AU
Amy Matthews, Women UnRuled
about 7 hours ago

Caught up in the Expectations Trap

wellness
women
Most of us are ambitious. We have a grand vision for ourselves and our lives. We imagine what we want and we go after it. But we also want it to look a certain way. When reality doesn’t meet our vision, we naturally get disappointed. Or sad. Or frustrated. Or angry. 

Our daily lives are full of expectations of how situations will go or of w...
Most of us are ambitious. We have a grand vision for ourselves and our lives. We imagine what we want and we go after it. But we also want it to look a certain way. When reality doesn’t meet our vision, we naturally get disappointed. Or sad. Or frustrated. Or angry. 

Our daily lives are full of expectations of how situations will go or of what another person will (or will not) do. You know what I mean, Nav.igators. Any of these sound familiar to you?

You don’t get the promotion when you know you deserve it. A friend flakes on you at the last minute. Your “dream” vacation ends up being more of a “reality” trip. After extensive interviews, you don’t get the job you want. The product launch is a flop. Your partner/spouse doesn’t follow through on what they said they would do.Your Match or Tinder date looks 10 years older than their profile picture. 

Whatever yours might be, expectations are a breeding ground for not feeling good. And they have the potential to block our happiness. They keep us living in the future rather than enjoying the present. 

Here are my 4 tips to help you avoid the expectations trap.

Make a plan for the journey and not the destination.                 

By all means, be intentional, visualize what you want, create a plan and take repeated action. But the next step is crucial. Let go of how and when it’s going to show up in your life. Be open to how things unfold. Trust and have faith that what is supposed to happen, will happen.          
                                                                   

Consider disappointments learning opportunities.                                                      

Don’t give meaning to events or situations. A lot of stuff happens in life. When things don’t go the way you think they will, try your best not to go into a negative spiral or take it personally. The truth is, it’s rarely about you.

Seek first to understand, ditch the judgment.                                                              

When someone values something that you don’t, it’s easy to reject it. Instead of criticizing, judging or creating a story around it, be curious about their point of view. Perhaps by doing so, you’ll enrich your life and expand your perspective on this person who might have otherwise let you down.

Try to think differently than what you’d usually think.                                                  

What got you here won’t necessarily get you where you want to go. If disappointment is coming up for you time and time again, you may have a negative belief that is running the show. Perhaps something like: “I never get what I want.” Or, “I can’t depend on anyone.” If this sounds familiar, ask yourself, is it really true? 

By no means am I telling you to ditch your high standards, intentions, clear goals and a vision for where you want to go. But try your best to not get attached to a specific picture or a certain outcome.

You get to decide whether you fall into the expectation trap. Ease up on yourself, and the people in your life. Celebrate the now. Be in the moment. Set yourself up to be pleasantly surprised. Your happiness is up to you.


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Whitney Hansen
7 days ago

Rethinking Self-Care

wellness
self-care
Recently, I experienced a period of extreme burnout. Like, didn’t have the energy to even check my email or motivation to tackle even the most basic tasks. That’s usually my sign that it’s time to slow down and get refocused on self-care.

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stres...
Recently, I experienced a period of extreme burnout. Like, didn’t have the energy to even check my email or motivation to tackle even the most basic tasks. That’s usually my sign that it’s time to slow down and get refocused on self-care.

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It is caused when you are unable to meet constant demands and feel drained. 

Burnout is normal to experience, but doesn’t mean we have to accept it as a normal part of life. By taking time to self-care, we can stay focused on our goals, maintain our mental and physical health and keep up with our relationships. 

I need you to write this down: Busy is not a badge of honor.

Why self-care isn’t what we were taught

I used to read articles on self-care and found my perspective was very warped. I was told over and over that self-care is Lush bomb bubble baths, painting your nails, reading a book and indulging in a nice glass of wine. 

Self-care in the traditional sense is escaping stress. I’m starting to take a different approach and view self-care as managing my mind. Can you relate to this?

But here’s the thing— I did all of the “self-care” related things and still experienced burnout. I turned to podcasts, books, and good old Google to figure out where I went wrong and what I could do differently in the future. 

What self-care is to me

I believe self-care in its truest form is connectivity and community. When we are connected to others and feel like we have a strong community, we reduce our stress levels. My research led me to a great TED talk titled, “How to make stress your friend.” This talk changed everything. 

