Friday, October 23, 2015

6 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score

Consumers should be mindful of the critical impact credit scores can have on their life. Will you will need a loan in the future (Mortgage, Auto, Ag, Credit, etc.)? A good credit score will help ensure you get approved and may influence your interest rate.

To make sure you’re building a healthy credit history, consider the following tips:
  • Request a copy of your credit report – and make sure it is correct. Your credit report illustrates your credit performance and must be accurate so  you can apply for other loans. Everyone is entitled to receive a free copy of his or her credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies. But, you must go through the Federal Trade Commission’s website: or call: 1-877-322-8228.  Note that you may have to pay for the numerical credit score itself.
  • Set up automatic bill pay.  Payment history makes up 32 percent of your Vantage Score credit score and 35 percent of your FICO credit score. The more you pay your bills on time, the better your score.  Avoid missed payments by setting as many of your bills to automatic pay as possible.
  • Keep balances low on credit cards and ‘revolving credit.’ Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your scores by limiting your charges to 30 percent or less of a card's limit.
  • Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Keep this in mind the next time a retailer offers you 10 percent off if you open an account. But, if you need a new line of credit, don’t jump at the first appealing offer. Compare rates and fees offered through mail solicitation, on the Internet, or at your local bank.
  • Don’t close old, paid off accounts.  According to FICO, closing accounts can never help your score and can in fact damage it. 
  • Talk to credit counselors if you’re in trouble. Using legitimate, non-profit credit counseling can help you manage your debt and won’t hurt your credit score. For more information on debt management, contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (
Have something to add? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cheap and DIY Halloween Ideas!

Halloween. Who doesn't love this time of year? Costumes! Candy! Trick or Treat! It's all fun until you realize how much a perfect new costume can cost. Or how much candy you go through. Not to mention, party supplies if you host the Halloween party this year.

The National Retail Foundation estimates Americans will spend 6.9 billion on Halloween this year. That averages $74 per person.
If that doesn't sound like a number that fits into your budget, here are a few ideas we found to spend less.

1. Shop at home. When is the last time you dug through your closet or attic? You might be surprised at the fun outfits you can find. 

If you're finding a costume for you kids, mommy's heels, pearls, and makeup can be oh-so exciting.  Or, daddy's old cowboy hat and worn out boots.

Cardboard and paint can go a long way towards a ninja turtle, butterfly wings, or princess crown.

Costume for yourself? Try a celebrity look, pick a movie character, or a historical figure.

2. Visit a thrift store or garage sales. There are so many great costume ideas just waiting to found. Need some examples? 
>>>Hunched back granny (outfit, glasses, and curlers/baby powder or flour for your hair)
>>>Throwback theme -'60s, '70s, '80s- pick a decade and find an outfit!
>>>Gypsy/fortune teller. put your hair up in a scarf, practice the makeup, put on the flashy jewelry, and find a glass ball.
>>>Artist -find an 'artsy outfit', complete with hat of course, and make a palette board out of cardboard. 

There are hundreds of ideas out there. Maybe these will get your creative juices flowing. 

3. Next stop-dollar stores. Need one last prop for your outfit and can't find it at the thrift store or diy? Dollar stores often have
big glasses, wands, etc. for a pretty cheap price. Dollar stores are also great for candy!

4. Hosting the party? Come up with a theme and ask each guest to bring a snack that goes with your theme! Or, ask each guest to bring a snack that goes with their outfit. This is a great way to get a variety of different snacks and it's fun for everyone to get creative.  Make it a game! Vote on the most creative/fitting/scariest snack  and give the winner a prize! 

5. Go easy on the decorations. It's amazing how far a bunch of orange and black streamers can go. Paint 50 cent mini pumpkins with spiders, ghosts, and bats. Set them all over the place or hang from the ceiling.  

Have more ideas? Share with us!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Want to Stay Safe on Social Networking Sites? 14 Tips.

In case you didn't know, it is Cyber Security Awareness Month! We're sharing 14 helpful security and privacy tips for using social networking sites. (Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.)
  1. Ensure that any computer you use to connect to a social media site has proper security measures in place. Also, the internet connection. Public wi-fi is not a good idea.

  2. Use and maintain anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Keep these applications and systems patched and up-to-date. If you're not sure what we mean, visit your local computer store and they can help you!

  3. Be cautious when clicking on links. If a link seems suspicious, or too good to be true, do not click on it...even if the link is on your most trusted friend’s page, even if they sent it to you in a message. Your friend’s account may be hijacked or infected and now is spreading malware. You could send them a quick text to see what's up if you aren't sure. Better safe than sorry!

