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2021 New Year’s Resolutions For Personal Finance (And How To Achieve Them)

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Most of us have thought about or written down our New Year’s resolutions back in January of this past year… but usually have forgotten them or given up on them by mid-March. Although 2020 was a strange year (gyms were closed, many people were laid off, and a lot of us had to cancel our wedding plans) there was still room for our resolutions. No sense dwelling on the past though: 2021 is almost here! Check out this blog on new year resolutions for personal finance.

If you’re wondering how you could get started on improving your financial situation in 2021, here’s our guide to new year’s resolutions for personal finance.

New Year’s Resolutions for Personal Finance in 2021

Getting Back to Work (Or Getting a New Job)

2020 really messed things up for a lot of people. Millions of Americans were either laid off, furloughed, or found themselves temporarily out of work due to the pandemic. If you’re one of them, it might be time to take back your life and start getting back to work.

This is important, especially now, because it won’t be long until the moratorium on evictions is lifted on December 31. Worse yet, COVID-19 economic relief will end soon. If you’re currently out of work or are unsatisfied with your current job, consider adding “Get A New Job” onto your resolution list.

There are a few things you can do to get started on achieving this resolution.

  • Get your resume updated or redone. This includes your LinkedIn profile. You may be able to find free resume clinics by searching on Google, Eventbrite, or LinkedIn.
  • Set a goal to send in a certain number of applications every day. Remember: if you’re open to remote work, feel free to apply to remote postings from places outside your area!
  • Practice interviews regularly. Have someone you trust (preferably someone who has actually hired or interviewed people before) take you through a mock interview. Research questions that people are likely to ask in your field. Doing this will help increase your confidence in interviewing.

Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt can be a serious hindrance for those trying to get themselves back on their feet financially. If you’ve dealt with an extended period of unemployment, you may have racked up some of your bills on your credit card. The interest can add up significantly!

Set a resolution to pay off a certain amount of credit card debt. Depending on your income and your current balance, you might be able to set a resolution to pay off the entire thing!

Paying off your credit card debt is an important step to take for both improving your credit score AND eliminating your debt altogether. Credit card debt is typically the most expensive long-held debt that people have, and at rates as high as 24% APR, it’s easy to see why.

One way you can get started on clearing out your credit card debt is to use a technique that Dave Ramsey calls “snowballing your debt”. We wrote an article about snowballing your credit card debt: check it out!

Build Up Savings

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that savings could mean the difference between financial security and financial ruin in tough times. One great resolution for 2021 is to build up your savings to a comfortable amount.

A good barometer for savings is to have at least six month’s rent saved up for a rainy day. After all, 2020 was the longest rainy day that we’ve had to live through, and it’s possible that 2021 might be no different (especially as the economic relief stops and evictions start up again!)

We understand that you might not be able to build up your savings due to your situation. If that’s you, then you might want to look at your income and your expenses to see where you could improve.

To start building up your savings, you will want to do a few things. First, look at your expenses and see what you can eliminate. Second, look at your income and see what you could do to increase it (a higher-paying job, a 2nd job, side hustles, starting a business). Third, commit to a specific amount that you want to save every month. To make this easy, you can set up your online banking to send a certain amount of money to your savings every single month.

Improve Your Credit Score

Your credit score is an important part of your overall financial well-being. Without a good credit score, you won’t be able to get the best rates on loans or qualify for a mortgage for your dream home.

To start working on your credit score, take the following steps. First, use one of many credit score tools to get an estimate of your credit score. Then, get your free credit report from https://annualcreditreport.com (this is an official US government website).

Once you’ve done this, you can start working on steps to improve your credit score.

  1. Remove fraudulent or erroneous entries on your credit report by disputing them. We wrote an article explaining the dispute process here.
  2. Settle delinquent accounts. These will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years (7 in most cases), however your outstanding balance on these and your payment history will be reflected in your credit score.
  3. Resume or renegotiate payments on accounts that are past due.
  4. Pay down credit card debt. Credit card debt (and your credit utilization ratio) is a big part of your credit score.

