better CD and I could not have pulled it out early but either way, I’m not a fan of CDs. I want control over my money and I’m willing to take more risk if I’m going to be saving that money for a few years. 

However, CDs seem to fit some people very well and there are many reasons why they may make sense for you. Something that seems to be effective with CDs is called a CD ladder. You open multiple CDs to have access to your money at different times in the future without locking all of your money into one long-term account. I still think there is better places to stash your cash.

BOTTOM LINE

To be honest I don’t use high-yield savings accounts (I may if I find a good one), money market accounts or CDs. I use traditional savings accounts and any other amount of money above that I invest it.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to take away information from this article and apply it to your situation. I didn’t talk about investing. If you would like to read an article I wrote about that:

Read: I Don’t Know How to Invest and I’m Scared I’ll Make a Mistake

These are simply a few ways you can employ your dollars and stash your cash. But, more important than getting the highest interest on your savings is how much money you save. 

If you’re having trouble saving money I recommend you set it up automatically. You can set this up with your bank or you could use a tool like Qapital or Digit to do it automatically for you. They don’t have a high APY but they can help you consistently save. I love personal finance technology that helps change behavior!

Where do you stash your cash!?

Don’t Like Using Cash to Manage Your Money? Try This…

Don’t Like Using Cash to Manage Your Money? Try This…

After people learn about the money jars system, I get a few who say, “I like the idea of dividing my money up into different jars but I hate using cash.

I’m not a big fan of using cash either. To be honest, I don’t.

After the first two years of using cash, I changed my jars to digital jars. I opened up a few bank accounts when I was 18 years old (it was more like six), but it has been extremely effective in helping me reach my goals. The banker was probably like, “what is this 18-year old doing opening up a bunch of bank accounts? This can’t be good.”

Here’s how to get started. 

OPEN ONE CHECKING ACCOUNT

I encourage you to first start out using actual jars — even if you don’t like using cash. You can get started dividing up $100 or less. Physically doing the act is very powerful.

I also encourage you to get the jars if you have kids to teach them how to be smart with money. This is such a simple thing to teach your kids that when they understand it, you’ll be doing a great job as a parent raising money-savvy kids. 

After you’ve mastered the physical jars go to your bank and open up a checking account. I imagine most of you reading this will already have a checking account so you really don’t need to do anything here. 

OPEN FIVE SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

If you don’t like using cash, it’s time to transition everything online. You need at least five savings accounts (not checking accounts). Most people only have one saving account so you’re most likely going to have to speak to your bank about this.

Once those are set up, divide the money up into the bank accounts just like you would the jars. You’re WAY less likely to transfer the money out of your savings account and spending it than you would if the funds were sitting in your checking account. 

Most people are terrible savers because they try to keep a running tab in their head and then at the end of the month they tell themselves that whatever is leftover they will transfer it to savings. And guess which account never grows? Yep, you guessed it. You have to learn how to pay yourself first!

It’s important to note that legally you cannot treat a savings account as a checking account. Federal law prohibits you from withdrawing from a savings account more than six times in one month. So if you transfer the money into a savings account don’t be buying stuff out of that account. 

Think of your checking account like the hub and everything else stems from it. The checking account is like the trunk of a tree and the savings accounts are like branches. Your money comes into your checking account and the first thing you do is divide 10% here and 10% there.

I’ve never run into an issue of having to withdraw money from a savings account more than six times in one month. But it’s worth mentioning.

FIND A BANK THAT DOESN’T CHARGE FEES

This next idea is extremely important. If you have a bank that will let you open five savings accounts with no problems, you’ve got a great bank. But if you’re bank tells you, “sorry, we’re going to have to charge you to open up more than one bank,” I want you to switch banks.

What you might be thinking:

“First Scott tells me to use this budgeting system for the rest of my life, and now he’s telling me I need to change banks, is this guy crazy?” Yes, most of the “BIG” banks, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America may charge you additional fees for having additional savings accounts if you don’t maintain a minimum balance, or set up automatic transfers. 

I hate paying fees. You should never have to pay a fee for having a savings account. The interest rate on savings accounts is already horrific

Here’s your script when you go to sit down with your banker and they tell you they have to charge you a fee for more than one savings account: 

Mr. Banker: We will have to charge you a fee for more than one savings account.

You: Thank you mister banker, but it’s important that I have five savings accounts and pay no fees. A bank down the road said they would do it so I guess I will have to take my business there. 

Mr. Banker: I will see what I can do.

THE BANK WANTS YOUR BUSINESS

The bank wants to keep your business and I’ve heard they will wave the fees in many cases. But, if they say, “sorry we cannot change that,” I promise there are hundreds of other banks that will. I’ve never heard of a credit union not willing to do that for you. 

I asked my credit union how many bank accounts I could open without paying fees, and they said, “as many as you would like.” I said, “really?” She said, “we have a customer who has 63 bank accounts with us and that’s totally fine.”

