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Everyone wants to have more money, less debt, and greater financial freedom, but very few will attain it. Simply telling yourself that youâll earn more cash and clear more debts isnât enough to realize those goals, but writing those tasks down, setting realistic targets, and steadily working towards them can significantly increase your chances.Â
Nothing is guaranteed, but someone with clearly defined financial goals has more chances of attaining financial freedom than someone without.
Types of Personal Financial Goals
Financial goals come in many forms, but they all revolve around money and acquiring as much of it as possible. Some of the most common short and long-term goals include:
Establish a Budget
The first step to fixing your finances is to create a budget. Itâs a short-term goal and itâs also one of the simplest, but that doesnât make it any less important. Many Americans underestimate how much they spend and overestimate how much they earn, making a budget essential for adding a little clarity.
Clear Credit Card Debt
Americans have an average of $38,000 worth of debt excluding mortgages. A small percentage of this is allocated to credit card debt, but it often carries the highest interest rate and has the worst terms. Clearing this debt is an honorable and sensible goal for anyone with mounting debts.
Save Money for a Big Purchase
The average American family under the age of 35 has between $2,500 and $4,000 in savings. Thatâs barely enough to cover a used car, let alone a mortgage down payment or college education, which is what most families are saving towards.
Save for Retirement
This is the ultimate long-term financial goal. Saving for your retirement will give you something to look forward to and make life easier as you enter your old age. Many retired Americans regret not saving more money, with some experts recommending that you have at least $1 million tucked away to cover you for an average of 18 years.
Thatâs a lot of money, but it comes from a lifetime of saving and means you can enjoy plenty of cruises and vacations when you call time on your career.
Fix your Credit Score
Next to your Social Security Number, your credit score is one of the most important numbers you have and one you need to pay close attention to. Build a good score and a world of opportunities will open for you, making it easier to get low-interest loans and secure high credit limits.
Create an Emergency Fund
You can never underestimate the benefits of an emergency fund. Itâs essentially a savings account without an end goal and itâs used to cover you in the event that youâre hit with an unexpected bill or expense. It will also help if you lose your job or become ill.
Improve your Financial Situation
This incorporates many of the goals discussed above, one can be both a short-term financial goal and a long-term one. The most common goal is simply to have more money for an easier life or an early retirement, but there are also those who save so they can move abroad, start a dream business or simply become a millionaire.
These goals are a little harder to achieve than simply clearing debt or have some extra money in your pocket, but theyâre not unreasonable. If you have a detailed plan and work hard to realize it, thereâs no reason why those lofty long-term financial goals canât be realized.
Why Should You Set Personal Financial Goals?
Goals give you direction and purpose. They provide a detailed outline of what you need to do, what you have achieved thus far, and what remains. This adds a sense of accountability that simply wouldnât exist without those goals.
If you simply tell yourself that youâre going to do something, youâre more prone to procrastinating and moving the goalposts whenever it suits you. If you write all your goals down and separate them into clear and manageable chunks, thereâs no room for denial or deviation.
Think of it as a visit to the grocery store. If you have a list, you buy what you need, donât forget anything, and are more inclined to focus on the purchases that are within budget and will actually be eaten and enjoyed. If you visit without a list, youâll end up with a bunch of unnecessary foods you bought just because they were on offer and will forget all the things you went there to buy.
Our minds need direction, purpose. When the road is long, itâs easier to traverse if there are milestones, checkpoints, and clearly defined borders; without all that, itâs just a chaotic mess and youâll never make it to the end.
Short vs Long-Term Goals
A short-term goal spans days, weeks or months; a long-term goal stretches things out over several years and even a decade. Itâs important to have both, but short-term goals should have priority as long-term ones can get lost and forgotten about.
As an example, letâs suppose that your goal is to save a lot of money for your retirement. A long-term goal would be as simple as:
- Save $500,000 before retirement
This doesnât really help. However, if you break it down into multiple short-term goals you can focus on each of these in turn, ticking them off as you go and motivating you to keep going. As an example:
Increase Debt-to-Income Ratio
- Cancel unused subscriptions
- Sell unwanted items
- Ask for a pay rise
- Get a part-time job
- Clear credit card 1
- Clear credit card 2
- Repay student loans
- Repay personal loan
- Open a savings account
- Save $500 a month
- Make a sound investment
You can break these debts down even further and focus on making extra cash every single day. If thatâs what gets you up in the morning and pushes you towards your long-term goal, thatâs what you need to do.
