Tag Archives: militaryfamiliespersonalfinance

Clip and Save: Stretching Your Grocery Dollar

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Regardless of the reason, whether it’s to save a few extra dollars or the thrill of scoring a good deal, couponing has become very popular. Have you seen TLC’s popular television show, Extreme Couponing, highlighting families who save hundreds of dollars at the register by using coupons? Do you ever wonder how someone can actually save that much at the grocery? Although most of us will not be able to reduce our grocery bill to a few dollars, there are a few simple couponing strategies that you can use to stretch your military family’s grocery dollars.

The first step before even setting foot in the store is to get organized. Planning ahead for meal time can help you save both time and money, whether you use store ads or coupons. At the beginning of every week, spend a few minutes planning the meals you will need for the week. It is often helpful to look at a calendar, keeping in mind which nights your daughter has softball practice or your son has guitar lessons.

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

Planning ahead will prevent the last-minute panic of trying to figure out what to serve for dinner or turning to fast food from the drive-through. As you prepare your list, don’t just think about the evening meal, but also think of all meals that you will be serving for the week, including breakfast and lunches for both school and work. Also, consider meal options that include items you already have at home, especially perishables such as meat and dairy products.

Once you have your meal plan for the week, search your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, making a list of the items to pick up at the store to complete your menu. You will also want to add any kitchen staples that you may need. After your list is complete, search your local stores’ weekly sale ads and coupons to find the best price. Sale ads, as well as coupons, can normally be found online, at the store, or in the Sunday edition of your local newspaper. You may also request coupons directly from manufacturers, although there is no guarantee that they will respond. Be flexible with your meal plan; if you see a great bargain on an item, such as beef or chicken, consider rearranging your list to incorporate it into your menu. However, once you are at the store, stick to your list. A last-minute change at the store could leave you without key ingredients to complete your meal plan.

As you review weekly sales ads and coupons, keep in mind that if you are able to purchase the item for 50% off or more it is a good deal. For example, let’s assume macaroni and cheese normally costs $1.20 per box, but is on sale this week for $1.00, and you have a $0.50 coupon. If the store doubles coupons, your mac and cheese will be free, but if not, it would only cost you $0.50, a savings of nearly 60%. This is an item that you would definitely want to grab, but only if your family likes mac and cheese. Do not buy a bargain, just because it is a bargain. If no one at home likes a particular food item, but it is a good deal, either pass on it at the store or purchase it and donate it to a local food bank or charity. Also, you will need to become an informed consumer to know whether a sale is really a good deal. Maintaining a spending diary is a good financial practice to monitor monthly expenses. A detailed grocery-spending diary will help you quickly recognize a bargain price. Track the prices you typically pay for common household goods. You can reference your grocery diary to see whether an advertised sale price is really a good deal and if you should stock up on it or wait for a better price.

Scanning weekly grocery ads and coupon circulars can seem like a time-consuming task for a busy person. Consider using internet search engines, social media, and both store and coupon websites to make the process faster. There are several websites that can help you locate the best deals and coupons quickly. Be cautious of fee-based websites; there are several reputable free sites available. Talk with friends and other couponers to find the best online resources. If you are considering a fee-based site, make certain you understand the fees and services provided. Be cautious about coupons on the Internet. Coupons can be counterfeited the same as money, and it is illegal to use fake coupons. Make certain that you are printing coupons from a legitimate source, such as www.redplum.com or www.smartsource.com. You might recognize the names RedPlum and SmartSource from the coupon circulars that are normally in the Sunday paper. These are examples only and there are many other sources of Internet coupons.

Learning to coupon takes time and patience. Try not to become overwhelmed in the beginning. Remember, small savings are still savings, and they provide you with additional

Contact Jennifer at  jhunter@uky.edu

Resisting the Urge to Splurge

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Marketing has made it both appealing and easy to want “more bang for our buck,” such as when we size up a meal at a fast-food restaurant or upgrade to a premium cell phone or cable package. Often, it can be very tempting to receive “more” for what appears to be a relatively small amount of additional cost. The extras, however, can definitely add up!