My bank is USAA and I’ve had a great experience paying no fees and having multiple savings accounts. I would highly encourage you to open your accounts with them if you have access to them. Most people don’t unless you or a family member is or has been in the military.

The bottom line is DO NOT PAY FEES

THIS WORKS IF YOU SPEND LESS

I already know many of you are thinking, “this isn’t possible in my situation because I don’t make enough money.” You can read ways to make more money here. However, the most overlooked way to make this system work is by spending less. 

If you’re serious about financial independence, not only do you need to make more money, you need to keep as much of it in your wallet as possible.

We’re constantly bombarded with marketing messages telling us we need to spend money to be happy. This is not true! Live simply and be grateful for what you have and you’ll be amazed how much you can save. 

Read: 8 Ways Minimalism and Personal Finance Are Related

People only spend less when they have to. Be content with what you have and look for ways to save money, you can make this system work. 

So, if you don’t like using cash, this is what I did to transition everything to digital jars.

Using the Money Jars System to Manage Your Money

Using the Money Jars System to Manage Your Money

Let’s be honest, there are hundreds of ways to manage your money. But today, I’m going to tell you why the money jars system that I use to manage my money is the most effective.

I tried the cash envelope system (which became messy), I tried saving everything in one savings account (which felt like deprivation), and I even tried not managing my money at all.

None of these things worked for me.

When I Learned About the Money Jars System

We were poor growing up. And I never wanted to be poor again. I knew I needed to change things to make sure I never had money problems.

When I was 16, I learned the importance of managing my money over a long period of time so I could reach financial freedom one day. Luckily, I applied what I learned with a simple money jars system to manage my money.

This set the foundation for the rest of my life. I have successfully used the money jars system to manage my money for over 10 years. I’m well on my way to becoming financially independent by simply using the money jars system I’m about to share with you.

Before we jump in, download the free PDF so you can get started.

Free Money Jars System PDF

What is the Money Jars System?

After learning about the jars money system, I purchased 5 mason jars and used a random popcorn box because Walmart didn’t sell mason jars in packs of 6. To get started you’ll need 6 physical mason jars.

Money Jar #1

The first money jar is for necessities. Each time you get paid, 50% of your money will go into this first money jar. This money will be used for things like housing, transportation, and food. Spending that takes up 70 – 80% of people’s budget. You’re going to learn how to get this spending down to 50% of what you make.

This requires decreasing your expenses and spending money on things you absolutely have to. This will require major discipline on your end.

Even after trying new things, you can only cut so far on your expenses. And in some cases, it requires increasing your income at your job or through a side hustle.

Learn more about how to increase your income if you feel you don’t make enough money.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Making Side Income

Money Jar #2

The second money jar is your financial independence jar. 10% of every dollar you make no matter what goes into your financial independence jar. Even if it’s a small amount of money, this will help you build the habit of saving money each time you get paid.

Should you save or pay off debt? The answer depends. I don’t think that you shouldn’t save money until all of your debt is paid off and you have an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months. I think you should be doing both. Saving while paying off debt?

Once you understand compound interest, this will make more sense. The more money you can save early in life the better off you will be. So get started saving 10% of your income no matter what even if you have student loans or a car payment.

The Money Jars System | Simplifinances

Money Jar #3

The third jar of money is long-term savings of 10%. What’s the difference? Financial independence money will be spent when you become financially independent. That money will sustain your lifestyle.

Long-term savings has two functions: save for a down-payment on a house, pay cash for a car or to build up assets like starting a business. The second purpose this money jar serves is it can act as an emergency fund.

I’ve discovered setting money aside in a saving account labeled “emergency fund” doesn’t work. Because guess what happens? An emergency! And the money gets spent.

I building an emergency fund over and over again and the money always gets spent. The only thing that allowed me to actually have money in case of an actual emergency was if the money was going towards something else like a down payment on a house. In case of an actual emergency, the money was there and it meant we had to delay when we would buy a house.

Money Jar #4

The fourth money jar is tithing/give. I believe in paying a 10% tithe to my church. It goes a lot deeper than simply giving 10% to my church. I truly believe that when you have the mentality to give, you’re looking at life with an abundance mentality. This will spill over into other things.

I don’t want you to have a scarcity mindset. That’s no way to live! 10% doesn’t have to go to a church, it could go to your favorite charity or you could even use the money for birthday and Christmas gifts. Either way, when you give, you look at life in a different lens.

Money Jar #5

The 5th money jar is play money to blow. 10% of your income will be set aside and spent on whatever your heart desires. This is non-guilty spending and it will help you to maintain balance in your life.

10% of your money should be going toward things you love to spend money on and if you could choose to spend more, you would totally do it. Things like weekend getaways, expensive date nights, massages, concerts, fairs, whatever you want.