How to Track Your Progress
As the saying goes, there is an app for everything and where financial goals are concerned there are actually multiple tools and apps to help you out:
- Mint: Track activity in real-time after connecting bank accounts and credit cards. Monitor spending, create budgets, and learn how to manage your money. Mint is one of the highest-rated budgeting and financial management apps on the market and is well-deserving of the praise it has received over the years.
- Wally: A great little budgeting tool that can keep track of your savings goals and tell you when certain bills are due. Itâs free and if your goal is to save and cover your debts, it does everything you need.
- Every Dollar: A simple but useful app designed to help you escape debt and manage your finances more effectively. It literally lets you see where âevery dollarâ is being spent.
- Clarity Money: A useful app to help you manage your subscriptions. The average consumer has dozens of subscriptions and itâs easy to lose track, but Clarity Money keeps everything in one place.
- Spendee: Manage family finances with this shared budgeting app. Itâs ideal if youâre saving along with a partner or want to keep track of what everyone in your household is spending.
How to Meet Your Financial Goals
Whateverâs on your to-do list, just set a goal and start working towards it. Take a look at these tips to help you:
Debt is crippling and the less you repay, the more damaging it becomes. Credit card debt, student loans, medical debt; it creeps into your life, it grows, and it never seems to go away. Before you focus on your savings and build towards a brighter future, you need to focus on clearing those debts.
Debt relief methods can help you with this, including consolidation, debt management, and debt settlement. In the first instance, however, you should try debt payoff strategies like Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche, both of which rely on you generating extra money to meet more than your minimum.
Every time you meet the minimum payment on your debt, youâre paying a lot of interest and a little principal. The interest compounds, the debt grows, and if you keep sticking with just the minimum payments it will take forever to repay. When you repay more than the minimum, however, youâll clear more of the principal, reducing the compounding interest, amount, and term.
It doesnât matter how substantial your net worth is, how much money you have in the bank and what sort of long-term financial goals you have, it always helps to have an emergency fund.
An emergency fund is a sum of money put aside for a rainy day. Unlike a savings account, which might be used for retirement, a vacation or college tuition, an emergency fund has no predetermined purpose and is designed just to sit, grow, and wait for a rainy day.
An emergency fund can help you if you lose your job or have a medical crisis. We live in times of uncertainty and exist under one of the costliest healthcare systems in the world. A short stay in a hospital can bankrupt you if youâre not insured and even if you are, there are still costs to consider.
Budget to save and invest but keep some money aside to build an emergency fund and make sure youâre prepared.
Successful savings goals are built on careful planning and sacrifices. If you want a new home, you need to say no to luxury purchases, eating out, vacations, and other expenditures.Â
The average American family wastes about $1,500 a year on uneaten groceries, $3,000 on restaurants and takeout, up to $500 on gambling, and thousands more on vacations, smoking, unused subscriptions, and more.
You donât need to eliminate these expenditures entirely, just look for cheaper and more sustainable alternatives. Save on wasted groceries and dining out by going for a picnic; swap an expensive vacation abroad for a family fun staycation.Â
Once you eliminate these expenses, you can start saving towards whatever goal you have, be it a retirement fund, a car or the down payment on a house.
Achieving a Huge Net Worth
Itâs okay to scoff at this one as it does seem a little far-fetched. However, itâs a dream that countless Americans have and one that is very attainable. Of course, itâs easier if you have a talent or youâre young enough to develop one, but providing you have a good work ethic, donât spend your days procrastinating, and have the right mindset, you can build a sizeable net worth.Â
Itâs about making smart financial decisions, acquiring lots of knowledge, adopting careful investment strategies, and working endlessly. Here are some tips to help you accomplish this lofty goal:
Donât Spend Frivolously
The world of the rich and famous is awash with stories of people who adopt unbelievably frugal lifestyles despite having millions or billions in the bank. There are stories of Warren Buffet going to great lengths to use coupons to buy fast food, even though heâs one of the richest men in the world.
