Tag Archives: equifax personal finance blog

Five Steps to Check Your Credit Situation Mid-Year

Three generations of a family on  holiday walking along the dock of a luxury marina.It can be easy to lose sight of your New Years financial resolutions by mid–year. When summer comes and all you want to do is relax, many people relax with their finances as well. If you’ve gotten off track or are not even sure where you stand, the finance experts at Equifax recommend that you do a mid-year evaluation of your credit situation.

To get back on track with your financial goals and eliminate wasteful spending, consider taking the following steps recommended in the recent Equifax blog, “Five Mid-year Credit Moves to Make Right Now.”

  • Step One: Check your credit report.

o   When you evaluate your credit report, check how much debt you have outstanding on your credit cards versus the total of your credit limits. This is what finance experts refer to as the credit utilization rate, or credit utilization ratio. It’s ideal that your credit utilization rate be between 30 and 35 percent or less, as this indicates you have not over-borrowed on your credit cards.

  • Step Two: Look for errors and address any issues with your report.

o   Once you get your credit reports, look over them carefully to make sure there is no inaccurate information or that you are not the victim of identity fraud. If you discover any errors, you can dispute them for free. If you need assistance to discover any errors, a credit monitoring service can help.

  • Step Three: Set up reminders to pay bills on time.

o   Once you evaluate your credit report, you can now focus on your credit score. Your payment history is the most heavily weighted factor in determining your credit score (typically about 35 percent), so paying all of your bills on time is crucial.  For some bills, you may be able to set up automatic payments. If you don’t like the idea of that, you can set up a reminder on your phone or computer calendar to remind you to pay your bills.

  • Step Four: Pay down debt.

o   Most debt can impact your credit score, both from a credit utilization and a credit utilization ratio perspective. And of course, debt typically costs money—you pay interest as long as the debt isn’t paid off at the end of the billing cycle. Many experts advise paying down debt with the highest interest rate first, as this typically saves the most money in the long run.

  • Step Five: Assess your accounts.

o   Lenders can positively impact your credit score, and having several active and current credit accounts shows them that you’re a responsible borrower. And if you’ve had a long-standing account, it can help demonstrate a longer credit history, which is why it is not a good idea to close every account once you have paid off your credit card balance.

Taking a break from the financial stress of everyday life can help you unwind, but don’t relax your vigilance regarding your credit. Making these five moves will help you stay on top of your credit situation.

Loans for Home Renovation: Do or Don’t?

Hammer on Stack of MoneyMany homeowners that need to complete a home renovation debate taking out a loan or using their savings to cover renovation expenses. Two popular options for those not wanting to tap into their savings are a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

What’s the difference? A home equity loan is similar to a mortgage in that you are given a specific amount that you must repay over time in fixed monthly payments. A HELOC is a line of credit that you can use when needed as long as you don’t exceed the credit limit. There are monthly payments with a HELOC, but you may be able to make interest-only payments for a period of time.

A home equity loan or HELOC can be a good route for some people, but first you should ask yourself the following five questions that the finance experts at Equifax discuss in the recent article, “Paying for Home Renovations: Tapping Home Equity vs. Using Savings,” to find out if you are in a situation where taking out a home equity loan or a HELOC would be a smart financial move for you.

  1. How much debt do you already have?

If you already have a great deal of debt, especially debt that has a high interest rate, you should evaluate whether you can take on any additional debt at this time.

  1. How much equity do you have in your home?

If you have less than 20 percent equity in your home, it might not be a great idea to borrow against it for three reasons. First, if you are paying private mortgage insurance, it is good to eliminate that payment first. Second, many lenders want you to have some stake in your home and will not let you borrow if you have less than 20 percent equity in your home. Third, you could potentially lose a significant amount of money if you put yourself in a financially unstable situation and your home value drops.

  1. How much are you thinking about borrowing?

Getting a home equity loan is similar to getting a mortgage and involves similar start-up costs such as an appraisal, an application fee and closing costs. Be prepared to pay these costs and also be aware that home equity loans can carry adjustable rates and your monthly payments could go up over time.