It breaks down the importance of awareness around how we view our stress and recognized that feeling less stressed comes down to how connected we feel with others. 
Stress is not something we can escape from— as a living being, we all experience varying levels of stress, but at its core, stress is just energy in our body. Stress is the cue for our body to prepare for action. It’s just a physical reaction.

Then I started to dive into a masterclass on screen time. No surprise, we are spending a lot of time on our phones. In fact, the average person spends 4 hours a day on their phone! When we spend more time with screens we spend less time with others and caring for ourselves. 

Simple ways to incorporate self-care into your routine

Here are a few of my favorite ways to practice self-care that honor connection and community so you can start feeling relief from burnout.

Volunteer at your favorite organization. Giving back by paying it forward is one of the greatest things you can do to put your life into perspective, recognize that we are actually doing okay, and build community.

Take care of your health. I am a big fan of working out, drinking water, and creating a meal plan. I also have been getting into yoga recently, which helps me manage my mind while getting a workout in.

Protip: I am a big fan of Bulldog Yoga Online. It’s an online yoga membership that makes working out fun and easy (and you can do it from home). Try it out for free here.

Get out of your head. When we focus on how big our problems are and how stressed we feel, we are immediately going into a low vibe state that doesn’t support creative thoughts or a solution-oriented mind. Take a walk, watch a documentary or do something that shifts your perspective from a self-absorbed mindset to an empowered mindset.

Attend networking events with the goal of connecting with two people. This is tricky, but the next networking event you attend, go in with the goal of making one to two connections and having a great, quality conversation. 


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English Taylor
7 days ago

How I Learned to Manage My Financial Anxiety

money
stress
It’s 7:15 a.m. and my alarm is blaring. Like any good millennial, the first thing I do is roll over and grab my phone, but as soon as my thumb scrolls over the balance alert from my bank, my heart begins to race. How many times did I eat out this month? Did my rent payment go through? Wait, did I send it?

It’s 7:19 a.m. and I’m already ...
It’s 7:15 a.m. and my alarm is blaring. Like any good millennial, the first thing I do is roll over and grab my phone, but as soon as my thumb scrolls over the balance alert from my bank, my heart begins to race. How many times did I eat out this month? Did my rent payment go through? Wait, did I send it?

It’s 7:19 a.m. and I’m already anxious.

When my partner asks if I’m okay, I force a smile and nod. I’m too embarrassed to tell him that I may not be able to cover my portion of this month’s rent. At dinner, I spend an absurd amount of time squinting at the menu, calculating the cheapest possible option, then beating myself up for caring more about the check than genuinely connecting with my friends. 

Sick of the vicious cycle, I sat down with Alicia Eggen, a licensed therapist, to learn how to conquer what I (and so many others) suffer from—financial anxiety.

What does financial anxiety look and feel like?

Let’s face it—change is scary, and life is always changing. People who experience financial anxiety may have a fear of the future or the unknown, and worry about having enough money to provide for themselves and their family. It’s natural to feel uneasy around things you can’t control, like [changes] in the stock market, job loss, or sudden illness. But you may [also] have difficulty developing a plan around things you actually can control, like budgeting and retirement. 

How do I cope with financial anxiety?

Worrying about things outside of your control just wastes your mental and emotional resources. Instead, focus on creating a budget. 

How can I stop seeing my finances as a reflection of my worth? 

Live out your values. I find that we often experience anxiety when we’re doing things that contradict our values. Write down the three things in life you value most, perhaps family or travel, and let these inform your goals about your finances.

What about all the shame and negativity?

When things feel overwhelming, it’s natural to focus on the negative. But in order to see the whole picture, remember the positive things you’re doing as well. Writing these down as well can be a helpful reminder of what’s actually going right. 

This can even be something along the lines of spending in accordance with your values, as we just discussed. Reminding yourself that you’re spending money on what’s truly important to you can be reassuring and empowering. 

Putting advice into practice.

I started by coming up with a list of what I truly value in life, leading with my heart instead of my wallet. Exercise, nutrition, and mental health were the top three. I realized that I rarely beat myself up over spending money on my weekly therapy session, because deep down I know this type of self-improvement and discovery is incredibly important to me.

On the other hand, I always feel guilty when I spend money on food and alcohol. That’s probably because the food I make at home is healthier than what I eat when I’m out (shocker). 

For the next week, I tested out using these values as a lens to inform my purchasing decisions. By Thursday, I didn’t feel any FOMO turning down that happy hour invitation from former coworkers. I knew I would have gone to the bar, spent $12 on a glass of wine, drank only half of it, and chastised myself for it afterwards. 