This kind of frugality is a little extreme, but it comes from the right place. Rappers, rock stars and sports stars like to throw money around when they have it, but theyâre the ones declaring bankruptcy and being arrested for tax debts when their careers enter a slump. Thatâs not a sustainable lifestyle for anyone, even the super-rich.
Learn how to manage money properly and accumulate as much as you can. Donât scoff at the end of saving a few dollars just because you have a few hundred; donât throw away a few hundred just because you have a few thousand.Â
Adopting this frugality will hasten your journey to becoming a millionaire. It will also allow you to manage your money effectively when you eventually make it, preventing you from being one of many sob stories of people who came into lots of money and then blew it.
Treat Life Like a Business
To become rich and successful in a way that doesnât rely on good fortune, you need to treat your life like a business. A business, for instance, is very wary of accumulating expenses and will instead try to invest additional cash into assets. These assets increase the value of the business, whereas expenses reduce it.
As an example, letâs assume that youâre 18 and have a talent for writing. A good investment would be an education in literature or creative writing, a laptop, a writing course, even a home office. An expense, however, would be a holiday, a flashy watch or lots of designer clothes. None of these things will grow your wealth and most will hinder it.
Take a look at our guide on good debt vs bad debt to learn more.
Read, Learn, Fail
Read as many books as you can on your chosen subject and on similar subjects. Youâll learn about the world, the English language, and more. All these will help to improve your reasoning, logic, and knowledge, which will help with your goals.
Learn New Skills
Knowledge doesnât just come from books and it shouldnât be limited to specific subjects. If you want to be rich and successful, you need to devote every minute of your spare time to working, learning, and acquiring new skills.Â
Learn a language, adopt a craft, research into a niche subjectâall these things can broaden your horizons and increase your earning potential.
Find a Specialty and Stick with It
While itâs good to read many different subjects and learn many different things, when it comes to actually making money, you need to stick with a single subject. The world is filled with wannabee millionaires who spend their days writing music, books, and screenplays, and their nights trying to juggle freelance careers and businesses.
Specialize in one thing, be the best you can be, and once you have the money and the success you can start venturing into other areas.
Stop Making Excuses
Generally, people who dream of becoming rich and successful will fall into one of two categories. In the first, there are those who spend their days dreaming, partying, and procrastinating. They assume that being rich is simply a case of having a great idea and then waiting for the riches to descend. In the other group, youâll find people who work every minute of the day and are always willing to take risks and make sacrifices.
If you want to accomplish great things, you need to work for it. Donât assume that all the rich and successful people you see on social media have it easy. If theyâre not working every minute of every day, thereâs a good chance they worked that much to get where they are.
Set Financial Goals for Yourself is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Nobody is perfect when it comes to their finances â even millionaires slip up sometimes.
So when you start to think youâre worse off than your parents, or your nephew, or your friends, remember that allÂ 20-somethings have made mistakes that can cost them big time.
But if youâre guilty of making some of these blunders, donât fret. You can still redeem yourself! Here are some of the worst blunders you can make, and tips to help dig you out of the hole.
Blunder No. 1: Not Getting Free Gift Cards When You Shop
What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.
But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.
And itâs perfect for those of us who donât want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers â and you can use it with any grocery receipt.
When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store!
Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?
Blunder No. 2: Not Earning Anything On Your Savings
Youâve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. Thatâs bad advice.
But maybe youâre just looking for a place to safely stash it away â but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account wonât do you much better. (Ahem, 0.05% is nothing these days.)
But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 20 times the average interest on the money in your account.
Not too shabby!
Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for âthis is totally safe.â
Blunder No. 3: Paying Too Much Interest To Credit Card Companies
If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear youâre never going to escapeâ¦
And the truth is, your credit card company doesnât really care. Itâs just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.
If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
The benefit? Youâll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), youâll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but donât worry â they wonât spam you with phone calls.
Blunder No. 4: Paying Too Much For Car Insurance
Whenâs the last time you checked car insurance prices?
You should shop your options every six months or so â it could save you some serious money. Letâs be real, though. Itâs probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesnât have to be.
A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and itâll show you your options.
Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.
Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.
Blunder No. 5: Thinking You Donât Have Enough Money To Invest
Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and youâll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common â they own another company.
But if you work for a living and donât happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.
But with an app called Stash, it doesnât have to be. It lets you be a part of something thatâs normally exclusive to the richest of the rich â on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies for as little as $1.
Thatâs right â you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1
It takes two minutes to sign up, and itâs totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) â thatâs industry talk for, âYour moneyâs safe.â2
Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*
Blunder No. 6: Assuming Life Insurance Is Expensive And Time Consuming
Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after youâre gone? How theyâll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Nowâs a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.
Youâre probably thinking: I donât have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes â and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.
Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.
If youâre under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.
1Not all stocks pay out dividends, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid each year.
2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value.
For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.
The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash.Â
Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.Â
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Most Americans haveÂ credit card debtÂ and will die withÂ credit card debt. It’s one of the most accessible types of credit there is, becoming available as soon as you’re financially independent. It’s also one of the most damaging, as tooÂ muchÂ credit card debtÂ could hurt yourÂ credit report, reduce yourÂ credit score, and cost you thousands of dollars in interest payments.
But how much debt is too much? What is the averageÂ total debtÂ for American consumers and households and when do you know if you have crossed a line?
HowÂ MuchÂ Credit Card DebtÂ is too Much?
TheÂ averageÂ credit card debtÂ in the United States is around $5,000 to $6,000 per consumer. However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture as these figures don’t differentiate rolling balances. In other words, even if you repay your balance in full every month, that balance will still be recorded as debt until it is repaid.
For many consumers, $6,000 is not “too much”. It’s a manageable sum that they can afford to clear. However, if you’re out of work, relying on government handouts and have no money to your name, that $6,000 can seem like an unscalable mountain. And that’s an important point to note, because everything is relative.
To the average American, unsecured debt of $50,000 is catastrophic. It’s the sort of debt that will cause you to lose sleep, stress every minute of the day, and panic every time your lender sends you a letter. To a multi-millionaire homeowner who runs several successful businesses, it’s nothing, an insignificant debt they could repay in full without a second thought.
One man’s pocket change is another man’s fortune, so we can’t place an actual figure on what constitutes “too much debt”. However, this is something that credit reporting agencies, creditors, and lenders already take into consideration and to get around this issue, they use something known as aÂ debt-to-income ratio.
YourÂ Debt-to-Income RatioÂ (DTI)
YourÂ DTIÂ can tell you whether you haveÂ too much debt, and this is true forÂ credit card debtÂ and all other forms of debt (student loans,Â car loans,Â personal loans, and even mortgages).Â
DTI is not used to calculate yourÂ credit scoreÂ and won’t appear on yourÂ credit report, but it is used by mortgage lenders and other big lenders to determine your creditworthiness and if you don’t past the test then you won’t get the money.
To calculate yourÂ DTI, simply calculate theÂ amount of debtÂ payments that you have and compare this to yourÂ grossÂ monthly income. For instance, let’s imagine that you make $400 inÂ credit card paymentsÂ and $600 inÂ autoÂ loanÂ payments, creating aÂ total debtÂ payment of $1,000. YourÂ grossÂ monthly incomeÂ is $4,000 and you don’t have any investments.
In this scenario, yourÂ DTIÂ would be 25%. as yourÂ monthly debt paymentsÂ ($1,000) are 25% of yourÂ monthly income. If you have a $1,000Â mortgage paymentÂ to make every month, your obligations increase and yourÂ DTIÂ hits 50%, which is when you should start being concerned.
Many lenders will not accept you if you have aÂ DTIÂ greater than 50%, because they are not convinced you will make your payments. $2,000 may seem like a lot of money to have leftover at the end of the month, but not when you factor tax, insurance, food, bills, and everyday expenses into the equation.
If yourÂ DTIÂ is below 50%, you may be safe, but it all depends on those additional expenses.
How to Tell If You’ve Borrowed Too Much
YourÂ debt-to-income ratioÂ is a good starting point to determine if you have borrowed too much, and if it’s higher than 50%, there’s a good chance you have borrowed more than you should or, at the very least, you are teetering on the edge. However, even if yourÂ DTIÂ is above 30%, which many consider the ideal limit, you may have tooÂ muchÂ credit card debt.