Due to fast-paced lifestyles, many families are tempted to eat fast-food meals, which can be both unhealthy and expensive. We all make decisions every day about the type and quantity of food we eat. The average meal deal at fast-food restaurants costs between $5.00 and $7.00. If a family of four eats out three days per week, the family will spend nearly $4,000/year on fast food!

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

Food choice is just one example of how families are tempted to spend more in an effort to get more for their money. Cable television providers and cell phone carriers are examples of companies that commonly “bundle” services into larger, more expensive plans.

Like many of our household bills, communication services, such as cable, phone, and Internet, should be reviewed on an annual basis. Compare your use of the services to the price you are paying. Consumers often do not fully utilize their contracted services.

  • Do you pay extra for an unlimited data plan, but only use a small amount of data every month?
  • Do you send a large number of texts every month, but only have a small number of monthly texts included in your plan?
  • Do you have premium movie packages on your cable or satellite plan but find that you do not watch any movies?
  • Do you have a land line telephone with unlimited long distance and have a cell phone with unlimited minutes?

Bundling packages can be beneficial, if you need and use all of the services provided in the package. Although additional features and options can be tempting, review the terms and conditions of bundle offers. Evaluate each component of the bundle-deal separately. For example, if you are considering a home cable, internet, and land line phone bundle, price each option separately for the exact service or product that would best fit your needs.

Reviewing each option individually allows you the opportunity to determine the service that best fits your lifestyle and budget.

  • If you have an unlimited cell phone plan, you may decide to completely cut your land line or only need a very basic land line.
  • If you like to watch movies, compare the price of adding on premium movie channels to online movie streaming services.
  • Higher internet speeds are often very tempting, but do your research. How do you use the internet? If you are surfing the web and sending emails, a lower bandwidth may be sufficient. If you stream high volumes of content or online gaming, you may want a higher bandwidth.
  • If you choose to bundle services with promotional pricing, be aware of long-term costs of the services and how to change your plan when the promotional period ends. Be certain to mark the date in your calendar so that you remember to take action.

Families have many options for household expenses such as cable, satellite, phone, and Internet services. Shopping for different providers can help you find the service that best fits the needs of your family. If you find a plan with a different carrier at a lower cost, check with your current provider before switching. Many providers will have customer retention departments. Customer service agents will often work with you to offer a better plan to retain current customers.

Contact Jennifer at jhunter@uky.edu

Plug Your Spending Leaks

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

You may have noticed that your family may have developed poor spending habits. Your shopping habits are learned behaviors, just like any other good or bad habit. A bad habit can be broken by becoming aware of the choices that have most likely become part of your spending routine. Are you tempted to spend when you have a few extra dollars in your pocket? It is important to realize that stores arrange goods and merchandise to tempt you into making a purchase; stores use sales signs, displays, and salespeople to attract your attention to specific items. The next time you are at the store, try to identify the stimulus that attracts your attention and encourages you to buy, then try to avoid these areas in the future.

Other tips for breaking bad spending habits include: limiting the number of trips you make to the store (the less often you shop the less likely you will be tempted to make unnecessary purchases); make certain you have a plan prior to entering the store, know what you want and stick to your shopping list; if you see an item that you would really like to purchase, identify any less expensive alternatives first.

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

To gain spending self-control, identify your spending leaks. Spending leaks are those purchases that provide some type of immediate gratification but do not help you reach your financial goals. Identifying short and long-term financial goals can help you plug your spending leaks. Before making your next purchase, take a minute to ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Is this the best use of my money?
  • Am I buying this to satisfy an immediate need?
  • Will buying this keep me from reaching my financial goals?

Sometimes you may recognize the purchase is important; however, you may also realize that you are just being tempted by a sale or the latest gadget, and decide to pass on the purchase.

Are you an impulse shopper? Try to never purchase expensive items on impulse. Instead, consider each expensive purchase for at least 24 hours. Acting on this principle will help you have far fewer regrets about impulse purchases, which can put a dent in your finances. One way to establish a savings discipline is save a matching amount in a cookie jar each time you splurge on an item, such as designer coffee. If you can’t afford to save the matching amount, you can’t afford the $4 mocha low-fat latte.

If you are often tempted at the store, make a list before you begin shopping. Typically, people who shop with a list, and stick to it, spend much less money than those who decide what to buy once they get to the store. Pre-planning can save hundreds of dollars per year.

