Friends for lifeYour divorce is over. It’s time to start sorting through all the things you need to do, to get your financial life in order.  Here are just a few tips to help you thrive financially, as you move into this phase of your life.  Pay Off Credit Card Debt One of the most important steps to achieve your financial goals is eliminating credit card debt. Start by paying off the balance of one credit card at a time, by either:
  • Paying off the highest interest rate credit card first, or
  • Paying off the smallest balance first, then applying that payment amount to the next smallest balance
And, always pay more than the minimum. Build an Emergency Fund Life has a way of throwing financial curve balls. To pay for these unexpected expenses, it’s important to have an emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is to set aside at least 3 to 6 months of expenses in a savings account earmarked for emergencies. This will keep the money “out of site, out of mind” and help reduce your stress level when financial emergencies pop up. Know Your Credit Score Despite its importance, many people don’t know their credit score. Credit scores assist lenders in determining the interest rate you’ll be charged, so you’ll want to know yours and work on improving it. To get your free credit report, visit Reviewing your credit report may also help you catch signs of identity theft early. Start Saving for Retirement We’ve all heard it before, but it truly is essential to start saving for retirement as early as possible. This is because you want to take advantage of compounding – generating growth not only on the original investment, but also on the return you’ve already earned on the investment over time. Compounding allows the potential for your initial investment to grow exponentially. Also, make sure you contribute at least enough to your company retirement plan to get our employer’s match. Don’t pass up free money! Create a Budget Although it’s not always fun, following a budget ensures you will have enough money for the things most important to you. A budget helps you find money to fuel your dreams. Refer to the attached Create Cash Flow* to help you put your budget together. One of the most important things to remember is to pay yourself first! Always set aside money for your emergency fund and retirement before any discretionary expenses. * a chapter from my book Ultimate Women’s Financial Guide to Thrive after Divorce   All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.
iceRecently, a friend told me that a good Samaritan found and returned the wallet he had lost the previous day. The funny thing he said, was that the credit cards and money were still there but his driver’s license and Social Security card were missing. Not finding it at all humorous, I told him he was likely the target of identity theft. I advised him to file a police report and to contact the three credit rating agencies to place a freeze on his credit report. A credit freeze (also called a security freeze) places a restriction on who can access your credit report.  Only your current creditors and government agencies can access your credit report while the freeze is in place.  This makes it hard for identity thieves to open a credit card account or take out a loan in your name, because most credit card companies will check your credit report before issuing a new credit card. To set up a credit freeze, you need to contact all three of the credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  Each has a credit freeze website that is listed below, along with their telephone number. Equifax: 800-349-9960  Experian: 888-397-3742  TransUnion: 888-909-8872 The best way to set up a credit freeze is to request it in writing. Check each of the websites above to see the information they require. Typically, requirements include a photocopy of your driver’s license, Social Security card and a utility bill from the address listed on your driver’s license. There is a charge to set up the freeze, ranging from $5 to $20 per reporting agency. All three credit rating agencies offer protection plans that include credit monitoring, but those plans are an additional monthly cost and are not that useful once you have the freeze in place. Once your credit freeze is established, each of the credit reporting companies will send you a confirmation letter that contains a pin number. Keep these pin numbers in a safe place because you will need to provide them when you wish to lift the freeze. Freezes can be lifted permanently or just temporarily via each of the credit company’s websites. There is typically a $5 charge to left the freeze, even if temporarily. You will need to lift your credit freeze at each of the credit reporting companies each time you apply for credit, such as applying for a new credit card or a loan. You will also need to lift them to get your free credit report from, or if a potential employer wants to check your credit history. Identity theft can be costly and take years to clear up, so the time and fees involved in setting up a credit freeze is a small investment for some peace of mind. One last piece of advice – never, never, never carry your social security card in your wallet.