No one likes to feel embarrassed, especially as adults, when we’re expected to know all the answers. That’s why I’m answering 10 money questions too embarrassing to ask, so you don’t have to.
What is a Credit Score?
A credit score is a number that summarizes your finances, past purchases and how well you handle your money. It essentially tells someone how likely, based on your past, you’ll be able to repay a loan.
Your credit score is a number between 300 to 850 and is vital to major purchases such as cars and homes; it’s also important for getting new credit cards and loans. The higher your credit score, the better your finances appear and the more likely you are to get that car, house or loan.
Because your credit score makes such a big impact on your finances, you want to make sure you’re keeping it as high as possible. It is lowered by negative activities such as paying credits cards late and taking out loans you can’t pay off on time. Luckily, you can work on having a high credit score by paying all your bills on time, opening up credit cards strategically and only purchasing things you can afford.
To see what your current credit score is and how much it can be improved, you can check your credit score online for free here.
(There is a weird rule that if you check your credit score too much, it can negatively affect it, so only check it once a year or when truly necessary.)
(CC-License: CC BY, Photo: Markus Spiske / raumrot.com)
If you have bad credit score due to circumstances beyond your control, what can you do?
Unfortunately, your credit score can be ruined by forces beyond your control, such as co-signing a lease that went wrong or going through a divorce. For example, if you’re experiencing the latter, a divorce, make sure to have any joint accounts closed, that your information is up-to-date and that you’re consulting with legal help when you don’t know all the answers. Meet with a finance professional who can guide you to the best track.
What is a 401K?
A 401k is a type of retirement fund. It’s typically one hosted by the company that employs you. You let your employer know how much money you’d like to set aside each month (say 5% of each paycheck), then they often match that amount up to a certain percent. You often have the option of investing in stocks and bonds; this way, your money is making money over time.
A great reason to open a 401k is that the money you put into it is tax free and reduces your taxable income. Instead of paying money on taxes for all of that money now; put it away and enjoy it after you turn 65, perhaps taking Italian classes or enjoying a world cruise, .
How Much Do I Need to Save for Retirement?
This brings us to the next question: how much money should you save to retire? Here are the main factors to consider:
- What age are you when you start saving? The younger you are, the less you need to put away per year.
- What type of life do you envision after retiring? If there’s a lot you want to do now and plan to live by humble means later on, great. If you want to travel the world and cheers to no longer working with expensive cocktails, you better save up more.
- A solid rule is to save 20% of your income per year. This will ensure you have a large safety net for retirement.
- Use a tool that can give you concrete numbers, such as CNN Money’s retirement calculator.
How many credit cards should I have?
When deciding how many credit cards you should have, think about these factors:
- Do you know your current credit score? If not, calculate it using this to check your credit score online for free here. If you already have a lot of credit cards, getting more could only hurt it. If you have only one or two, getting another could help.
- How responsible are you when it comes to paying bills on time? Do not get another credit card if paying the current ones on time is already a struggle. A few can really boost your credit, but too many can wreck your credit score.
If you already have a lot of credit card debt, what can you do?
Here are great ways to start to pay off your credit card debt:
- Try negotiating a repayment plan.
- You can use free online tools to help manage credit card debt like this credit card payoff calculator. Such tools let you find a payment plan that works with your current schedule and income.
- Does the amount just seem too much? If so, reach out to a bankruptcy attorney or a finance agency who specializes in the field. Tell them your situation and see what solutions they offer.
Is there such a thing as ‘Good Debt’?
There seems to be nothing positive about debt, yet there’s something called “good debt”. Good debt is usually debt you planned to have and see as being able to pay off in the future. For example, when you take out student loans, you expect that money will invest in a college degree that lands you in a good job. That is good debt, not like a credit card bill for 3 months of overspending on Amazon.