Deciphering the factors that contribute to a credit score and the ways to improve that magic financial number might seem intimidating, but achieving the great credit score of your dreams is a somewhat simple matter of discipline and attention.

Whether your score is poor or on the verge of great, you know you want to improve it because you've already checked it. Understanding what constitutes your score means more than knowing the number, though. There are three major bureaus that report your credit: Equifax (yes, that Equifax), Experian and TransUnion. It's smart to check all three reports annually for errors or inaccurate information.

A credit score is based on payment history, credit utilization, length of history, credit mix and the amount of inquiries on your accounts.

Some of these factors are worth more than others and the two highest-weighted factors are your payment history and credit utilization. To optimize your score, you'll need to manage all of these factors carefully. Here are the best tips to improve your credit score.


Pay all bills in full and on time

This includes credit cards, utilities, rent and loan payments. Any balance that carries over to the next month or any late penalties incurred will hurt your score and quickly undo the work you've begun. Paying off debt contributes 30% to a FICO Score while your payment history contributes 35%. If you've let a payment go by accidentally, you can ask for the company to forgive the mistake, convince them not to report it to the credit agencies, or, at least, ask them to waive any late fees. A person with a history of on-time payments will have more bargaining power to try to earn this forgiveness but it's always worth a shot.

To avoid late payments, see if the credit or utility company offers payment reminders and turn them on if they do. And, for an extra level of protection, set up automatic payments from a checking or savings account. Be sure that the company will pull the full balance that's due and not just the minimum payment amount. Late payments will remain on your reports for years but older mistakes count for less and less toward your score as they age. Every positive step builds good credit and, simultaneously, reduces the effects of the older, bad credit. The faster you take charge of your future credit, the faster you'll earn forgiveness for the past.

Credit utilization

Credit utilization is the amount of your credit limit you spend each month. If a credit card offers a $3,000 limit and you spend half of it in one month, then your credit utilization for that month is 50%. The magic number according to most experts is 30%; keeping your usage under 30% (optimally, around 10%) will raise your score more quickly, as it evidences responsible borrowing.

The most obvious way to lower your utilization is to reduce overall spending but this might not be immediately possible. Paying off some of your balance before it's due will show the credit company a lower utilization when they close the statement. Opening another line of credit can increase your credit limit but do not open several lines in a short amount of time. This will sound like a warning alarm to the reporting agencies.

It's worth mentioning that closing old credit cards might not actually benefit you, though it sounds like the logical thing to do if you've stopped using a card. Some reports take into account the age of your oldest open account, and closing those unused cards might shorten your credit history and negatively affect your score.

Hard inquiries

Any time a company requests access to your credit report—such as for a car loan or mortgage—it is called a hard inquiry. Whether or not you are approved by the company, the hard inquiry affects your credit score. Several hard inquiries in rapid succession will negatively impact your credit. However, checking your own score has no effect.

Recovering from bad credit

All of the above steps are important long-term choices for healthy credit. But you might be trying to recover quickly from a major financial loss, like a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy, which could drop your score by up to 150 points. Unfortunately, these long-term methods are still the best ways to heal even the worst credit. One slightly more immediate action is to apply for a secured credit card. With a cash deposit—often $200—some banks will offer an equal or greater line of credit with which you can begin, carefully, to grow that magic number.

The keys in every case are discipline, diligence and patience. Improvement will happen gradually but it will happen. The more care you put into your financial decisions, the more quickly you'll boost and secure your credit health.

Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture reviews for Popdust and travel writing for The Journiest. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.



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When you are newly hitched and learning how to combine your essential legal and financial information as well as your accounts, it can be confusing.

Many people live together before getting married and have begun the process of combining accounts and sharing responsibilities. However, some people wait to do this only after marriage, and others wait until they're married to live together. Whichever path you've chosen, it's still crucial to know a few tips to manage money together as newlyweds to determine where you should begin and how you can remain on the same page.

