Money & Career
Fiscal Fitness: Get Financially Healthy!
10/30/2018 1:29:43 PM
Fiscal Fitness


We walk, jog, hit the gym and eat right for the sake of our physical fitness. But what about our fiscal fitness? We can sock away money, manage our finances and stick to a budget in the same healthy spirit of self-improvement.

That’s where a credit union comes in, according to Ronaldo Hardy, MSHRLD, CUDE, CUERME, the president and CEO of Southwest Louisiana Credit Union.

"The credit union is a great way to manage your money,” Hardy says. "As a not-for-profit organization, we can offer low loan rates and strong earnings on savings.”

BUILD YOUR SAVINGS
Hardy offers some pathways for people to save money and manage their finances, and explains how it works:

Find ways to save!
Even if you start small, a specific account will encourage you to set aside some money and form the healthy habit of doing it regularly.

Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives. 
They return profits to their members in the form of higher dividends on savings, lower rates on loans, and lower-priced products and services. That means the savings go to you.

Membership means ownership. 
When you join a credit union, you actually become a part-owner. Each credit union member has equal ownership and one vote — regardless of how much money a member has on deposit. A credit union is governed by a board of directors, elected by and from the credit union’s membership. Board members serve on a strictly volunteer basis.

BOOST YOUR CREDIT SCORE
There’s no magic solution to raising your credit score overnight. However, there are some things you can do right now to boost your credit score and, just as important, your overall financial footing, Hardy says.

Want to boost your score, especially if it’s due to a lack of credit? Check it out:

Fix errors on your credit reports. 
One in four credit reports contains small errors, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Errors might include false information attributed to you because of identity theft, a simple mix-up, or accounts that don’t belong to you.

Pay off credit cards every month. 
If you pay off your debts, you’ll see your score go up. If you’re struggling to cover your existing debt, create a debt management plan.

Stay away from your credit limits.
Paying down the debt will improve your creditworthiness, and help your "credit utilization” — the amount of debt you have relative to your credit card limits. When you’re nearly maxed out, it’s bad for your score.

Set up automatic payments. 
Your credit score takes a hit with every late payment. That’s because payment history comprises 35 percent of your score. If you struggle to remember when money is due, set up automatic payments. It’s an easy way to stay on time and maybe turn your score around relatively quickly.

MONITOR YOUR CREDIT
Knowing how to get your credit reports and credit scores can be confusing, especially with so many different options out there. There are a few key things to remember, according to Hardy.
Request the free, annual credit reports you are entitled to by federal law at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.

If you have exhausted your free credit reports, access reports directly from the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – for a fee. To reach their website, tack on ".com” to the end of their company name.

Financial institutions often use separate FICO scores from three credit bureaus. These companies have developed their own scoring models to compete with FICO. You have the option of purchasing these at their websites.

However, the most common credit scores used by lenders are the FICO scores that were developed by the company of the same name. You can access your FICO score for a fee at myfico.com.
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