We wrote several guides on how to improve your credit score: here’s one that explains what your credit score is made of!

The Credit Pros offers comprehensive credit repair and credit monitoring tools to help you improve your credit score in 2021. Learn more about credit repair here!

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2021 New Year’s Resolutions For Personal Finance (And How To Achieve Them)

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2021 New Year’s Resolutions For Personal Finance (And How To Achieve Them)

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If you’re wondering how you could get started on improving your financial situation in 2021, here’s our guide to new year’s resolutions for personal finance.

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Jason M. Kaplan, Esq.

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The Credit Pros

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Why did House Prices Go Up in 2020 During the Pandemic

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The pandemic brought with it a lot of surprises, one of them being the rise in house prices. The US economy plummeted with millions of Americans finding themselves out of work and without food. No one would have predicted that at the time when times were hard for everyone, home prices would become overheated, mortgage rates would skyrocket, and the supply for houses would not meet the demands and consumer confidence in the housing market was reducing. The housing market was booming.

Right at the beginning of the pandemic, no one was willing to buy a house or even sell one. This was because of the uncertainties of the time brought about by Covid-19. In a span of a few months, most day-to-day activities were confined to the available properties. Houses became a key asset and prices began to rise.

The US real estate market in context

The American real estate market suffered a huge blow as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. The recession saw the prices of houses fall by a big margin and the world’s largest real estate market was affected in ways no one would have imagined. This was as a result of subprime mortgages that were given in large numbers to help as many Americans as possible to become homeowners. Homeowners found themselves mortgages that were higher than the value of their houses. By 2013, the market was showing signs of recovery. From 2018 to 2019, the market began to fall slightly.

For many Americans, owning a home is very important to them as it allows them to build up their wealth, make it easy for them to access credit, and be able to save more as they no longer have to pay rent. A large percentage of homeowners rely on mortgages to acquire homes after raising the down payment from their savings or with money from their families. It was expected that the pandemic would lead to foreclosures especially since the economy took a downward spiral at the start of the pandemic. Many people also lost their source of income and were unable to keep up with their mortgage payments.

The most expensive real estate in the USA is found in San Francisco, California. San Francisco has a booming economy fueled by the presence of tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Intel, and Tesla that have their headquarters in the nearby Silicon Valley. The city also has been at the forefront in matters progressive culture which attracts more people to relocate to it. As a result of the thriving tech economy that brings billions of dollars into the city, and rising housing demand, the city is the most expensive place to buy a house in the US. On average, the price per square foot is $1,100.

Why do house prices go up in general?

The value of a house is usually expected to depend on the demand for living in a particular area, but things like recessions and pandemics are known to have an impact that can either be positive or negative. House prices go up when the supply does not meet the demand. One of the key factors that affect the supply has to do with the regulations that restrict the number of housing units that can be built. For example in a single-family zone, it’s illegal to build townhouses or apartments, or condos on any spaces designated for single units and parking minimums must be met. This forces contractors to make provisions for parking spaces even in places where it’s unwarranted.

Some local governments allow groups of people to block developments they feel will have a negative impact on the overall value of the entire estate. These local zoning regulations are making it impossible for most Americans to move to better estates due to the shortage of housing.

Why did house prices go up during the pandemic?

The price for houses is determined by the existing demand and supply dynamics. The fewer the number of houses available, the higher the prices for the available units would be. If the number of buyers is fewer, then the house prices would be lower. The prices went up because the pandemic affected both supply and demand. A lot of people were in a rush to take advantage of the falling mortgage rates which made it easier to acquire homes at a cheaper price.

As a result of the falling mortgage rates, houses were not staying on the market for long. Among those who bought the homes were first-time homebuyers or those who were buying a second home. These put a lot of pressure on the market as were not putting another home on the market as they took one out of it. In some instances, others chose to refinance their mortgages based on the lower rates instead of acquiring a new home.