Discussing Money Motivations

As we begin to share money with our significant other, we soon find out what one person may rank as a priority regarding money and the other may not. As such, sitting down and discussing money motivations is important. Two people who cannot agree on how to handle money may cause serious issues. This should include:

  • How to deal with money following payday. Is a percentage put into savings? Is that the day to splurge on dinner, drinks, and more?
  • The frequency and size of payments made to debts. Some people like to pay minimums, whereas others pay in full or make double payments.
  • What do you each consider money well spent? Is it a new 70" 4K television? Is it an investment? Is it paying as much debt off as possible?
  • How do you go about consulting each other before making purchases over a certain amount?

Establishing Financial Goals

After you evaluate the motivations behind your money and how it should be spent, you'll need to spend time together hashing out financial goals. As newlyweds, there are certain things on your list that you're going to want to save for. How do you go about that? How much of each paycheck will you dedicate to a particular fund?

Some things in the future worth making a financial plan for include savings and paying down debts. This is the time to be honest about your current financial standing. If you're looking to buy a home, you'll want to assemble a first-time homeowner financial checklist to begin to develop topics of conversation. Some of the things to consider setting goals for are:

  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Future children
  • A house
  • Medical bills
  • Delinquencies on credit reports
  • Vacation and rainy-day funds
  • Emergency funds

Budgeting Together

The more honest and open you can be with each other about the money you have and now the debts you share, the better. Implementing plans for the best ways to have the things that you both desire while still taking care of existing demands is important. These can be uncomfortable things to talk about; however, these conversations are necessary.

Following these tips to manage money together as newlyweds will allow you to have a starting point for conversations that can be tough to start. The sooner you and your partner get on the same page with finances and the responsibilities that come with them, the easier the transition will be and the sooner you'll find success.

It's the dream: money you can count on to keep rolling in, even while you sleep.

Passive income isn't entirely passive, of course. You'll put in work up-front to get the profits rolling, so don't relax in your recliner just yet. But with so many potential sources of passive income available to you, picking one or several will mean that the day you can finally kick back will draw steadily closer.

Rental Properties

Real estate is a tried-and-true wealth builder for a simple reason: people will always need somewhere to live. Research the market in a growing community until you know a good deal when you see it. You can maximize rent by fixing up a deteriorating property or upgrading a mediocre one. The key is to hire a property manager to do all the day-to-day landlord duties for you—and you'll need a good one. Smart investors put their profits in another property and repeat the process until they have a diverse portfolio.

A YouTube Channel

You can start a blog if you're more comfortable hiding behind a computer, but consumers are more likely to prefer video content. Post a series of “how-to" videos to answer questions about whatever you're an expert in.

You can put up any content you want, but if you don't want to commit to regularly updating it, focus on “evergreen" topics that will draw clicks for eternity. Ads will create your income, especially if your channel grows in popularity. Better yet, sign up for affiliate marketing. If you recommend a product and provide a link to buy it, you'll get a small percentage of those transactions.

Auto Advertising

If you don't mind vinyl-wrapping your car with an ad for a company, you can get cash just driving around and running your errands. Make sure you contact a reputable company that doesn't ask for any money from you; if they're the real deal, they'll evaluate your car, your driving habits, your area, and more. Bonus: the brighter the ad, the easier it'll be to find your vehicle in the parking lot.

Digital Products

What's something that people will pay for but doesn't require shipping on your part? Finding that item is what can supplement your income indefinitely. Write an e-book, charge for your cross-stitching patterns, design prints that people can digitally download, invent an app, record a “masterclass," or whatever else you want. Every time someone new discovers it, the cash register rings. With a little more effort, this is a potential source of passive income for you that can continue to grow. Once you build up a customer base, they might want more products. The good part is that it's up to you whether you wish to give it to them.

Airbnb is a great option while traveling, but you should protect yourself from damage charges from unscrupulous hosts.

Airbnb offers an affordable option for people looking to be more comfortable as they travel.

However, there are downsides to staying in a host's home rather than a hotel. Whereas hotels are designed for constant streams of visitors and often have furniture built to last, at an Airbnb, you may be staying on old or cheap furniture that a host is using in order to maximize their profits.

And while most reputable hotels will have regular room inspections from staff to check for any wear and tear, Airbnb damage disputes are oftentimes he said, she said situations. If you are in an Airbnb and something breaks, there are a few steps you should take in order to ensure that you are not on the hook for damages out of your control.

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