  1. How much cash do you have?

If you don’t have enough in savings and do have a significant amount of equity in your home, a loan or HELOC would be a good option for you, especially since interest rates are so low right now. If you have a lot of cash in savings, it is probably not worth borrowing money that you will have to pay back with interest, unless the home renovation would eat up all of your savings and leave you with no emergency funds.

  1. How long do you plan to stay in the house?

Keep in mind, if you are doing a home renovation with the intent of selling before you have a chance to pay off the loan, you should consider having another means of paying off the loan. This is because when you choose to tap into your home equity, you are using your home as collateral, and if you sell your home, that collateral disappears.

In the end, whether you decide to use savings or borrow money with an equity loan or HELOC for your home renovation, keep your return on investment in mind and make sure the investment is worthwhile.

For more tips, visit the Equifax Personal Finance blog.



Avoid the Ghost of Taxes Past by Filing on Time

There are many benefits to filing taxes on time

There are many benefits to filing taxes on time

While we all want to keep as much of our own money as we can, deferring

taxes is a costly mistake. The cost of deferring payment is explored by Eva Rosenberg on the Equifax Personal Finance Blog in the article, “

Filing Taxes: Pitfalls of Procrastination.” The article is half tax tips and half horror stories of people suffering avoidable penalties when they could have easily prepared and scheduled time with a professional in the nine months of tax return filing season.

There is certainly a danger in the false sense of security you can get from always thinking you can get an extension. As time passes along, it is harder to recover your numbers from the previous year and often things get misplaced and then the extended filing date, usually October 15, sneaks up on you. If you miss that date, the penalties start adding up. One of the examples has a lazy tax filer faced with late-filing penalties as high as 25 percent for not getting around to digging up a single piece of information.

If you are paid on W-2s where the correct amount of withholding is removed, you should still be sure to file. Not only will this make sure you aren’t sent a bill by the

IRS, but by filing you also ensure you get your full refund. This is especially important to keep in mind because the IRS keeps your refund if you allow it to sit unclaimed for three years.

There are other horror stories about being lazy when it comes to taxes and how to avoid them in the full article on the

Equifax Personal Finance Blog. The blog also has tons of useful information when it comes to your money, from taxes to insurance and beyond.

A First Time Guide to Your Credit Report

Equifax is happy to share with you what everything in your credit report means

Equifax is happy to share with you what everything in your credit report means

If you are new to borrowing or are trying to repair your credit, it is important to know your way around your annual

credit report. Diane Moogalian has some great information about how to decipher your credit report in her Equifax Finance Blog article, “

Building a Strong Credit Report from the Beginning.”

Regardless of which credit agency’s report you are looking over for the first time, the same categories are present in the reports of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These categories are identifying information, trade lines, inquiry information and public record information. Continue reading

Do You Need Earthquake Insurance?

earthquake insurance

earthquake insurance

While it may not be something you think about on a regular basis, earthquake insurance is something to consider. With the recent quake on the east coast and other natural disasters, this oft-overlooked insurance policy may be a nice luxury to have (better safe than sorry, after all.) A recent post on the

Equifax Personal Finance Blog explains some of the peculiarities of earthquake and flood insurance and encourages homeowners to review their policies.

In “

Let’s Stop Denying It: We Need to Buy Earthquake and Flood Insurance—Now!” guest blogger Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Institute looks at earthquake and flood insurance in comparison to normal homeowners insurance. Even though her article was written after last year’s tsunami in Japan, it is still timely and informative.

Although you’ll want to read the full article for complete details and relevant links, keep in mind that earthquake and flood insurance policies are structured differently than regular homeowners insurance policies. For example, deductibles on earthquake policies are usually a percentage of the structure’s replacement value rather than a set amount. The deductibles can range anywhere from two to 20 percent.

Flood insurance is handled by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Even though the government is involved, this type of insurance should be available through your normal provider. NFIP coverage sets a limit of $250,000 for property and $100,000 for contents. If you don’t believe this is enough, especially if you live in a flood-prone area, you can also purchase additional private insurance for extra protection.

Have the recent natural disasters in the United States caused you to consider flood or earthquake insurance? Did you already have policies in place? Read Worters’ full article on the

Equifax Personal Finance Blog, then report back here to let us know.