Because of the pandemic, people who had plans of listing their homes did not do so and those who had listed their homes took them off the market. As a result of the social distancing rules at the height of the pandemic, not many people were willing to show their houses.

Home developers did not anticipate a surge in the demand for housing during the pandemic. A number of them had let go of their employees and had shut down. At the same time, prices for materials like lumber also added to the construction costs alongside the scarcity of skilled workers.

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Why did House Prices Go Up in 2020 During the Pandemic

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Why did House Prices Go Up in 2020 During the Pandemic

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The pandemic brought with it a lot of surprises, one of them being the rise in house prices. Read why did house prices go up in 2020 during the pandemic.

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Jason M. Kaplan, Esq.

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The Credit Pros

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Examining How Negative Items Impact Your Credit

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what items negatively impact your credit score

There are undoubtedly numerous factors that can have a negative impact on one’s credit score. If you’re concerned about what affects your credit or are attempting to maintain a healthy score, it’s beneficial to understand which items on your credit report have the greatest effect on your credit.

Below, we’ve highlighted four potential causes of the largest drop in one’s score. Additionally, we have included the average point one can lose for each item.

What Is the Impact of Bankruptcy on your FICO Score?

The higher your initial credit score, the more points you will lose for declaring bankruptcy. If you have a credit score of 680, filing for bankruptcy will result in a 130-150 point drop in your score. Bankruptcy will cost a person with a 780 credit score 220-240 points.

How Much Does Bankruptcy Impact Your Credit Score?

According to FICO, a foreclosure will reduce your credit score by an average of 85 to 105 points if your credit score is 680. If you have an excellent credit score of 780, a foreclosure will reduce it by 140 to 160 points. This means the higher your credit score, the more adversely affected it will be.

What Is the Impact of a Late Payment on Your Credit Score?

A single late payment may have a greater impact on higher credit scores. According to FICO data, a 30-day delinquency can result in a 90- to 110-point decline in a consumer’s FICO score of 780 who has never missed a payment on any credit account.

How Much Does Vehicle Repossession Impact Your Credit Score?

Repossession of your vehicle can have a catastrophic impact on your credit score. In some cases, you can see a whopping 100-point drop in your credit score. And, according to myFICO.com, late payments, collections, and public records all remain on your credit report for approximately seven years.

While the above issues are unavoidable for the majority of people, in certain circumstances, depending on your financial situation, you may have a choice. If you are drowning in debt and contemplating bankruptcy, for example, you may want to consider several factors first. If your credit score is already low as a result of late payments, a high debt-to-income ratio, and delinquent accounts, you may be able to improve it faster by filing for bankruptcy, as it will have a smaller impact on your score but will provide you with the fresh start necessary to begin rebuilding your credit.

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What is the Highest Credit Score You Can Actually Attain?

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What is the highest credit score

On commonly used credit score models, the highest credit score you can have is an 850. Few people achieve this financial feat because it takes time and consistent credit-building habits. Scores fluctuate as new information is added to your credit reports, so achieving a perfect credit score is likely to be a fleeting achievement if you do achieve it.

Credit scoring models come in a variety of flavors. FICO 8 and VantageScore 3.0 are the most commonly used credit score models, with scores ranging from 300 to 850.

What Are the Odds of Having a Perfect Credit Score?

It is more difficult than you think to achieve a perfect credit score of 850. In the United States, only 1.2 percent of FICO scores are currently at 850. That’s not a lot of people. How does that compare to the majority of Americans? Experian reports that the average FICO credit score in 2020 was 711, which is considered a good credit score.

Why a Perfect Credit Score Isn’t Necessary

Perhaps the pursuit of a perfect credit score is noble, but achieving an 850 score does little to help you when compared to other exceptional credit scores.

