The Credit Guy's top 5 money tips
Our loyal columnist leaves us with his best money lessons
By Todd Ossenfort
The Credit Guy
The Credit Guy, Todd Ossenfort, is a credit expert and answers readers' questions about credit, counseling and debt issues.
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thanks for reading the Credit Guy column. Your submitted questions have allowed
me the opportunity to help, in a small way, guide you to better money management skills
and use of credit. After three years as the Credit Guy, I am hanging up my
keyboard. It is bittersweet!
hope is that you take away from our time together the importance of managing
your finances in a manner that protects your good credit and future financial
well-being. With that in mind, I'd like to leave you with my top five Credit
is essential to avoid unwanted and often problem debt. If you don't have an
emergency savings account of six to 12 months of income saved, start today. Save
whatever amount you can regularly (each pay period) even if it is only $25. As
you get in the habit of saving, increase the amount as you can afford to do so.
Save something every month, even if you are struggling to pay down debt.
co-sign, especially for a family member. Generally speaking, if a lender is not
willing to loan money to someone, you shouldn't either. Co-signing for a loan
or credit card for another person is a great way to ruin a valuable
relationship -- and your own credit. If the person can't or won't make payments,
your credit will suffer and you will be held responsible for paying.
your credit report annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. Place a reminder on your calendar and get
your free credit report each year.
Reviewing your credit report at least annually will help detect identity
theft early. It'll also help insure there aren't any inaccurate entries on your
using credit to extend your income. Living within your means is key to avoiding
large credit card debt. If you are using credit each month to pay for
essentials, you need to take a hard look at your monthly spending and make cuts
to bring your spending in line with your income. Simple budgeting 101.
your rights when dealing with collectors and use bankruptcy protection when it
is needed -- and only if it is needed. Learn your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and keep collectors from intimidating you into
promises you can't afford to keep. First, explore all your options, but realize
the bankruptcy laws are in place for a reason. You should take advantage of
them when it is necessary.
keep in mind, having the best personal credit history you can is important, but
you can always start today to improve your financial situation. With time and
perseverance, you will have the credit you want and deserve.
you for the opportunity. And remember, take care of your credit!
See related: Know your rights: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, The risks you face when co-signing a loan, Emergency fund money critical in a crisis
Todd Ossenfort is the chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling in Rapid City, S.D. Pioneer Credit Counseling has been a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies since 1997.
The Credit Guy answers a question about a debt or credit issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week.
Send your question to The Credit Guy.
Published: March 14, 2011