Let me get right down to the nitty gritty with this post because it is something that I don’t understand so I am here to encourage you to make a change. How many of you perform an annual credit check by pulling your credit report?
Oh really??? you don’t check your report annually?
Part of setting goals and being realistic about your financial situation is to face the facts. I had a friend who was looking for an apartment and the landlord wanted to run a credit check. My friend was extremely nervous because they didn’t know what their or their roommate’s credit score was…I was shocked to say the least.
When I inquired further, she stated that she knew it was bad and didn’t want to know just how bad. (Enter shocked bewildered face here) Sticking your head in the sand, because you are scared about what you will find, won’t make it go away. Often times, it actually makes it worse because you don’t deal with the issue you do find fast enough.
So….I will say to you, even if you don’t get your credit score, you should at least pull your credit report(s) and see if what is on there is accurate. Make sure there are no surprises that you didn’t know about and make a plan of action. You should know your true financial story, the good and bad history so you can plan for your financial future.
Your Annual Credit Review
At the beginning of each year I go through a complete re-evaluation of my life. Part of this process involves pulling a credit report to make sure no one has stolen my identity, nothing has been applied to my report that shouldn’t be there and just to see where I am financially. As a bonus, I also get my credit score too, but this is not necessary.
It is absolutely free to get your credit report(s) each year. Just go to www.annualcreditreport.com and follow the directions on the screen.
The reports don’t provide your score but they do provide your financial history. If you find something that isn’t right, report it so it can get resolved. If you have outstanding bills, contact the company to see if you can work out a payment plan or write-off.
You don’t want to wait until you need to make a big purchase like a home or a car because then it will be too late.
Once you have your reports, review them carefully and make sure every part of each of them is accurate. You also want to evaluate the amount of credit you have and determine if it is necessary. Determine how much debt you have and how you can begin tackling it one at a time. Determine your overall plan of action and set goals.
Now, for those who need to tackle their financial debt…I am not going to tell you which process to follow because I am not a financial guru, I will just say do what makes sense to you…even consider talking with a financial expert.
I chose to pay down my cards that I didn’t need starting with the smallest one and only kept one credit card which allowed me to gain points for gift cards etc. That was my choice, but you do what is right for your family.
Do you pay off the smallest card, close it and move to the next smallest and so on? Or do you start with the big one….do you not close cards or do you leave them open??? It depends on your family’s goals and timeline. Don’t base your plan off of someone else’s because everyone’s situation is different.
Credit Check Helps Plan Large Purchases
If you plan to make a large purchase in the next 6 mths to a year, like a house or a car, you should definitely conduct a credit check so you know where your credit stands. I’d also recommend in these instances to consider getting your credit score. Car Dealers have a specific score range where they consider you a “fat cow” and will do anything to sell you a car…even offering crazy incentives. Know where you are before entering the door…and don’t hesitate to let them know you know the specifics!
Same with home buying and other large purchases. Again, the financial websites will explain where those ranges are for various types of purchases (furniture, cars, homes, etc.).
Knowledge is Power
The point I am trying to make is to educate yourself and get your head out of the sand…lets be financially responsible together and go ahead and conduct your credit check. You can do it, I know you can!
PS – When accessing your report, make sure you are on a secure computer and/or near a printer so you can print off the reports (or save it as a PDF to your computer). Once you access a report you have to print or save it then because you won’t be able to go back. Depending on your financial history you may have to use a LOT of paper…just be prepared.
Planning Out Your Credit Check
Remember that you can do a credit check once a year from each credit reporting agency. So, you can get all three credit reports at the same time or you can spread them out over the year. Each report shows different information so it will depend on what you are planning to do for the year. If this is your first time conducting a credit check, you might consider pulling all three and then next year stretching it out to pull one credit report every four months. Do what works for you.