Life is meant to be enjoyednot just endured.”

If you’re paying more than 5 – 7% interest on any debt, you should be paying that off and not spending money on play. This is about priorities and you can’t afford to be flushing money down the drain each money on high-interest debt. Pay off that high-interest debt, then you’ll be able to start spending more money on things that you value.

Money Jar #6

The last money jar is for education and is probably the most flexible jar. Invest 10% in yourself and your skills. Pay for college, buy courses, books or anything that will help you increase your skills.

“The best investment with the highest ROI is an investment in yourself.”

Benjamin Franklin

Setting aside money for education could do more for you than any other jar. You should be doing this if you’re able to master all of the money jars above.

However, If you’re unable to live off 50% of your income or you’re paying off a lot of high-interest debt, you should be using the money from your education jar to pay for those things.

Conclusion

If you’ve tried managing your money in the past and it didn’t work, what do you have to lose by giving the money jar system a try?

This will help you build a foundation for financial wellness and allow you to live the life you’ve always wanted to live.

Using cash can be difficult for a lot of people and I get the question, “how can I use this money jars system digitally?” And my answer is you absolutely don’t have to use physical jars. I recommend it starting out but you can do the exact same time with your bank accounts.

I will be sharing an article next week about what to do if you don’t like using cash to manage your money.

Free Money Jars System PDF | Simplifinances

You can also sign up for the free course on learning how to manage your money with the money jars system where I give you the step-by-step guide you need to get started in 7 days.

Sign up HERE! You’ll be glad you did!

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Reach Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Reach Them

Imagine taking a trip. You don’t simply get in the car and start driving. You need a destination and Google maps to guide you. Otherwise, how do you know when you’ve arrived? Having clear set financial goals will guide you to your financial destination.

I’m going to walk you through a step by step process of setting clear financial goals. This is one of the first things I do when I meet with a new client.

I talk about financial goals first because they need to know where they’re going. Their knowledge of personal finance is apparent from the beginning because I can tell how much they’ve thought about their finances.

Newbies sit for a minute and struggle to come up with a financial goal. It’s something they’ve never thought about. They may say something like, “I just want to be debt-free or I’d like to travel more.” 

Others who’ve given it more thought have goals on their mind that they’ve wanted to accomplish for years. They may say something like, “I have a credit card balance I would like paid off before the end of the year,” or “We’d like to buy a house in two years and need to save more for a down payment.” Better but still somewhat vague. 

Financial Goals Are At The Center of Everything

When it comes to financial planning and coaching, goals are at the center of everything we do. Personal finance is PERSONAL. So take the time to set goals specific to your situation.

One client said to me after discussing their goals that no one had ever asked them what their financial goals were and that it was nice to discuss them out loud and have someone listen.

When I ask someone what their goals are, 9 times out of 10 they are very vague. Goals such as, I want to make more money or I’d like to save a down payment for a house lack clarity. These are wants and we all have them.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Each Financial Goal Needs Two Things: A Date and A Number

When I help people set goals we spend a few extra minutes making them specific. One way to make sure each goal is specific, it needs two things: a date and a number.

For example, if your goal is to travel more, when do you want to travel and how much do you need to save?

If your goal is to save a down payment on a house. Your goal may look like this: Save $20,000 in my savings account by April 2020.

By being specific and putting the goal in writing you’re 40% more likely to reach your goal.

How To Set Financial Goals And Actually Reach Them | Simplifinances

Limit the number of goals you’re working towards. It’s overwhelming listing 20 financial goals you would like to do this year. Keep the list to three to six top goals and prioritize what’s most important. 

Here’s a list of financial goals my clients have set to help you get started.

  • Pay off $22,000 of credit card debt by December 2020
  • Save $20,000 for a down payment on a house by April 2020
  • Get my full match and save $300 a month for retirement starting today
  • Track all of my spending for three months
  • Save up $2,000 for a trip to Iceland in the summer of 2020
  • Build up $5,000 to move out of my parent’s house in May of 2018
  • Save $400 a month starting this month
  • Pay off my car loan of $13,000 in one year from today
  • Build up a net worth of $850,000 in 10 years in order to be financially independent
  • Max out my Health Savings Account ($6,900) in 2019 in order to have a kid next year
  • Pay $5,000 in cash for a used car in 6 months
  • Save $50 a month into my child’s 529 college savings plan
  • Throw a party for my 50th birthday. Save $2,000
  • Build up a $1,000 emergency savings in 3 months
  • Ask for a 20% raise at work this week

Going A Little Deeper

Each goal has an amount they’d like to save or pay off and a time frame to accomplish it.

After goal setting, think about this question. “If money wasn’t an issue, what would you like your life to be like?” When I ask that question, I can see their faces light up. It’s not a question they’re asked often, but it’s something we think about. They describe their ideal life and I can see a different side to what they’re trying to accomplish and why they want to reach their financial goals.

