Is Your Credit Keeping You Up at Night? Utilize These Tips for Optimal Credit Health
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE
Having bad credit can mean the difference between buying your dream home or being relegated to renting a small apartment. The best way to know where you stand with your credit is to look at your FICO score, which is an overall assessment of your credit health that’s used by credit bureaus to assess credit risk to lenders. The Fair Isaac Corporation, the analytics firm that developed the FICO score, recently announced a forthcoming change to how it calculates these scores. Under this new algorithm, borrowers with a good rating — around 680 or better — will likely see an increase in their scores, while those with a lower rating are likely to see their score decrease. These changes can feel concerning, since your FICO score is used in virtually every credit decision. However, understanding how your score is calculated, and what you can do to improve it, will help you feel more prepared. The three major credit bureaus that compute your FICO score are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Each one calculates your score a little differently, but they are all crucial to your credit score’s well-being. The first step to improving your credit is to know and track your score. But remember, by law you’re guaranteed one free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies per year. To find your free reports, you can go to Annualcreditreport.com. If you find something in the reports you disagree with, you can dispute it. On each of the three credit bureau websites, you’ll find a section for reporting errors or inaccuracies on your report. The credit bureau you are working with will contact the creditor related to the HOW TO TRACK YOUR FICO SCORE
disputed information. If the creditor doesn’t respond within 30 days, the debt will be taken off your credit report.
There are three easy ways to start improving your credit score. First, never miss a payment. At the very least, pay the minimum balance on your statements by the due date. Second, never carry a credit balance of more than 30% of the credit available to you. Third — and this is something they never tell you — make more than one payment a month. Every time you make a payment to your creditor, you decrease your balance and improve your credit utilization ratio, which can help increase your credit score. A good FICO score is essential to your success in borrowing money. By following these tips, you will be one step closer to getting that dream house you’ve always wanted.
HOWYOUR SCORE IS CALCULATED
Your FICO score is calculated based on five factors: your payment history, the amount of money you owe relative to the amount of credit you have available, your recent new credit, the length of your credit history (so the longer you’ve been using your credit cards, the better your scores will be), and your credit mix (mortgages, car payments, credit cards, etc.). The FICO formula uses these criteria in creating their scores, which range between 250 to 900. If you would like to see how your credit score compares to others, look at this chart.
The range of scores
Generally, the higher your score, the more likely you are to be offered better credit terms Scores range from a low of 250 to a high of 900.
How your score compares to the scores of other consumers
-Robert L. Firth Helping clients with bankruptcy, estate planning, and tax resolution.
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RETIRE IN STYLE 3 PLACES TO RETIRE INTERNATIONALLY
Even if you’ve always planned for a comfortable retirement in the United States, choosing to live internationally could be a smart alternative to improve your standard of living in retirement. International Living Magazine’s Retirement Index has tracked objective retirement metrics — like the cost of living, democratic stability, and health care — for the last 40 years. They also take into account reports of correspondents actively living abroad. Here are some of their top picks for international retirement destinations. PANAMA Panama ranks No. 2 in International Living Magazine’s list of best places to retire internationally. With its tropical climate, proximity to the United States, excellent health care, and low tax burden, it’s easy to see why. In Panama City, you can expect to pay at least $2,600 a month in living expenses, but housing costs are substantially lower outside of major metropolitan markets. Panama also offers excellent discounts, up to 25% off of things like airline tickets, hotels, and energy costs through its Pensionado program. COSTA RICA If it’s a textbook paradise you’re looking for, look no further than Costa Rica. Thanks to a 1948 decision to abolish their military and direct
all of those funds to health care and education, Costa Rica is often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America.” Known for its stable democracy, safety, and socialized health care that’s only available once you’ve obtained residency, Costa Rica also offers climates for just about everybody — from the lush jungles of the south to the hot, dry beaches of Guanacaste in the northwest. Expect to find large communities of expats to help you acclimate. MEXICO The first things that come to mind for most people when you mention Mexico are margaritas and beach umbrellas, but this country offers a lot more than that. For starters, Mexico features an enticingly low cost of living. International Living estimates a couple could live in Mexico on anywhere from $1,500–$3,000 per month, depending on location, including health care expenses. Once you’ve obtained residency status, you can sign up for national health care plans that offer full coverage for just a few hundred dollars annually.
THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY How a Battle of Boxers Captivated the World
On March 8, 1971, all eyes were on the world of boxing as people watched what would become known as “The Fight of the Century.” It was one of the most anticipated matchups the sport had ever arranged: Current heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali were finally facing off, the first time two undefeated boxers would fight each other for the heavyweight title. Spectators were hungry for a battle. Both fighters held rightful claims to the title of world heavyweight champion. Ali won it in 1964 and successfully defended it for several years, but he was stripped of the title during a legal battle over his induction into the U.S. armed forces. In his absence from the sport,
Frazier earned two championship belts through major knockout fights. But when Ali settled his court case and came to reclaim his title, Frazier wasn’t ready to give it up easily. Ringside seats for the fight sold for today’s equivalent of over $1,000. Millions watched the broadcast in over 50 countries around the world, and Madison Square Garden sold out to a crowd of 20,455 spectators. The fighters possessed polar opposite tactics, backgrounds, and social impacts, but when it came to skill, they were evenly matched. The fight captivated the nation. As Sports Illustrated put it at the time, “The thrust of this fight on the public consciousness is incalculable. It has been a ceaseless whir that seems to have grown in decibel with each new soliloquy by Ali, with each dead calm promise by Frazier.” The fight exceeded all expectations with a fully engrossing 15 rounds. For the first quarter of the match, it seemed Ali would best his opponent, but Frazier came back with fury. Even though Ali continued to rise to his feet round after round, Frazier emerged victorious by the slimmest of margins, dealing Ali his first professional loss ever. The landmark event highlighted an unforgettable night of skillful prowess like the world had never seen. Even though the title fight was only the beginning of the rivalry between the two boxers, the matchup rightfully took its place as one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport.