 

Contact Jennifer at jhunter@uky.edu

30 Days of Saving Media Kit

The MFLN Personal Finance Team will be launching a 30-day savings challenge in July. The 30 Days of Saving encourages participants to make small savings deposits each day, July 1-30 to save $100 in just 30 days.

30DaysofSavingsGraphic

To participate in the challenge, simply share your savings goal, success or motivators on Facebook and Twitter with #MFLNPF. We’d love to hear how you’re planning to use your $100!

Interested in partnering with us to share the savings message? Download the materials from our media kit here:

Naive Realism: Thinking About How We & Our Clients Think We Know What We Know

Graphic for Practitioners CornerBy Jerry Buchko,  MA, AFC®

Another insight from the social sciences and the study of cognition and decision-making is one that I’ve found especially interesting, because it seems so ingrained in our experience that it’s hardly noticed at all. It’s called naive realism.


Naive realism is a strong general bias we seem to have in our day to day interpretation of the world. Specifically, we commonly behave in ways that suggest we believe that we see the world objectively, and, further, that people who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased. This tendency seems to be founded on three fundamental, interrelated assumptions or beliefs about our experience of the world around us:

  • The belief that we see the world objectively and without bias.
  • The belief (and expectation) that others will come to the same conclusions and views as we do, so long as they are exposed to the same information and interpret it in a rational manner.
  • The belief (or assumption) that those who do not come to the same conclusions and do not share our same views must be ignorant, irrational, or biased.

Like most studies of cognitive biases, there’s a body of serious study and experimentation that methodically shows how these commonly held and comforting beliefs don’t hold up under closer scrutiny.

So what has this meant for me as a practitioner? Basically it drew my attention to how easy it is to fall into this way of thinking, even now when I’ve learned about all of this and should know better. It’s made me realize how seldom I have all the relevant facts, that much of what I can get ahold of is filtered through the lens of my own personal set of biases, and that others can filter the same limited set of facts and come to very different conclusions.

Understanding this has also reinforced the importance of dialogue and assessment throughout my time working with my clients. My knowledge of the subject matter of personal finance doesn’t give me awareness of the circumstances of my clients, and it doesn’t give me awareness of their subjective views and understanding of themselves and their circumstances. And both are important for me to understand clearly in order to be more effective supporting my clients.

So what do you think about this? Is naive realism something you’ve experienced or seen at work in your clients? Are there other ways in which this insight that naive realism offers is relevant in our work?

 

Further Study:


Wikipedia (2015). Naïve realism (psychology). Retrieved 10 December 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na%C3%AFve_realism_(psychology)

Youarenotsosmart.com (2015). YANSS 062 – Why you often believe people who see the world differently are wrong. Retrieved 10 December 2015, from http://youarenotsosmart.com/2015/11/09/yanss-062-why-you-often-believe-people-who-see-the-world-differently-are-wrong/

How Do We Continue to Grow and Develop as Professionals?

Graphic for Practitioners Corner By Jerry Buchko, MA, AFC®

As a profession, it seems we spend a lot of time talking and writing about the technical fundamentals of personal finance how-tos, like the mechanics of budgeting, debt management, credit, etc. And why not? These are important topics that help lay the foundation for financial literacy and efficacy, and there always seems to be a steady stream of people who are new to the topic and benefit from learning it. And there are even new and interesting twists in these areas over time, like new budgeting tools, as well as changes in the credit, lending and debt landscape, etc.  

The thing is, after a few years of practice, I think most of us usually master these technical fundamentals and they can, on their own, lose much of their ability to hold our fascination and to continue serving as rich ground for nurturing further professional growth.

Photo by Alan Levine
Photo by Alan Levine

In my own case, much of my interest these days has shifted towards more closely exploring and studying the “soft” side of our craft. And for me, what’s ultimately kept these foundational topics and tools interesting and meaningful has been about how clients come to learn them, and with a bit of goal setting and the application of some basic math, can use them to transform their financial lives.