  4. If you are going to delete your account, first remove all the data. And, request the account is actually deleted, rather than just deactivated.

  5. Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser. Or use your personal bookmarks. Clicking a link through email or another website might lead to a fake site. Here, your personal information could be stolen.

  6. Be cautious about installing applications. Some social networking sites provide the ability to add or install third party applications. Games, for example. Keep in mind there is sometimes little or no quality control or review of these applications. They may have full access to your account and the data you share. Malicious apps use this access to interact with your friends and steal your data. Only install apps that come from trusted, well-known sites. If you are no longer using the app, remove it. Also, please note that installing some applications may change your security and privacy settings.

  7. Use strong and unique passwords. Using the same password on all accounts increases the vulnerability of these accounts. If one becomes compromised, they ALL do. Use different passwords for different accounts.  Don't use the password you use to access your organization’s network for any personal sites.

  8. Be careful whom you add as a “friend,” or what groups or pages you join. The more connections you have, the more people have access to your information. Also, if you get a "friend request" from someone you thought you were already friends with - don't just accept! A common Facebook scam is to duplicate a profile (complete with identical profile and cover photos), then connect with all their friends to steal data. Make sure you do your research before accepting friend requests.

  9. Do not assume privacy on a social networking site. For both business and personal use, confidential information should stay confidential. In other words, don't share it! You should only post information you are comfortable disclosing to a complete stranger.

  10. Use discretion before posting information or comments. Once you post information online, it is available to anyone. You may not be able to retract it afterwards. Keep in mind, anything posted on government-related social networking pages may be considered public records.

  11. When posting pictures, delete the meta data, which includes the date and time of the picture.

  12. Do not announce that you are on vacation, away for an extended period of time, or home alone. It's just an open invitation for unwelcome "guests".

  13. Set privacy settings. Only allow people you trust to have access to the information you post and your profile. Also, restrict the ability for others to post information to your page. The default settings often allow anyone to see your information and post information to your page.

  14. Review a site’s privacy policy. Some sites may share information, such as email addresses or user preferences, with other parties. If a site’s privacy policy is vague or does not protect your information, do not use the site.
We know, this is a hard list to follow. But, these steps will help keep your information safe. You don't want your personal profile hacked.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I'm Still Young...Why Should I Worry About Investing?

Investing. The thought might confuse you, intimidate you, sound too boring for you, or just sound like something your grandpa should be worrying about-not YOU! Change that mindset. Investing. Freedom from stress, independence, no regrets.


Who wants to be able to live free? To go on a spontaneous trip? No worries about the future? Most of us would agree-that sounds pretty great. 

But what does investing have to do with that? If I spend all my money on investments...I won't have any left for fun stuff, right? That might be true for a short while, but look at the long run here. 

Good-bye Stress

Imagine your life in five years. Go ahead...close your eyes for a minute and just dream. Now, 10 years. 50 years. Have a visual? Maybe you want to be a stay-at-home parent someday. Maybe you want to spend retirement traveling with your sweetheart. Showering your grand-kids with gifts. Maybe you want to start your own business or invent something awesome. Everyone has a different dream, a different journey through life.

I bet being broke, stressed, and not able to enjoy anything was not on your list. Neither was spending years just making ends meet and ending up with nothing to live off of for your last days. And don't just depend on the Government to take care of you...that is not one of life's guarantees. 

Compounding Interest

Just think, if you start early, you could invest for 10 years and be set for the rest of your life. If you wait 10 years to start though, you will have to continue investing for the rest of your life to catch up. 

Have you seen this visual that Dave Ramsey uses? 

Ben only invests $16,000 while Arther invests $78,000. But who ends up with more? 

How is this possible? Compounding Interest. 

See, Ben started early. Each year, his money earned interest. The next year, he earned interest on both his money plus last year's interest. The third year, he earned interest on his money and the last two years' interest. This just continues so his money continues to grow. 

Arther had compounding interest also, but since he started later, it didn't add up as fast.

Now, after Ben turned 26, he never worried about investing again and he knew that his future was secure. He will be able to live his dreams without depending on anyone else to take care of him. He is financially self-sustainable. 

By starting early, he saved thousands of dollars. And didn't waste time worrying about whether he would be able to retire. 


Ben could start his own business, because he wasn't dependent on his employer's 401(k).  He could take a break and spend some time traveling. All he needs to cover are the day-to-day expenses. Everything else? Taken care of.  No regrets.

What do you think about investing now? It's not as hard as you may think. Find an investing expert to talk to. And just do it. You can.