In such cases, you need to look for the followingÂ warning signs:
You Can’t Pay More Than the Minimum
Minimum paymentsÂ cover a substantial amount of interest and only a small amount of the actual principal. If you’re only paying the minimum, you’re barely scratching the surface and it could take years to repay the debt. If you genuinely don’t have the extra funds to pay more money, then you definitely have aÂ debt problem.
YourÂ Credit Card BalanceÂ Keeps Growing
The only thing worse than not being able to pay more than the balance is being forced to keep using that card, in which case the balance will keep growing and theÂ interest chargesÂ will keep accumulating. This is a dire situation to be in and means you have far tooÂ muchÂ credit card debt.
Your Debt is Increasing as YourÂ Take-Home PayÂ is Reducing
If yourÂ credit card billÂ seems to be going in the opposite direction as your paycheck, you could have a serious problem on your hands. You may be forced to takeÂ payday loans; in which case you’ll be stuck repaying these on top of your mountingÂ credit card interest,Â reaching a point when your debt eventually exceeds your disposable income.
You Don’t Have Savings or anÂ Emergency Fund
A savings account orÂ emergency fundÂ is your safety net. If you reach a point where you feel like you can no longer meet theÂ monthly payments, you can tap into these accounts and use the funds to bail you out. If you don’t have that option, things are looking decidedly bleaker for you.
Dangers of Having TooÂ MuchÂ Credit Card Debt
The biggest issue with excessiveÂ credit card debtÂ is that it has a habit of sticking around for years. Many debtors only make theÂ minimumÂ monthly payment, either because they can’t look at the bigger picture or simply can’t afford to pay more.Â
When this happens, a $1,000 debt could cost them over $2,000 to repay, which means they’ll have less money to their name. What’s more, thatÂ credit card debtÂ could impact theirÂ credit score, thus reducing their chances of getting low-interest credit and of acquiring mortgages andÂ auto loans.
It’s a cycle. You use a credit card to make big purchases and are hit with a high-interest rate. That interest takes your disposable income away, thus making it more likely you will need to use the card again for other big purchases.Â
All the while, yourÂ credit utilization ratioÂ (calculated by comparingÂ available creditÂ toÂ total debtÂ and used to calculate 30% of yourÂ credit score) is plummeting and your hopes of getting aÂ lowerÂ interest rateÂ diminish.
What to do if you Have tooÂ MuchÂ Credit Card Debt?
If you find yourself ticking off the boxes above and you have a sinking feeling as you realize that everything we’re describing perfectly represents your situation, then fear not, as there are a multitude of ways you can dig yourself out of this hole:
Credit counselorsÂ can help to find flaws in your budget and your planning and provide some much-needed insight into your situation. They areÂ personal financeÂ experts and have dealt with countlessÂ consumer debtÂ issues over the years, so donât assume they can only tell you what you already know and always look toÂ credit counselingÂ as a first step.
Credit card companiesÂ charge a higherÂ annual percentage rateÂ to consumers with poorÂ credit scoresÂ as they are more likely to default, which means they need those extra funds to balance their accounts. Another way they do this is to charge penalty fees, penalty rates, andÂ cash advanceÂ fees, the latter of which can be very damaging to an individual struggling withÂ credit card debt.
Cash advanceÂ fees are charged every time you withdraw money from an ATM, and the rate is often fixed at 3% with a minimum charge of $10. This means that if you withdraw as little as $20, it’ll cost you $10 in charges, as well as additional interest fees.
If theÂ cash flowÂ isn’t there, this can seem like a good option, but it will only make your situation worse and should be avoided at all costs.
UseÂ Debt Relief
Debt management, debt settlement, andÂ debt consolidationÂ can all help you to escape debt, creating aÂ repayment planÂ and clearing everything fromÂ credit card debtÂ toÂ student loanÂ debtÂ in one fell swoop. You don’t even need an excellentÂ credit scoreÂ to do this, as many debt management andÂ debt consolidationÂ companies are aimed towards bad credit borrowers.