And the benefit in exploring these living aspects of the work, like cognition, learning, decision making, and behavior isn’t just in expanding my understanding of how my clients learn and make sense of the world; I expand my understanding of these aspects of myself as a practitioner at the very same time. Continuing to learn about learning and about how I also make sense of the world around me is a piece of continuing to evolve and grow in my work.

So how do you feel about this? Is it important to continue to grow meaningfully as a practitioner? Why? And how are you going about it, if you are? What part do other practitioners and professional colleagues play in this process of growth?

Personal Finance Virtual Learning Event

The Personal Finance team will host our third Virtual Learning Event June 14-16. This year, we’ll focus on Financial Fitness. Join us as we engage with learners in this 3-day interactive series of events.

Join the Personal Finance Team June 14-16 for a unique online learning opportunity.
Join the Personal Finance Team June 14-16 for a unique online learning opportunity.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, June 14, 11 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. ET: What is Financial Fitness & How is it Measured? Dr. J. Michael Collins of the University of Wisconsin, Madison will present this session, using the findings from the research he has gathered on this subject. Dr. Collins studies consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, including the role of public policy in influencing credit, savings and investment choices. His work includes the study of financial capability with a focus on low-income families. He is involved in studies of household finance and well-being supported by leading foundations and federal agencies. In 2015, Palgrave Macmillan released a book Collins edited called A Fragile Balance: Emergency Savings and Liquid Resources for Low-Income Consumers. His 90-minute webinar on June 14 will focus on financial fitness as a goal for many people, but achieving fitness in terms of money management may require a combination of financial education, coaching, and financial access. After reviewing the components of financial fitness, this session will provide an overview of measures of financial capability and well-being, as well as practical applications of program measures in the field. The session will include discussion, interactive polling and Q&A.

Wednesday, June 15, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET: Positive Personality Traits of Financially Fit PeopleDr. Martie Gillen will deliver this 90-minute webinar using data and research from psychology that tells us what traits are most commonly found in individuals who make positive financial decisions. Dr. Gillen is the Project Investigator for the Military Families Learning Network Personal Finance team and an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist for the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, in the Institute for Food and Agricultural at the University of Florida. Her research interests include personal and family finance, behavioral economics, older adults, Social Security retirement benefits, employment, retirement planning, financial social work, food security, and innovative post-secondary education models. The first section of the webinar  on June 15 will include an overview of personality traits as well as a discussion of the research related to personality traits and personal finance. The webinar will conclude will suggestions for working with individuals while taking into account their personality and impact on their personal finance decisions. Participants will have an opportunity to take a personality trait quiz.

Thursday, June 16, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET: Wealth Building with Saving, Investing & Windfalls. Dr. Barbara O’Neill will lead this session. Dr. O’Neill is a financial resource management specialist for Rutgers Cooperative Extension, has been a professor, financial educator, and author for 35 years. She has written over 1,500 consumer newspaper articles and over 125 articles for academic journals, conference proceedings, and other professional publications. She is a certified financial planner (CFP®), chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC®), accredited financial counselor (AFC), certified housing counselor (CHC), and certified financial educator (CFEd). Dr. O’Neill served as president of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education and is the author of two trade books, Saving on a Shoestring andInvesting on a Shoestring, and co-author of  Investing For Your Future,Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women, and Small Steps to Health and Wealth.  She earned a Ph.D. in family financial management from Virginia Tech and received over three dozen awards for professional achievements and over $900,000 in funding for financial education programs and research. Her webinar on June 16 will focus on ways that ordinary people with average incomes can grow wealthy over time. The first section of the webinar will discuss time-tested investment and financial management strategies and the second section will describe dos and don’ts for handling a financial windfall. Resources for each topic will be shared including the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Financial Fitness Quiz: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/ffquiz/.

Thursday, June 16, 1-1:30 p.m. ET: 2016 MFLN PF VLE Wrap Up This half-hour event is designed to allow participants to share their own experiences from the 3 previous webinars, and to share findings from the assignments given during those sessions. Drs. Collins, Gillen and O’Neill be be on hand to guide this interactive discussion. If you are interested in sharing your experiences during this session, please email me at mollyh2@extension.org.

We hope you’ll join us for 3 days of interactive and engaged learning. For more information, click here.