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TAKE A BREAK
One of the greatest things about March Madness is that you don’t have to be a huge college basketball fan to get in on the fun. Kids of all ages can fill out brackets — or have a parent fill one out for them — and watch their picks duke it out on the court. While healthy competition among family members WHOSE PICKS WILL GO ALL THE WAY? March Madness Fun for the Whole Family
can be fun all on its own, check out the following tips if you’re looking to go the extra mile and reap as much fun from March Madness as you can.
TURN EACH GAME INTO AN EVENT. Not every kid may like watching basketball, but if they fill out a bracket, then they might gain at least a passing interest in who will win each game. To elevate their interest, turn
PESTO CHICKEN WITH BLISTERED TOMATOES
each March Madness matchup into a little party. It doesn’t have to be fancy; make fun snacks to eat while you watch or bet pieces of candy on who will have the most points to create great family bonding opportunities.
Brighten up after a cold, dark winter with this fresh and flavorful springtime dish.
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, pounded to a 1-inch thickness Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup whole-wheat panko
• • • • • •
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted 6 tbsp spinach pesto 2 cups cherry tomatoes 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 1 tsp red wine vinegar
REWARD THE WINNERS WITH PRIZES. Offer prizes to each round winner as well as the overall bracket winner to get the whole family involved. Small prize ideas for each round can include a homemade dinner of the winner’s choice, a week’s supply of their favorite snack, or a coupon for getting out of a chore. Whoever wins the whole tournament (or makes it the furthest with their bracket) deserves a bigger reward. Offer them the chance to see a movie of their choice in theaters or to eat a meal at their favorite restaurant. CREATE A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY. Learning math or geography might not sound like your child’s idea of fun, but it can be when they learn it through the lens of March Madness. See if your kids would be interested in understanding the inner workings of the ranking system or studying where some of the qualifying colleges are located on a map of the United States. They may find it so interesting that they don’t even realize they’re learning valuable skills.
1. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil. 2. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and add it to pan. Cook chicken for 5 minutes on each side, then remove pan from heat. 3. In a bowl, combine panko, Parmesan cheese, and butter. 4. Spread pesto over chicken and top with panko mixture. 5. Broil chicken for 2 minutes on high heat until browned. 6. In a skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. 7. Add tomatoes and cook for 6 minutes. 8. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. 9. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, and add red wine vinegar. 10. Serve tomatoes with broiled chicken.
Inspired by CookingLight.com
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
How to Boost Your FICO Score
Retire in Style Boxing’s Greatest Battle
Pesto Chicken With Blistered Tomatoes March Madness Fun for the Whole Family
New York City’s Chaotic Annual Tradition
SMASHED MIRRORS, MAIMED SOFAS, AND MISSING BED-SCREWS THE DAY EVERYONE IN NEW YORK CITY MOVED
Moving is the worst. The costs of hiring a moving company and the sheer amount of time it takes to physically move everything make the whole affair an aggravating mess. And if you thought moving just one house on your street was terrible, imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone in your whole city moved on the same day. That’s exactly what happened in New York City for nearly two centuries. FromColonial times until the end ofWorldWar II, May 1 was Moving Day in NewYork. On that day, every lease in the city ended, and pandemonium reigned in the streets as everyone scurried to their new homes. Eyewitness accounts of Moving Day describe the tradition as sheer mayhem. An English writer said Moving Day looked like“a population flying from the plague,”
and frontiersman Davy Crockett called it an “awful calamity”when he discovered the event in 1834. Still, some people loved Moving Day. Long Island farmers took their carts into the city on May 1 and charged as much as a week’s wages to move desperate tenants’ belongings to their new homes, which was a tidy sum in those days. Children were also fond of Moving Day because they got the day off school to help their families navigate the tumultuous time. A few prominent theories have emerged about the origins of this tradition. Some posit that May 1 coincided with the English celebration of May Day. Others say it morphed out of an event where servants would look for new employers. The most well-known
explanation, however, is the May 1 move commemorated the day Dutch colonizers “moved” to Manhattan in the first place. The Moving Day tradition began vanishing in the early 20th century because many cartmen and housing builders were drafted during WorldWar I, leaving fewer movers and less available housing. Additionally, the construction of the New York City subway gave other tenants rapid access to more housing options outside Manhattan. Finally, after many cartmen were again drafted in WWII, the tradition officially ended in 1945.
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