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Baby steps to (re)build savings

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

Having an emergency savings fund gives you something priceless—peace of mind. But what happens when you actually face an emergency and have to deplete up that precious nest egg? Starting over can seem like a daunting task, so it’s smart to break it down into small steps.

If you like the security of having money in savings, but have gotten sidetracked by the very thing your emergency savings account was established for, there are two small steps you can take that will help your savings grow again without causing discomfort or budget distress.

Step 1: (Re)establish the habit. Begin a pattern of setting aside money on a consistent basis. Establish a regular pay roll deduction, set up an automatic payment to savings from your online checking account, or simply put all coins you collect in a jar and then regularly deposit the change into your savings account. If saving is a mental game for you, make a big deal out of each deposit. Sometimes you need the visual push that writing out the deposit slip and placing the cash on the counter provides. There is not a right or wrong method, starting (or restarting) the habit is the key.

Step 2: Increase slowly. Sometimes in our zeal to start saving, we overestimate how much we can save in a month. Plan to start small and work your way up. To ramp up over time, try the following strategies:

  • When you receive a pay raise, put a portion into savings rather than increasing spending or expanding your lifestyle.
  • When you receive a windfall such as a bonus, gift or inheritance, use some of it to increase your savings fast.
  • Try analyzing your miscellaneous spending to see if you can find expenses you could cut to allow you to increase saving.
  • Delay purchasing a new car when you pay off your old one. Instead save for a few months and build your savings.

Don’t let a short-term setback impact your long-term plans. Recognize that sometimes savings will be wiped out by unavoidable circumstances such as needed car repairs, unexpected expenses, or large purchases. When this happens don’t get discouraged, just reboot the system and start the habit again. The road to success is usually paved with a few potholes, but every bit of know-how you have gained can now be applied to rebuilding again.

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What to look for on a credit report

 

One of the most personally identifying documents and often the most overlooked is a credit report. A credit report is a factual record of a borrower’s payment history and is used by lenders to determine creditworthiness.

There are three main credit-reporting agencies (Equifax Inc., Experian PLC, and TransUnion). The information included in each file may be different, so it’s important to be familiar with all three. Your credit reports contain a wealth of information, including your last three known addresses, current and previous employers, list of businesses that has inquired about information within your credit file, and your credit accounts – both open and closed within the last seven years. Since your credit file is constantly being updated with new information, it pays to understand exactly what is included in your file and to monitor the accuracy of what is being reported about you.

The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) are here to help you identify what you should watch out for on your credit report.

Personal information – make sure the names and addresses listed on your report are accurate and up-to-date. In some cases, an incorrect address or suffix, such as Jr. or Sr., can cause your file to be mixed with a person with a similar name. Also, a recent address change may indicate that someone is fraudulently opening accounts in your name and routing the new cards to their address.

Account balances – review all open and closed credit accounts. Make sure the balances and dates are accurate. Remember to report any unfamiliar account activity, including invalid purchases and payments. Someone else could be using your account.

Inquiries from other credit lenders – review the list of creditors and businesses who has received information on you from the credit bureaus. Inquiries result from new credit applications or when you authorize an employer or insurance company to check your credit history. Too many inquiries can have an adverse affect on your credit score.

Credit score – pay attention to your credit score. A significant drop or rise in your credit score could indicate a problem. Watch for legitimate increases in your credit score and take advantage of better interest rates.

Monitoring your credit report is one of the best ways to ensure the accuracy of what’s being reported about your credit, and is one of the most important steps in protecting your financial well-being. A good rule of thumb is to review your reports at least once a year. To obtain one free copy of each of your credit reports every year, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.

 


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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
866-530-9869 or visit moneymanagement.org.


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