Instead, I asked if they’d want to grab coffee and go for a walk over the weekend—two activities I felt genuinely excited about (and one of which was free). 

Celebrating what I’m doing right. 

Per Alicia’s advice, I also tried writing down a few things that were going well for me financially. To be honest, it was challenging. I practically forced myself to jot down: I have a budget (and restrained myself from adding in parentheses: that I struggle to follow). 

Surprisingly though, that first bit of positivity opened up a wave of other realizations. After a moment, I wrote: I hired an accountant to help me with taxes. Next came: I spent $20 on yoga class, which supports my values of exercise and mental health. Within the next few minutes, I had a list of four positives. But more importantly, I felt better—grateful and in control. In my clear-headedness, I even set a calendar reminder for next month’s healthcare bill. 

Alicia’s exercise showed me that no matter how many things I may be doing right, the negatives muscle in and take center stage. I’m too focused on my debt to pat myself on the back when I resolutely chip away at it each month. 

The truth is, the road to financial security is more like a stair master. There are about a billion tiny steps, but recognizing each small, proactive behavior is a boost to your mental and financial benefit. 
AL
Athena Lent
7 days ago

Mutual Funds, Index Funds, ETFS, Oh My!

adulting
investing
I see you, girl. You want to travel, do brunch, and buy those shoes. But you also know you should be planning for the future.

You even know that your company offers a 401K. But it’s all so overwhelming. Obviously you’d rather spend your free time watching The Bachelor than plotting out your investments. 

I see you, girl. You want to travel, do brunch, and buy those shoes. But you also know you should be planning for the future.

You even know that your company offers a 401K. But it’s all so overwhelming. Obviously you’d rather spend your free time watching The Bachelor than plotting out your investments. 

I get it. Just remember that at the end of the day, the number one goal of investing is to make you money so you can accomplish all those #lifegoals. If that’s not a motivator, I don’t know what is.

Here’s how to get started (so you can get back to those red-bottomed Louboutins).

First, the basics. 

You make money off of investing when your portfolio is estimated to be at a higher value, or breaking even, with what’s currently going down in the market. There are three different vehicles you can use when investing: mutual funds, index funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). All require you to own some mix of stocks and bonds. How you mimic or beat the performance of the market is dependent upon which vehicle you choose. 

A mutual fund is when you allow an investment firm to manage your portfolio, attempting to outperform the market. A portfolio manager (who’s hired by the investment firm) will purchase and trade stocks they think will perform exceptionally well in an effort to grow your investments. 

An index fund is a set of stocks purchased together that are set up to mimic the overall market return rate, known as a benchmark. When you purchase index funds through an investment firm, they still handle the purchasing and trading of your stocks, just less frequently. Think of this as a “set it and forget it” money move.

The last vehicle is called an exchange traded fund (ETF). ETFs are considered a type of index fund because the stocks are purchased as a set, but they’ve got one major difference. Instead of letting an investment firm handle the funds, you actively manage them yourself in a private brokerage account. Time to put on your big girl pants!

So. Much. Stuff. What’s the difference? 

Fees! Fees is probably the number one difference between all three. Since no one is actively managing them (except you!), index funds are considered the cheapest investing option. Mutual funds usually have a flat rate per amount invested, but ETFs have one every time you trade. This is really important because gains (what you earn) can be eaten up by fees when trading often with ETFs. Keep that in the back of your mind before you start your own production of The Wolf of Wall Street

Oh yeah, and…

There are also different levels of risk involved when trading. It’s not exactly Game of Thrones out here, but there’s definitely something to be said about the “win or die” complex with the stock market.

Index funds are historically safe, while mutual funds tend to perform higher. ETFs are considered the riskiest of the three because you’re taking sole responsibility for the picks. So, if you aren’t well versed in stock picking, it might be rough until you get the hang of it (like, lose your money rough). 

Hmmm, I’m still on the fence. 

That’s cool and all, but remember, the more time your investments have to grow, the better off you’ll be. 

When you feel ready, you have options. Check with your HR representative at work to see what your company offers in terms of a 401(k). Speaking to a certified financial planner is always a good choice. And as always, check out Nav.it for more tips on how to handle your cold hard cash. 


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Whitney Hansen
17 days ago

What Not to Do When You are Trying to Improve Your Credit Score

credit
credit score
By now, I hope you have read the first post of my credit series that teaches you why you should care about your credit score and outlines the top five factors that are used to calculate the number. 

