Friday, August 28, 2009

Fix Your Credit Score

Most people who approach us to help them write business plans and organize their businesses will at some point need to obtaining financing. If you are worrying about losing your job or dreaming of starting a new venture or perhaps looking to take advantage of the SBA loans while in the next few months while their fees are still suspended, then pay attention now! The process of fine-tuning your idea and researching and writing your business plan may take some time, but there is something that you can focus on immediately to improve your chances of getting a good rate on a loan: your credit score. Obtain your FICO score immediately. If your credit score is not as good as you would like it to be, then you need to do some work to improve it.

An excellent score is a score greater than 750. So what do you need to do to move yourself towards that number? First of all, you need to have some revolving credit lines and you need to hang on to them and manage and protect them for a long time. For credit companies, a long time means about 20 years. My oldest credit card is 14 years old and that only gets me a GOOD rating for that portion of my credit score. If you do have a few old cards that you are not using, assign a recurring purchase such as a monthly charitable deduction to those cards to keep them active. In this time of tight credit, credit companies may take away cards that are not active and that hurts your credit rating by reducing the amount of total credit that you have available.

This brings us to the second piece that you need to manage, your credit utilization rate. EXCELLENT credit scores require your credit utilization rate to be less than 20%. Less than 10% is preferrable. This means that if you have $50,000 available credit on various cards, your total amount actually charged should be less than $5000. The point to a credit card is that you make purchases and then you pay them down to $0, preferrably by the next payment due date so that you do not incur any finance charges. Credit cards are one of the most expensive ways to finance purchases with rates often between 10-33%. So if you are looking to make a purchase that you cannot afford to pay for within the next month or two, consider a different type of loan or even think of saving up ahead of time for the purchase. Stay on top of how much you have charged in a given month. If you have a credit card limit reduced or a card closed, then you will need to pay off some of the debt on your card even faster to keep your credit utilization rate in line.

The most important factor when managing your credit score is to pay on time. Mark the due dates on your calendar; check your amounts due and arrange payment on-line instead of waiting for statements to come in the mail. If paying by mail, send it 10 days ahead of the due date. Whatever your trick, just make sure that you pay on time. This is a high-impact part of your credit rating and it is the simplest thing that you can take action on.

What if you haven't been able to pay down your credit cards yet? Consider reallocating your budget, dropping or reducing one or two items and directing that money toward your credit card payment. Or consider taking on a second job until your cards are paid off and allocating all of that second income to your debt payments. If you are thinking of starting your own business, you could even hold onto that second job for a little while after your debts are paid off to build up some of the equity savings that you will need in order to obtain financing for starting your business.

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