While it’s fresh on their mind, I give them an assignment. Go to futureme.org and write a letter to your future self. Futureme.org will send the letter in an email to you one year from now. When they get their letter, they reach out to me and tell me how their progress is coming and what an experience it is to get that letter because they have forgotten they wrote it.

So much can change in one year. One year from now your goals probably won’t be the same. That’s why you continually scrutinize and change your goals as your life and priorities change.

Your goals don’t have to be perfect and honestly, they will change frequently. Now, I’m going to ask you to do something. 90% of you reading this aren’t going to do anything but I want you to be the one person that does. Promise me you’ll do this?

Your Assignment Is to Set Financial Goals

Write your top three short, medium and long-term financial goals down on a place you can refer back to them and write a letter to yourself with those goals that will be sent to you in one year. Will you do that? In one year you may be way off or realize that you actually accomplished each goal.  

Get started by downloading the free PDF I put together to help you set your top financial goals.

Set Financial Goals Free PDF | Simplifinances

I hope this helps you get clear on where you’re trying to go. Otherwise, you’re going to look back 10 years from now and wish you had taken your finances a little more seriously. I want to help you avoid feeling like that at some point in the future. It’s time to take action!

How To Read A Credit Report

How To Read A Credit Report

Once you know how to read a credit report, you’ll have a better sense of what to look for.

The credit report. 

Most people know it exists, but few know how to find it — for free. 

You have a different credit report at each of the 3 national credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Each bureau’s report may have information from different sources reported at different times. If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Once you know how to read a credit report, you’ll get a good idea of the categories of information all credit reports show. You’ll also have a better sense of what to look for. So let’s jump right in.

Personal Information

Each of your 3 credit bureau reports shows basic identifying information like: name, current and past addresses, date of birth and employer. There’s also a space for a consumer statement, a place where you can explain certain parts of your credit report.

Look for:

  • Inaccurate information. Sometimes you’ll see your name or address spelled in different ways because whoever reported your information had it that way in their records.
  • Unfamiliar addresses. This could be a sign someone is using (or is trying to use) your information fraudulently. 

Inquiries

This section lists creditors who’ve asked to see your credit report. When you apply for credit—a mortgage, credit cards, car loans and all sorts of other kinds of financing—the company considering giving you that credit will almost always pull your credit report to evaluate whether giving you the credit is worth the risk. The name of this is a credit inquiry.

 How to Read a Credit Report | Simplifinances

The reports you see show “hard” and “soft” inquiries. Hard inquiries are those that happen when you apply for credit cards or other types of loans and they stay on your report for 2 years. “Soft” inquiries, which aren’t listed on the reports creditors see, come from companies making you credit offers.

Look for:

  • How many inquiries are listed. This is a good way to pay attention to how often you’re applying for credit. Too many hard inquiries may be viewed by creditors as a negative.
  • Unfamiliar inquiries. If you see any of these, investigate them immediately. You may have just forgotten about a credit application you made last year, but it also may be a sign a criminal has applied for credit in your name. Better to double check now than be sorry later. 

Accounts

This area of the credit report lists all your accounts, open and closed, active and paid, individual and joint. For each account, you’ll see information on: 

  • The loan/credit itself
  • The creditor (including contact info)
  • Balance
  • Account status
  • Monthly payment history
  • Whether or not you paid on time 

Look for:

  • Unfamiliar accounts. If you see an account you don’t recognize, follow up with the creditor to verify it. It may be a sign someone has fraudulently opened an account in your name.
  • Negative information. Look for any late payments or accounts in collections. By law, the credit bureaus must remove most kinds of negative information from your report 7 years after the information first appeared on the report. 

Public records

If you have court judgments against you, they will be listed along with the settlement amount and the date the record will be expunged. This section also may show information about tax liens and bankruptcies.

Look for any listings, whatsoever. Public records showing up on any of your 3 credit bureau reports can seriously impact your credit. If there is anything listed in this section, make sure it’s accurate. If it isn’t, dispute it with the credit bureau as soon as possible. 

Take the next step: protect your credit and start saving money.

Check your credit report every four months

By law, you’re allowed to check your credit report once a year. But here’s how I check my report three times a year, for free. On January 1st of each year I check my Experian report. On May 1st of every year I check my Equifax Report and on September 1st of every year I check my TansUnion report. Because yesterday was September 1st I was able to check mine and my wife’s credit report. 

This report was an important one because we bought a house in July and I want to make sure all of the information mentioned above is accurate. 

Conclusion

Now that you know what to look for in a credit report and you’ll be checking it frequently the next step is to improve and monitor your credit. You can sign up for Credit Sesame and get a free credit score. 

Once you sign up for Credit Sesame, you should read “How To Increase Your Credit Score.”

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