Now it’s time for what NOT to do when you are trying to improve your credit score. Some of these no...
By now, I hope you have read the first post of my credit series that teaches you why you should care about your credit score and outlines the top five factors that are used to calculate the number. 

Now it’s time for what NOT to do when you are trying to improve your credit score. Some of these no-no’s might take you by surprise, so pay close attention.

Don’t miss or make any late payments on your loans


This one is obvious. You can’t be missing payments on your bills. If you’re having trouble keeping track of when things are due, you need a new system. Perhaps you could set up automatic withdrawals for your payments? Can you set up email reminders? Whatever it takes to ensure you pay all of your bills on time – do that. 

Don’t open any new credit cards


It might seem counterintuitive when I say don’t open any new cards if you are trying to build credit. But if you’re trying to improve your score, opening new cards is not a smart move. You DO want to have ample available credit to you (meaning you want high limits but low or zero balances) for a good credit score. But in the short-term, opening new credit accounts causes your score to decrease.

There’s a bit of a caveat with this one: if you don’t have any credit at all, you might have to start by opening a card to build credit. Opening a new card will ding your credit to begin with, but as long as you continue to leave it open with a zero balance, over time your score will rise.

Don’t apply for a loan


There are two types of credit report inquiries: hard pulls and soft pulls. When you are checking your own credit (which you can do for free once a year, it is a soft pull. Similarly, if a company checks your credit as part of a background check, this is a soft pull. Soft pulls do NOT ding your credit. 

However, every time you apply for a loan, the creditor pulls your credit report. This is a necessary pre-qualifier to get a loan, and these are “hard pulls” of your credit. All hard pulls result in a ding to your credit score. How much will this ding affect your score? Well, that’s a mystery. It might only bring your score down a few points, maybe 10, but is it worth it? This “ding” will stay on your report for about two years, so be smart.

Don’t make any major purchases on your credit card

This one goes hand-in-hand with the above. In particular, if you’re trying to buy a house (or want to buy one soon), do NOT go out and buy a new car or rack up $5,000 worth of furniture on your credit card. Spend only what you have and buy only what’s necessary. Hint: This is a great time to build a budget and stick to it.

Don’t declare bankruptcy


If you’re really in a bind with your debt, and you’re overwhelmed and not sure if you’ll ever be able to pay it off, you might be considering declaring bankruptcy to eliminate the debt and get a fresh start. But is a fresh start really what it is? 

Even if you’re desperate, bankruptcy is usually not a good option. If you do file for bankruptcy, it will lower your credit score and stay on your report for 7-10 years. Banks and creditors don’t like to see this, so if you declare bankruptcy, you’ll have a really hard time getting a loan for about a decade.

Don’t close old credit cards


A longer credit history improves your credit score, so even if you aren’t using your oldest credit cards, don’t close them. Keeping your older cards open (with zero balances) is a good move.

Don’t transfer several balances to one card


If you have a credit card with a really low interest rate and you want to consolidate all of your balances and move them to one card, it’s usually not the best option for your credit score. If you transfer all your balances to a single card, your credit utilization for that card increases, and this will hurt more than help your credit score. It’s usually more favorable to have a few small balances on various cards than max out a single card.




LG
Lauren Green
20 days ago

How to Get Your Money Back for Lost and Damaged Luggage

travel
money
After a very long and very depressing recent flight from Paris back to the U.S. (who ever wants to leave Paris?), I waited for my luggage in a haze at the bag drop-off in San Antonio, Texas. The first few minutes were filled with the typical baggage pick-up thoughts: I should’ve had one more glass of wine on that flight. Who cares if the flight attendant would’ve ju...
After a very long and very depressing recent flight from Paris back to the U.S. (who ever wants to leave Paris?), I waited for my luggage in a haze at the bag drop-off in San Antonio, Texas. The first few minutes were filled with the typical baggage pick-up thoughts: I should’ve had one more glass of wine on that flight. Who cares if the flight attendant would’ve judged me? I am really really ready to be in my bed. 

But after the next ten minutes, panic began to set in. Okay, where is it? I’m freaking out. I’M FREAKING OUT. A loud buzzer blared and the red light at the top of the baggage carousel flashed, signaling the end of the drop-off, and the beginning of an arduous hunt to get my suitcase back. Little did I know that, once I finally did get it, it would come back broken and damaged. 

Acceptance is the first step (but it’s not as bad as you think).

If you’re a frequent traveler, you may have already dealt with this before, or can expect to. This was the second time that an airline had lost my luggage—it’s bound to happen when you’re packing and unpacking multiple times a year. 