One of the primary reasons to improve your credit score is to save money on interest rates. However, most lenders do not offer lower interest rates for having the highest credit score on a scoring model. When determining your creditworthiness, a lender sees little difference between an 800 and an 850.

If you aim for a credit score in the 800 to 850 range, which FICO considers “exceptional,” you’ll have access to the market’s most competitive rates.

How Is Your Credit Score Determined?

FICO and VantageScores both use the same five factors to calculate your credit score, but they do so in different ways. Your credit score is comprised of five factors:

  • History of payments
  • Credit utilization
  • Credit history length
  • Credit allocation (types of accounts)
  • Accounts with new credit

Each factor has an impact on your credit score, though some have a greater impact than others. Regardless, they must all be considered and tracked.

What You Can Do to Raise Your Credit Score

There are steps you can take right now to improve your credit score. Following these steps will not only help you improve your credit score, but you will also have a better understanding of your credit and personal finances in general.

Make On-Time Payments on Your Bills

Do yourself a favor and pay your bills on time every month. Late payments can be reported to the credit bureaus for up to seven years. Setting up automatic monthly payments, either through the vendor or your bank, is an easy way to remember to pay your bills on time.

Debt Reduction

Credit Utilization accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score. Reducing your debt can help you improve your credit score over time. Make more than the minimum payment required, or make multiple payments each month, to gradually reduce your total debt.

Boost Your Credit Limits

You can also reduce your credit utilization by requesting a credit limit increase from your credit card company. Keep in mind that this may necessitate a hard credit inquiry, which may temporarily lower your credit score.

You can always ask the creditor if you can increase your limit without going through that step. Some credit card companies may be willing to work with you, particularly if your income has increased since you opened the account.

Use Credit Wisely

Maintain low credit card and other revolving credit account balances. Also, only open new credit accounts when absolutely necessary. Although your credit mix influences your credit score, adding a new credit account type is unlikely to improve your score.

Maintain Your Credit Cards

The age of your credit is important. If you don’t want to use your credit cards, don’t cancel your account, especially if you’ve had it open for several years. This could significantly reduce your credit age. Instead, keep the unused credit cards in a secure location until you need them.

Examine Your Credit Reports

Checking your credit report may not appear to be a proactive way to improve your credit score. However, according to a 2020 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report, 59 percent of consumer complaints were about credit or consumer reporting. Of the 319,300 consumer complaints, 68 percent were about incorrect information on credit reports.

Mistakes on your credit report may be lowering your credit score. Errors can be as minor as incorrect personal information or as serious as duplicate, outdated, or missing credit accounts.

AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to obtain a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. You can now access your reports weekly until April 20, 2022.

If you discover errors on your credit reports, contact the credit reporting agency right away to file a dispute. Credit reporting agencies are required to investigate and respond within 30 days, on average.

Make use of a Credit Monitoring Service.

Another way to keep track of your credit score is to use a credit monitoring service. The best credit monitoring services provide you with access to your credit score as well as other useful features such as identity theft protection and access to credit reports.

Some credit monitoring services are free to use, while others require a monthly or annual subscription fee. Most services provide a mobile app that allows you to access your score from anywhere in the world at any time.

Experian Can Help You Improve Your Credit

Experian is not only one of the three major credit bureaus, but it also provides a free service called Experian Boost that can help you improve your credit score. Experian Boost builds your credit history by utilizing other recurring bills such as utilities, phone and internet services, and Netflix. There is no guarantee that your credit score will improve, but the average FICO score increase for those who did see a credit score improvement was 12 points. The process takes less than 10 minutes, which is a reasonable time investment for a significant credit score boost.

Credit scores are important in financial health, and a higher score opens up more options, particularly when making large financial commitments such as purchasing a home or taking out a loan. Aiming for a perfect credit score is a lofty but attainable goal. Instead, work to improve your score over time so that you can capitalize on it.

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