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?
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?
I personally don’t carry a credit card balance unless my credit card is offering a 0% APR promotion because one of my goals in the credit quest is to build a perfect credit history without paying a penny in interest. But from my observation, I’m not the norm. Many people I know carry balances from time to time, and when they come to me for advice, I always tell them to at least pay the minimum to avoid late payment fees, and over time I have helped them save quite a bit of money from that.
I have two principles in credit card management, one “hard” and one “soft.” The hard principle, never to be violated under any circumstances, is:
“Never miss a payment”
Failing to follow the hard principle would damage my credit profile to an unimaginable extent and therefore is not allowed to happen.
The soft principle goes:
“Avoid carrying a balance except under special circumstances”
The soft principle, serves the purpose of avoiding wasting money on interest payments. From time to time there will be a credit card promotion with an introductory 0% period offer, and in such a situation carrying a balance until the end of the promotional period doesn’t do any harm unless your balance is so high that it implies bankruptcy risk.
Anyhoo, you should never have to pay credit card interest, for the simple reason that it is too expensive. The lowest credit card annual interest rate, or APR (Annual Percentage Rate), that I have seen, is 9.99%. The highest I’ve seen? Around 30%. And worse yet, these rates do not reflect the actual interest you get charged. This blog post explains why, by showing you the math used to compute the APR.
If you have been following financial news, you may realize what the most prominent story on bonds has been since the financial crisis of 2008: historically low interest long-term Treasury bond yields. You may also know that this was caused by investors unwilling to take risk with stock investments and feeling more comfortable putting their money in bonds, which are a lot safer. Common knowledge states that bonds are basically a guaranteed returns investment vehicle. Continue reading Why bonds may not be safe