The good news is, you can almost be sure that the airline will find your luggage and get it back to you in a few days (granted, a few days can be an eternity without clean underwear or hair products, but it's doable). Airline companies know that they could end up owing you thousands of dollars in precious cargo, and have people whose only job is to track down your suitcase. 

Trust me, I was on the phone crying to an American Airlines baggage control agent who assured me of this fact, and I begrudgingly believed her. Shout out to Sandra.

Save EVERYTHING.

The key to getting your suitcase back (and recording if it comes back damaged) is to save everything. You need to be ready—I’m talking Elle Woods preparing for her first case after Warner broke up with her ready.

Step One: Before you leave the airport, immediately go to lost baggage control and file a claim. Once you’re there, they will ask for your flight details and baggage numbers (this is a good time to mention that you should always keep your baggage information—it’s usually on the sticker they paste onto the back of your passport). 

Unfortunately, even once you give them every shred of information you have, they’re still going to send you home and make you wait. Yes, you will feel defeated, but that’s okay. Patience, grasshopper.

Bust open the filing cabinet.

After three days, my suitcase finally made it to my front door. Only problem was, it was missing a wheel and had cracks running through it. Umm….WTF?

Step 2: Take pictures of everything and be sure to keep the delivery notice that came with the suitcase. By now, your detective folder should have: flight tickets, baggage numbers, the claim with the file reference number made at your arrival airport, the delivery notice, and pictures of the luggage. 

Airlines do not want to pay you for their mistakes, so be hot on your pursuit for reparation. Typically you have up to 45 days.
Send it off with a prayer.
This is where you’re actually going to have to use those organizational skills you bragged about on your resume. 

Step 3: Fill out a reimbursement form. Along with all the info mentioned above, it’s crucial to have this document filled out correctly, otherwise you run the risk of not getting a full reimbursement. You can find it on the airline website. Fill it out digitally or print and send it off by mail or fax with all your other docs. 

If you had any missing or damaged items, be sure to list those as well. You can even file for living costs for the days without your toiletries (yes, seriously). And, if you’re a total packrat and just so happen to have saved your suitcase’s receipt from when you bought it, you can apply to have its full cost compensated. 

If not, don’t expect the airline to reimburse you more than $150. It’s enough to get you a new suitcase (and a drink for the emotional distress).


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Nav.it
20 days ago

Spread Your Wings, Nav.igators—These Are the Cheapest Days to Fly

travel
money
If you’ve ever traveled anywhere, you know that just being in the airport is hassle enough. Waiting in line to check a bag, going through security, and herding in front of the gate like a bunch of cows isn’t exactly the best part about taking a trip. 

Then you remember how much you spent on the flight to get to your destin...
If you’ve ever traveled anywhere, you know that just being in the airport is hassle enough. Waiting in line to check a bag, going through security, and herding in front of the gate like a bunch of cows isn’t exactly the best part about taking a trip. 

Then you remember how much you spent on the flight to get to your destination, and it nearly ruins the entire vacation.

You could sulk about it, or you could actively find ways to save on your flight. Here’s how.

The cheapest day to fly is Wednesday.


Whether you’re escaping for a long weekend or heading out for weeks overseas, there seems to be one universal understanding when it comes to flights: leave on a Wednesday.

CheapAir reports that mid-week flights are the least expensive, with Wednesdays clocking in at nearly $60 less than Sunday ones. This goes for returning flights, too.

But not everyone has the luxury of taking time off of work to fly on a Wednesday, so if you can’t, consider your other, almost-as-cheap options. According to CheapAir, traveling on Tuesdays and Thursdays will save you almost $50.

Cheap flights depend on the time of year.


Sometimes flights just aren’t going to be cheap. Most of the time, summer travel will be pricey.

Investopedia suggests avoiding travel for most of the summer. But if this is your only time to get away, shoot for very early summer. As in, still May. Flights during the first two weeks of the month are 20 percent cheaper than those between Memorial and Labor Day.

There are also exceptions during the holiday season. Wednesdays are typically the cheapest day to fly, but the day before Thanksgiving is going to be packed and pricey. In general, Thanksgiving travel from Tuesday through Sunday is the most expensive. 

Try to leave with enough days for padding that you won’t be stuck in crowded airports or end up paying an entire week’s paycheck for the flight.

Non-holiday travel is actually dirt-cheap.