How to Pay Off Student Loans Quickly

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Many active and former service members have student loan debt, which is like a double-edged sword. While borrowing money for post-secondary education often helps improve someone’s future earning ability, it also can lead to emotional distress and/or financial strain and delay savings and independent living arrangements.

Student loans impact students in many ways besides their actual dollar cost (i.e., repayment of money borrowed, plus interest). In the last decade, as the use of loans to attend college has increased, so-called “crowding out effects” have become noticeable. In other words, money required to make student loan payments is already “spoken for” and unavailable for other purposes such as homeownership, entrepreneurship, and retirement savings.

Not surprisingly, many student loan borrowers want to “get on with their financial life.” When student loans are repaid, money is freed up for other expenses (e.g., car loan payment) and savings for future financial goals (e.g., buying a home). Thus, it is smart to pay off student loan debt as quickly as possible. Below are 10 ways to do this:

  • Reduce Spending– Try to ‘find” $1 to $5 a day by cutting expenses (e.g., brown bagging lunch to work and avoiding vending machine snacks) and reallocate this money toward larger student loan payments.
  • Earn Extra Income– Freelance skills and experience with “side jobs” that bring in extra money and use this money to make larger student loan payments.
  • Make Bi-Weekly Payments– Like bi-weekly payments on a mortgage, splitting monthly student loan payments into half-payments every two weeks results in an extra monthly payment made every year.
  • Apply a Cash Windfall– Use all or part of large sums of money (e.g., income tax refund, returned security deposit, retroactive pay, and end-of-year bonus) to repay student loan debt. Another good sum to apply toward debt is the amount taken as a student loan interest tax deduction on federal income taxes.
  • Request Cash Gifts– Instead of receiving a holiday or birthday gift that you may not ever use or wear, tell potential gift givers that you would prefer to receive cash with which to repay student loan debt.
  • Use PowerPay- If student loans are one of several outstanding debts that you have, prepare a Powerpay debt reduction calendar at https://powerpay.org/. When a debt is repaid, apply its former payment to a remaining debt. Eventually more money will be applied to student loans and they will be paid off faster.
  • Get Help from an Employer– Some employers are providing cash with which to make student loan payments as an employee benefit to recruit and retain young employees. Even if your job does not have a formal benefit policy to help with student loans, it may not hurt to ask.
  • Get a Loan Discount- When you reduce loan interest rates, more of each payment goes toward principal and less toward interest, thereby paying debt down faster. Some lenders reduce loan interest (e.g., by a quarter to a half percent) when student loan payments are automatically deducted from a bank account.
  • Consider Refinancing- There are private companies that refinance student loans. This strategy can simplify bill-paying, by incorporating separate loans into one, and may lower interest rates. Disadvantages include loan origination fees and inability to access federal loan forgiveness or income-based repayment programs after refinancing.
  • Consider Consolidation– Like refinancing, grouping many smaller loans into one big one makes loan payment convenient. However consolidation could extend the payback period and increase the amount of interest paid. It may also not be available for private student loans. Consolidation should be used only if it makes economic sense (e.g., lower interest), perhaps combined with the first five strategies, noted above, to repay debt quickly.

For more information about types of student loans and how to repay them, visit the Federal Student Aid web site at https://studentaid.ed.gov/.

Our team presented a webinar on student loan issues in November 2015. Watch the recording of this session here: https://learn.extension.org/events/2161

Credit Score Basics

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Photo by Jason Rogers
Photo by Jason Rogers

Remember those report cards that told you (and your parents!) how you were doing in school? Maybe you thought those days were over, but they’re not. Every day, millions of people are “graded” with credit reports and credit scores.

This month, the eXtension Military Families Learning Network Personal Finance Team held a webinar called Credit Scores: What’s New? 

