Today, after watching some NFL games, I suddenly became curious about bankruptcy, so I did a quick google search and the first figure I found was astonishing. According to official records, in 2013 there were over 1 million non-business bankruptcy filings. 1 million. 1,000,000. On average, for every 300 people in the US you know, 1 of them filed for personal bankruptcy last year. This figuratively blew my mind.
So the topic for my blog post today was quickly decided.
You know, life happens. Someone in your family falls critically ill and you have to borrow money to pay for medical expenses without being able to pay it back. You lose a job because of the financial crisis and can no longer pay your bills. I offer my condolences to those that have a legitimate reason to file for bankruptcy. The road ahead, credit-wise, is going to be tough. Bankruptcy stays on credit reports for up to 10 years, and this is not the kind of record you want on your credit profile. Lenders that see bankruptcy when reviewing your credit report will not be very likely to extend you credit.
So, if bankruptcy is inevitable, how can you minimize its negative impact on your credit?
After achieving a 760 FICO credit score, I thought the next milestone would be 800. Since there are multiple FICO scoring models that lenders use, an 800 FICO would almost guarantee me at least a 760 on other FICO models. My credit history length is hitting 3 years in January 2015, and my AAoA (average age of accounts) is going to reach 2 years in February 2015. Since FICO scores tend to increase at these factors’ milestones, my score is probably going to achieve the maximum in February 2015 before hitting the plateau. And since I have several credit inquiries from the auto loan applications in February 2014, in February 2015 when they drop off, I’ll have a decent shot at an 800 FICO.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me if he should pay off his auto loan he had acquired years ago. While the interest rate on the loan is very low, less than 3%, he wanted to be free of debt and felt tempted to finish making monthly payments for the loan. He makes good income and is very disciplined about expenses, so paying the remaining balance would not cause any financial burden to him, and neither would maintain the monthly payments. His main concern was the impact on his credit.
How I achieved 760 FICO credit score in just over 2 years
My credit journey has now lasted for 2 years and 10 months, and I’m in the mood for reflecting on the journey thus far. I did a lot of research about credit along the way, especially in the first year, to make sure I could achieve the most, credit-wise, in the shortest amount of time. And at this moment, I am about exactly where I wanted to be, and in just about the best position there could be for someone with 2 years and 10 months of credit history.
760 FICO credit score has long been considered a hallmark of excellent credit, and I hit it about 3 months ago.
Even though I said that a good FICO credit score takes a long time to build, there are situations where time is against you and the last few points really matter. Many mortgage lenders have FICO score thresholds for interest rates, and you may fall a few points short of the next threshold which may mean thousands of dollars’ worth of payments. You don’t have another few years to carry your FICO score to that threshold. So what to do?
Your credit score is a number that represents your creditworthiness. It is a number calculated from your credit history based on an algorithm to predict how likely it is that you will default on your debt. While your credit score is not the only thing that determines the outcome of your mortgage or auto loan application, it is one of the most crucial factors, if not the most crucial.
I wrote in “Personal Finance 201: Credit scores” about how FICO scores are almost the only credit scores that matter. Most large financial institutions such as Bank of America, American Express, Discover Financial Services, and Citigroup, rely on FICO scores for creditworthiness measurement. Knowing your FICO scores is helpful in timing your credit application; a few points difference in credit scores can translate to thousands of dollars of payment on your mortgage.
Based on the table above, the difference between the first category and second category of credit scores translates to a difference between a 4.236% and a 4.014% on 30-year mortgage loan. For a $300k mortgage loan, the difference in payments is approximately $39 per month, which comes out to be around $460 per annum, or $14,000 over the duration of 30 years.
When I started my credit journey in January 2012, all I wanted at the time was the first card, and I stayed with one card for the next 9 months until I learned that there were better cards in the market. For the next 3 months I went on an app spree and finally came to the point where I felt adding another card to my portfolio wouldn’t do me much good any more.
Apparently the number of credit cards I have is absurdly high to many people. The common perception is that more credit cards suggest more financial trouble. Knowing that a high percentage of the population tend to abuse credit and get themselves into a debt spiral, I totally understand how this perception was created.
Needless to say, if you have had credit before and found yourself often charging credit cards up to the maximum allowed and not paying the balance in full, 1 credit card is enough. You still need a credit card to maintain your credit history, but for that purpose one card can be sufficient if you do not abuse it. On the other hand, if you are able to handle credit well, never charge to the limit, and always pay statement balances in full, then you should have multiple credit cards. If you want to know the reason, please read on.
It is always a good idea to check your credit profile before making a major credit decision such as re-financing a mortgage or applying for a credit card. Sometimes there are errors on your credit report that you need to dispute, and other times there may be legitimate negative records that you may be able to remove in one way or another. Conveniently, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to one credit report from each consumer reporting agency (CRA). Continue reading How to access your annual free credit report – step by step instructions
The other day I was having lunch with co-workers. I don’t remember how this topic came across, but one of my co-workers was convinced that checking your credit would lower your credit score. I just wanted to emphasize that checking your credit is totally harmless. Why?