Flying during the holidays will always be expensive, but it all depends on where you go. Domestic travel will probably cost you more if you hit up snow-hater escapes like Florida and Hawaii, or snow-lover resorts in the mountains. But heading to non-touristy areas might offer better rates. 

For example, Europe in the winter is a great time to jump on cheap flights. Post-holiday flying (January through March) usually offers discounted rates because not a lot of people are traveling there during the winter. 

Sure, the cold might turn others away, but it’s a dream if you’re trying to avoid the hordes of tourists you’ll encounter during the warm season. Just pack layers.

Swipe to stay on top of dropping prices.


If you’ve got a destination in mind, sign up for alerts from your favorite flight apps or websites, like:

  • Hopper: This app will tell you when prices for your destination have dropped. You’ll also get alerts on the best time to buy and when to avoid getting tickets.
  • Airfarewatchdog: This site compares dozens of other flight sites, so you can get the cheapest flight without price-checking every place yourself.
  • Scott’s Cheap Flights: If you’re serious about optimizing your travel deals, this service is worth the $39 a year. You’ll get alerts for every deal available on international flights, including mistakenly discounted fares (which means you’re paying a fraction of the cost!).

Yes, you need a backup plan.


Not everyone can squeeze in leaving on a Wednesday to save a decent chunk of change. Whether it’s work or family obligations, sometimes you need to leave later in the week.

If that’s your sitch, Saturdays are still doable, especially for return flights. Many people want to optimize their time away and try to come back Sunday evenings, but traveling on a Saturday morning will save you a few extra dollars (the earlier the better), and you’ll give yourself a built-in recovery day.


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Whitney Hansen
24 days ago

How to Improve Your Credit Score

money
credit
You probably know that there’s a mysterious number tied to your identity called your credit score. I say it’s mysterious because like most people, you probably aren’t sure exactly how it was determined, what it means, if it’s important, or what you can to do make it better (and why you want to)!

When it comes to managing your personal finances, ...
You probably know that there’s a mysterious number tied to your identity called your credit score. I say it’s mysterious because like most people, you probably aren’t sure exactly how it was determined, what it means, if it’s important, or what you can to do make it better (and why you want to)!

When it comes to managing your personal finances, it’s important to understand why your credit score matters and what you can do to improve it (or ensure it stays high if you already have a good one).

Your credit score (or FICO score) is a number that tells the bank how risky it will be to loan you money. The higher your score, the more likely you are to get a loan. Similarly, the higher your score, the lower the interest rate you’ll be eligible for.

FICO is the company that specializes in “predictive analytics” – they look at your credit history and try to predict how you will behave, financially. Here’s the thing – you can learn about what affects your score and what you can do to improve it, but there’s not an exact formula for figuring it out; you’re never going to be 100% sure how FICO came up with the number. The exact science is a bit of a mystery. Fortunately there are factors to consider and behaviors you can model that will help you improve your score.


Why you should care about your credit score

Your credit score matters most when you are buying a home or a car and need to get a loan. If your credit score is higher, you will get a lower interest rate, so over time the purchase will cost you less. The bank allows you to pay less interest each month because they believe you are financially responsible and you will be able to repay the loan without defaulting (missing a payment). When your credit score is low, the bank hikes up the interest rate, charging you more interest, because they fear you may have trouble making payments. They are trying to protect themselves, but it’s kind of backwards, isn’t it? 

Basically, you get rewarded for being more “responsible” (if you have a higher score), by paying less interest. It’s worth paying attention to the things that factor into creating your score and trying to get it as high as you can.

Payment history


Your payment history refers to your past behavior paying your bills. Payment history makes up about 35% of your credit score (the largest amount!). If you always pay student loans and credit cards on time, FICO will reward you with a higher score in this area. FICO looks negatively at late and missed payments and if you have these on your record, FICO lowers your score. Here’s where the mystery lies – you never know exactly how much one late or missed payment will affect your score. The best way to improve your credit in this area is by making consistent, timely payments.


Credit utilization


FICO is looking for you to have ample credit available to you, but the catch is that you shouldn’t be using nearly all of what’s available at any given time. Credit utilization is measured both individually by card and also across multiple cards, and it makes up 30% of your FICO score. There’s no hard rule here for how much credit you should have and use. In the past it was recommended not to carry a balance higher than 30% of the available limit on any one card for an optimal credit score. That’s still a great practice, but it’s not guaranteed to help you get your score as high as possible. There are several factors in credit utilization that play into your score:
  1. How many credit cards do you have?
  2. Are any of your cards maxed out? If not, are you using half of what’s available to you? Less than 30% of what’s available? Less than 10% of what’s available?
  3. How much do you owe on each of your cards? 
  4. What’s the total amount that you owe on all of your credit cards?
Since there’s not an exact formula to get your score as high as possible, the best practice for credit utilization is to carry low balances on the cards you have (and to still have credit available to you, should you need it).

