Credit Cards for Beginners

Credit-Card-TrapWhen I was around 22 years old, I got my first credit card. It was also my last credit card for about a ten-year period after I cancelled it. You see, like many young people (or even just financially inexperienced people, regardless of their age), I got into some trouble with my credit and it scared me off of cards for many years after.

Thankfully, I didn’t even get into real serious trouble– but it was scary, all the same. I had bought a computer and put it on my new card, not really understanding how the card worked (so I found out), and by the time my first monthly payment came along (which was a higher amount than I could afford), my parents were quickly bailing me out of my trouble and I was swearing off of credit cards forever. Now, I had thought I understood how my shiny new card worked at the time– but it turned out that I very clearly didn’t. So this post is all about the things I wish I had known about credit cards before I ever got one.
Continue reading

Renting vs Buying a Home

rent-vs-buyAccording to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, the months between April and July are when the most house sales take place. We’re right in the thick of that season. If you are thinking about buying a house, whether you’re a first-time home buyer or otherwise, there are more things to consider than just the number of bedrooms and baths you want.

I became a first-time homeowner two and a half years ago, myself. For those who haven’t experienced it, it can be a complicated process and maybe even overwhelming. Hopefully you have a good realtor and/or mortgage lender that can really help you through the process. The home-buying process is also something that requires quite a bit of foresight and preparation, which is something I find a lot of people overlook. If you’re thinking about buying a home, there are a number of things you should be thinking about. Let’s look at some of the basics.

Continue reading

Maybe It Won’t Happen to Me (But What if It Did?)

identity_theftNorthern Communities Credit Union has a brand new product that debuted at the beginning of this month on all new checking accounts: IDGuard Checking with IDProtect. If you are an NCCYou member already, you’ve probably received some mail about it because all of our existing checking accounts will also be converted to IDGuard Checking accounts as of June 1st.

With this new product built in, all checking accounts at the credit union are now going to have a $2.95 monthly fee associated with them. Anyone who has ever worked at a financial institution knows that introducing new fees to your members or customers usually goes over like a lead balloon. I’ve heard some of the feedback from the membership, myself, and when you combine the fee with what seems to be a misunderstanding about the product and its importance, the end result is a small percentage of unhappy members. In the best interests of those members (as well as the rest of our membership base), I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about identity theft and how important it can be to have some protection against it in today’s financial world. A big part of protecting your identity equates to protecting the financial life you’ve worked so hard to build for yourself.  Though I totally understand the natural aversion to fees, I really believe in the importance of this product and the value that it provides to our membership. So let’s talk a little bit about why I think the protection of IDGuard Checking is a great thing to have. Let’s talk about identity theft.
Continue reading

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Credit* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

Credit ScoreTo many, many people, credit is a mystery. Most people I counsel don’t know their credit scores. On top of that, most people I counsel don’t know what determines their score, either. I can relate. I’m not sure I knew my own credit score until I was trying to repair my financial life (if you’re a regular reader, you might be noticing a theme developing…)

Credit is a lot simpler than most people think it to be. There are some complicated moving parts in terms of the algorithm that is used to determine and weigh the contents of your report and translate that data into a numerical figure. And because there are three credit bureaus, there are different weights to different portions of the data that lead to differentials in scores. But no matter which credit bureau you are trying to get a score from, there are five main factors on your report that determine your score. If you properly manage those five factors, your score will be in good shape.
Continue reading