AÂ balance transferÂ credit cardÂ moves all of your currentÂ credit card balancesÂ onto a new card, one with aÂ large credit limitÂ and a 0% introductory APR that allows you to swerveÂ interest chargesÂ for the first 6, 12, 15 or 18 months. It’s one of the best options available, assuming you have aÂ credit scoreÂ high enough to get the limit you need.
Monitor Your Situation
Whatever method you choose, it’s important to keep a close eye on your finances to ensure this never happens again. You should never be hit with an unexpected car paymentÂ orÂ mortgage payment, because you know those payments arrive every single month; you should never be surprised that you have interest to pay or that yourÂ credit scoreÂ has taken a hit because of a new account or application.Â
If you paid attention to your financial situation, you wouldn’t be surprised, you would understand where every penny goes, and as a result, you will be better equipped to deal with issues in the future.
How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Credit cards, interest rates, loans, even where you liveâthese all depend on your credit score. If you have a good credit score, youâre more likely to get better financial offers. But if you have a low or nonexistent score, the chances of getting prime financial offers are pretty slim.
If you have low or nonexistent credit, improving your credit can seem almost impossible. Because you donât qualify for the best financial offers, you canât get the opportunities you need to bump up your credit. Plus, youâll probably find yourself paying a lot more interest than youâd like.
This might feel like a no-win situation. But thereâs good newsâthere are alternatives to building credit besides credit cards. Those with poor or nonexistent credit can have the opportunity to build up their scores. Learn about good credit scores and how you can work to get your rating in that range.
What Is a Good Credit Score?
If youâre completely unfamiliar with credit, itâs time to learn where your credit score stands. Hereâs the breakdownâcredit scores range between 300 and 850. According to Experian, an average credit score for Americans is around 675.
Credit scores are ranked as bad, poor, fair, good or excellent. Experianâs numbers are based on a model called VantageScore. The VantageScore model is broken down to the following:
- Excellent: 750-850
- Good: 700-749
- Fair: 650-699
- Poor: 600-649
- Bad: 300-599
FICO scores are based on a slightly different model with a range of 300 to 850. The average FICO score in 2018 was 704. For FICO ratings, a good or excellent score is above 740. Hereâs the breakdown of FICO Score ratings:
- Exceptional: 800-850
- Very good: 740-799
- Good: 670-739
- Fair: 580-669
- Very Poor: 300-579
How to Build Low or Nonexistent Credit
It is possible to get a credit card for bad credit. But youâll find that theyâll either have no rewards, higher interest rates or both. These are worth looking into, but you might want to consider other methods before you commit to a credit card. Here are some great options for building your credit scoreâthat arenât getting a credit card.
1. Get a CreditStrong Account
In a frustrating turn of events, building or rebuilding credit often requires that you have some credit to begin with. Thatâs where credit builder loans, such as the ones provided by CreditStrong, come in handy. Credit builder loans allow you to take out a loan without a hard credit pull. The money is placed in a locked savings account to secure the loan.
Once you make the required payments, the savings account is unlocked and you gain access to the funds. In the meantime, you get up to 24 months of positive payment reports to the credit bureaus, helping to build your score.
Each loan payment you make will be reported to all three credit bureaus each month, which will help build your credit history. Because 35% of your credit score is based on payment history, making on-time payments towards a CreditStrong account can improve your score.
2. Try Experian Boost
You already know that payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Experian knows that, too. Thatâs why they launched Experian Boost earlier this year. This program allows you to include both your cell phone and utility payments in the calculation of your credit score.
Worried that youâll miss a payment or two? Missed payments will typically harm your credit score, but Experian only counts the payments youâve made on time. That means that any bill you donât pay on time wonât harm your score. While you should try to pay your bills on time, this is a life-saver if you accidentally slip up on a payment or two.
3. Improve Your Credit with Rent Track
When you have a low credit score, any payment you continually make on time helps. RentTrack is a great rent reporting tool that will track your rent payments, therefore helping you build your score. RentTrack is often used by property management companies, letting their tenants pay rent online.
How does this help your credit score? When you pay your rent, RentTrack offers to report your payments to all three major credit bureaus. If you choose to do, every payment you make will show up on your credit report. Make your payments on time, and youâll watch your credit score increase over time.
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