Length of credit history


The length of your credit history plays into your FICO score at about 15%, and longer credit history is better than only having a short history. This is an important component and one that many people mistakenly overlook when they are trying to clean up their credit. For example, if you have an old credit card that you opened ten or twenty years ago but haven’t used, you should continue to keep this credit card open (with a zero balance) rather than closing it out completely. By keeping a card you have had for many years you increase your length of credit history, which positively affects your FICO score.

New credit and inquiries

New credit and how often a third party is pulling your credit accounts for 10% of your FICO score, but opening lots of new cards does not lead to an improved score (in fact, it will likely result in the opposite because it sends the message that you need additional money that you don’t have). The best practice for new credit is to open new cards only when you need them and pay them off right away. Don’t forget, when you check your own credit report, that does NOT hurt your credit score, it’s only when other parties are checking your report.

Credit mix


The final component of your credit score is based on the assumption that you have a good credit mix. If you have a good credit mix then you have a variety of types of loans and you are able to repay them all. There are 2 types of loans: revolving and installment loans. Revolving loans (for example, credit cards) aren’t based on a predetermined amount for a loan, these loans allow you to make charges, pay them off, then make charges again. Installment loans are loans that you get in a lump sum and make payments on each month (such as a student loan). If you have both types of loans and pay them off in a timely manner with no late payments, that’s great! It’s not recommended to go out and get loans to increase your credit mix since it’s only 10% of your FICO score.

Credit scores are confusing and since there’s no perfect formula to getting the highest possible score, it’s important to take these 5 factors into account as you build your credit as an adult. Not sure what your score is? I recommend using annualcreditreport.com once a year to pull your report for free. There are a lot of sites out there to choose from – this one is reliable. 


LA
Liz Alterman
26 days ago

Using the Avalanche Method as a Strategy for Paying Off Debt

money
debt
I know what you’re thinking: If I’m already buried under a mountain of debt, the last thing I want is an avalanche metaphor. 

But ironic naming aside, this debt-elimination technique is your ace in the hole if you’ve got tons of high-interest debt and not clue how to start whittling away at it. Here’s the 101. 
I know what you’re thinking: If I’m already buried under a mountain of debt, the last thing I want is an avalanche metaphor. 

But ironic naming aside, this debt-elimination technique is your ace in the hole if you’ve got tons of high-interest debt and not clue how to start whittling away at it. Here’s the 101. 

Why the avalanche metaphor?

Picture a snow-covered mountain peak crumbling down the mountainside, starting as a ferocious behemoth and ending as a light dusting by the time it hits the ground. The avalanche method of attacking your debt follows the same trajectory.

In money terms, this means putting the majority of your payments toward debt with the highest interest rates first, while only making minimum payments on all other outstanding balances. 

The rationale behind this strategy is that you’ll eliminate the debt that’s costing you the most in interest. That’s important, because when it comes to debt, interest is your mortal enemy. 

It is seriously devastating to make minimum payments on a giant balance, only to watch it mushroom month after month because you’re just paying interest and not actually reducing the principal (a.k.a. the amount you actually borrowed). 

According to the avalanche method, once you’ve paid off the debt with the highest interest rate, you move on to the one with the next largest interest rate, keeping the rest at minimum payments (then rinse, repeat until all your debts are repaid).

Okay…so how do I start?

Make a list of your outstanding debts in order from highest to lowest interest rates, then consider the dollar figures on the debt. 

Example time!

Let’s say you have three different debts:
  1. Student loans with a balance of $22,000 at 3.6 percent interest 
  2. An auto loan with a balance of $4,000 at 4.2 percent interest
  3. $7,000 in credit card debt at 14.4 percent interest

You’ve got $750 per month available for repaying all of these. But how much should you put toward each?

According to Mr. Debt Avalanche, the answer is C. Why? Because that 14.4 percent interest is going to end up costing you the most month to month. (Some quick math makes this obvious: 14.4 percent of $7,000 is more than $1,000 per month in interest! YIKES.)

So, if each debt has a hypothetical minimum monthly payment of $75, you’ll put $75 toward your auto loan and your student debt (that’s $150 if you’re keeping track) and devote the remaining $600 toward your credit card debt. 