Below is a list of basic information about credit scores that military families and the financial educators and counselors who serve them need to know:

  • A credit report is a summary of someone’s history of paying debts and other bills. It is prepared by credit reporting agencies (a.k.a., credit bureaus) and used to make business decisions by those who have a legitimate need for the information. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A good analogy for credit reports is report cards at elementary schools that provide a detailed summary of students’ performance.
  • Credit scores are typically a number calculated by statistical analyses to measure the risk that a borrower will become delinquent or default. It is a weighted average of factors that have been shown to be related to the creditworthiness of individuals. The higher a person’s credit score number, the better. A good analogy for credit scores is a grade point average used to measure college students’ academic success.
  • The most commonly used credit score is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 (low) to 850 (high). The average FICO credit score in the U.S. in early 2015 was 695 according to Fair Isaac Corporation, the FICO score creator.
  • The better your credit score “GPA,” the better your chances of obtaining a loan or credit card and obtaining lower-cost credit that can save hundreds, or in the case of home mortgages, thousands of dollars of interest over the length of a loan. Credit scores are also used in setting rates for insurance policies. In addition, potential landlords can use them as a character reference.
  • The most important factor in a person’s FICO credit score is bill payment history, which is weighted at 35% of the total score. Other key factors are the amount owed (30%), the length of a person’s credit history (15%) , the number of recent credit inquiries (10%), and the mix of types of credit (e.g., credit cards, auto loan, mortgage, etc.) used (10%).
  • There is no federal law on the books (yet) that mandates free credit scores upon request like there is for credit reports. However, many credit card companies now provide free credit scores on monthly statements or online as a way to attract and retain customers. Examples of companies that provide free credit scores include Barclaycard US, Capital One, Citibank, Commerce Bank, Discover, First Bankcard, and USAA.
  • Another way to get a free credit score is for persons applying for a car loan, mortgage, or home refinancing to simply ask their prospective lender for this information. Especially for mortgages, lenders have probably already charged loan applicants a fee to check their credit score.

So, if you thought your report card and GPA days were over, think again. Your credit report and credit score are a “snapshot” of your credit history at a particular point in time and you are constantly being “graded.” Paying bills on time and not becoming overextended are the two best ways to raise your credit score.

For more information about credit scores, take the Credit Score Quiz at http://www.creditscorequiz.org/.

Credit Score Refresher

By Ayesha Haider, BA, MBA, AFC Candidate

Your credit score is often the first indicator that banks and landlords and financial institutions turn to when assessing your financial health and deciding whether to do business with you. But what exactly makes up a credit score? Are certain items given more weight than others in determining a score? And how good or bad is your score compared to the rest of the Nation?

Let’s start with the basics:

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number derived from your current and past financial behaviors which lenders and other organizations use to assess how much risk they will be taking on by extending you credit. There are numerous credit scores that are used by financial institutions, and each of these has a different formula for calculating your level of risk. The most well-known and widely used score is the Fair Isaac Corporation’s FICO score.

What makes up a credit score?

A credit score is determined by collecting and classifying individuals’ financial transactions. The FICO score is calculated based on payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), credit mix (10%) and new credit (10%). Keep in mind that your credit score is constantly changing with every financial decision you make – from taking out a new loan, to paying your bills every month – so it is important to know what will have an adverse or beneficial effect on your score.

What is not included in a credit score?

Your credit score will never be affected by your race, religion, national origin, sex or marital status. It will also not take into account where you live, your salary or employment history, age or the interest rates that you are currently being charged. Oftentimes, your credit score may suffer as a result of stolen identity, illness or other unforeseen life events. It is important to know that you reserve the right to have a personal statement included in your credit report that can be viewed by potential lenders and may assist in explaining a poor credit score.

How “good” is my score?

A good or bad credit score really depends on which score you are looking at and what financial transactions you will be using your credit score for. Most scores range from 301 to 850 with anything above 650 being considered a “good” score and anything below this number to be considered “bad”. Experian’s 2015 state of credit report shows that the average score for Americans last year was 669 (up three points from the 2014 average of 666).

Knowing how your credit score is calculated and what it is used for is the first step to working towards (or maintaining) a favorable credit score. To obtain your FICO score, visit the myFICO website or visit your base Personal Financial Counselor who may be able to obtain your score free of charge.

Credit Scores- What's New- (1)Join us next week on Tuesday, May 3 at 11 a.m. ET for Credit Scores: What’s New? with Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Rod Griffin from Experian. This 90-minute webinar will cover the fundamentals of credit reporting and credit scoring and what you must do to get the credit you want and need. This webinar is approved for 1.5 CEUs for AFCs through AFCPE and CPFCs through FinCert.