Do this every month until your credit card is paid off. (And don’t rack up more debt while you’re doing it! Step away from the flash sale.)
 

But I just want to get rid of the big balances!

I know, the higher numbers are scary, but throwing the bulk of your money at the loan with the biggest price tag doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of your debt as quickly (or as cleverly) as possible.

Focus on where you’re losing the most money in interest. The debt avalanche method minimizes both the total amount of money you’ll spend in interest as well as the amount of time it takes to pull yourself out of debt because you’re stopping interest from building on itself (that’s “compounding” in financese) at the highest rate. 

Pro-tip: try to lower your rates.

Just because you got stuck with high interest rates when you took out that loan or opened that credit card doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them forever. 

At literally any time, you can attempt to have your interest rates lowered. You’d be surprised what can happen if you pick up the phone and call your credit card company (especially if you’ve had the card for a while—creditors loooove loyalty). 

Talking to a customer service rep might be your own personal form of torture, but if you come out of with a few percentage points knocked off your monthly bill, it’s worth the cringey few minutes. 


BS
Bekah Stallworth
about 1 month ago

I’m Planning on Saving Over $230,000 in My Lifetime—By Not Having Kids

money
women
In my early twenties, I had a realization that would undoubtedly shape the rest of my life: I didn’t want children.
 
I had always admired the mothers I saw hauling their children’s strollers up and down subway stairs, but I’d simultaneously wondered, Is it worth it?

Is the price of motherhood—financially, physi...
In my early twenties, I had a realization that would undoubtedly shape the rest of my life: I didn’t want children.
 
I had always admired the mothers I saw hauling their children’s strollers up and down subway stairs, but I’d simultaneously wondered, Is it worth it?

Is the price of motherhood—financially, physically, emotionally—really eclipsed by the sheer joy it supposedly creates? I chalked my initial hesitancy up to my age and lack of maternal instincts.

But it wasn’t instincts I was missing—it was desire. I’m turning 30 this year, and my list of reasons why I don’t want to procreate has grown. At the top of that list is money.
 

Kids are really F-ing expensive.

A 2014 USDA report estimated that the national average cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 17 was $233,610, not including college (#America). That number more than doubles if you live in New York. And realistically, child-related expenses don’t disappear as soon as your teenager turns 18, either.
 
Those statistics are based on middle-class households with two incomes. Yet, the average millennial probably can’t imagine comfortably parting with over $7,000 of their yearly salaries. Between the price of education, activities, and basic necessities, it’s no surprise we’re waiting longer to have children, if at all.
 

Avoiding the motherhood penalty.

For the first time, women over the age of 30 are having more babies than women in their early twenties. The primary reasons for holding off: education and careers.
 
Not only do we fear that putting our professions on hold will risk growth opportunities, but because of the wage gap, we feel the burden of student loans more strongly than men. On average, it takes two additional years for women to pay off student debt.

There’s also the “motherhood penalty.” Research proves that women with children earn anywhere from nine to 20 percent less than childless women, even when the number of hours worked is equal.
 
In spite of legal boundaries, mothers are repeatedly overlooked for promotions and raises because of maternity leave. To make matters worse, paid parental leave isn’t mandated in the States, and childbirth here is more expensive than in any other country in the world. To top it all off, after the child is born, childcare is unsubsidized.

There’s a child-free butterfly effect.

Regardless of what the decision is rooted in, electing to live a childless life has instantaneous and residual ripple effects on your life.
 
For example, when my partner and I were house hunting last year, our realtor remarked that not having to be consciences of school districts made it easier to work within our budget. 
 
I also don’t feel tension in terms of my career trajectory. Mothers have to consider how a new job or career shift would impact their families. But if I decide to change career paths or go back to school, I won’t have to worry about how it could affect saving for my kid’s education.
 

Feeling free to be “selfish.”

Discretionary income is a major advantage of planning for a childless future. But I’m also looking forward to having more time and energy to spend on my soon-to-be husband. 
 
Without kids, we’ll have roughly $14,000 more a year at our disposal. With that money, we can take weekend trips and long vacations, make upgrades to our home and pay off our mortgage sooner, and can spare no expense for our dogs (*happy woof*). We can invest in our futures, and each other, more freely. 

There are downsides, of course. Since we won’t have children to look after us when we’re older, we’ll have to be especially diligent about planning for retirement and making sure we have life and long-term care insurance, but those are small prices to pay in the bigger scheme of things.
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