Don’t Let COVID-19 Impact Your Credit Score
(NewsUSA) – Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned millions of Americans’ financial situations upside down.
The economy is showing signs of recovery, but with many Americans still unemployed and having to dip into their savings to cover basic living costs, the question remains: How do you protect your credit score? Read on for some answers.
• Contact your lender ASAP if you can’t make a payment. On-time payments are the largest factor affecting your credit score. Many lenders have agreed to emergency support such as deferral or forbearance options that may allow you to reduce or suspend payments for a fixed period. If those terms are set to expire soon, you should “call your lender to discuss what options are available,” said Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy for the credit reporting agency Experian.
• Look for ways to boost your credit score. Building credit can be challenging, especially if you have limited credit history. Experian’s free tool, Experian Boost, can help raise your FICO score instantly by giving you credit for on-time utility, phone and streaming service payments.
This type of alternative financial data, known as “consumer-permissioned data,” allows you to manage your data with confidence and qualify for better credit. In fact, two out of three Experian Boost users see an increase in their credit score with an average increase of about 12 points. That’s enough to make a significant difference when applying for a loan or any type of credit.
• Consider getting a balance transfer credit card or one with an introductory offer.Handled responsibly, this actually has the potential to increase your credit score while either buying you time to pay off your debts or getting a “welcome bonus” of perhaps hundreds of dollars. If you’re looking for personalized credit card options, tools like Experian CreditMatch can help you get the right card based on your financial profile.
• Pay attention to your utilization ratio. Your credit score is based on your total balance-to-limit ratio (a.k.a. “utilization rate”). Adding a new credit card increases your total available credit. As long as your total credit balance remains the same, you’d be decreasing your utilization rate, which can potentially boost your credit score. Be sure to transfer balances to the card with lower interest and be mindful of temporary low interest rates.
While any balance can cause scores to decline, you should keep your utilization under 30 percent, both overall and on individual accounts. Shooting for a top credit score? “Keep your utilization in the single digits, or even better, pay your credit card balances in full each month,” said Griffin.
• Fight fraudsters by checking your credit report regularly. There’s been a huge jump in attempted credit – and debit-card fraud since the pandemic hit; consumers have lost more than $100 million to COVID-19-related fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
You can receive free weekly credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion through April 2021 by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Experian also offers a free credit monitoring service that includes real-time alerts, credit score tracking, and an updated report every 30 days.
(NewsUSA) – As the world has hit the metaphorical panic button during the rise of Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases worldwide, the daily reality for people and businesses is rapidly changing. Practically overnight, businesses have been forced out of the comfort zone of face-to-face contact, now having to heavily rely on digital platforms. Businesses, especially, are struggling with figuring out how to survive by using digital communication techniques. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and government officials emphasizing "social distancing and mandatory nonessential business closures," technology such as live video conferencing, chat boxes, and email will be the basis for millions of Americans for their jobs, schooling, and everyday communication. So, with so many players in the game, how can businesses continue to function successfully? Higher Images, a 20-year-old full-service digital marketing agency located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is helping organizations, businesses, and the community re-imagine what their lives and work-life will look like through web-based technology and mobile devices. President and CEO of Higher Images, Bryan Thornberg, says, "Rather than going into crisis mode, businesses should take this as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and reach. With many more people relying on digital communication, this is an ideal opportunity for businesses to break boundaries and try new techniques when connecting with clients."Thornberg and his team want to help people not just survive this crisis but to thrive during it and come out with an organization and business model stronger than ever. Thornberg has already been able to impact his clients by thinking outside the box and recommending the usage of technology such as live feeds and Facetime. For example, a hot tub distributor – a business that relies on their retail location for sales – took the recommendation of Thornberg and is now offering live video conferencing for customers to do live demonstrations of products and make purchases. Higher Images also urges businesses to utilize their existing websites to drive business: for example, adding a chat-box function to their website for customer communication, allowing organizations to respond to clients in real-time from the convenience of a cell phone or office computer from any location in the world. With higher internet traffic, this is also a key time for organizations to utilize search engine marketing, Google ads, and mobile in-app advertising technology such as Web tracker, which geo-fences homes to enhance brand visibility. Strategizing with a digital marketing company like Higher Images will provide businesses with the tools they need to succeed. Visit www.howcanmybusinesssurvivethecoronavirus.com for more information.
Study Shows Older Americans Are Coping Best During the Pandemic
If you think older Americans have struggled to cope through the pandemic, think again. According to new research by financial services firm Edward Jones, they have actually been faring far better than their younger counterparts.
The Edward Jones and Age Wave Study focused exclusively on how different generations have held up emotionally and financially in the months since the lockdowns began, and some of its findings are at least as startling as how quickly even 70-year-olds came to love Zoom.
“COVID-19’s impact forever changed the reality of many Americans, yet we’ve observed a resilience among U.S. retirees in contrast to younger generations,” says Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., the founder and CEO of Age Wave, a leading research think tank on aging, retirement and longevity issues.
While acknowledging upfront that the virus itself disproportionately struck aging adults, the five-generational sampling of 9,000 people, age 18 and over, reveals more than a few surprises. Among them:
• While 37 percent of Gen Zers, 27 percent of Millennials, and 25 percent of Gen Xers say they’d suffered “mental health declines” since the virus hit, only 15 percent of Baby Boomers responded likewise.
• Faring the best were those 75 and over – the Silent Generation that followed the so-called “Greatest Generation” – with a mere 8 percent of those respondents reporting any mental health deterioration. That would seem to run counter, as does the results for Boomers (age 56 to 74), to early warnings that prolonged social isolation made older adults especially vulnerable to depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.
• Nearly 68 million Americans have altered the timing of their retirement due to the pandemic, and 20 million have stopped making regular retirement savings contributions.
Dychtwald attributes the two older generations’ resilience to having “a greater perspective on life.”
“They’ve seen wars and other major disruptions before,” he says, “and they know that this, too, will pass. Younger generations feel like, ‘What happened to my life? I mean, I was supposed to go to college or I was starting a new job, and now everything has changed.’”
Most retired Boomers and Silent Gens also had monthly Social Security checks to fall back on. Which explains why – though the pandemic has significantly reduced the financial security of a quarter of Americans – younger generations were slammed the hardest: Nearly one-third of Millennial and Gen Z respondents characterize the impact as “very or extremely negative,” compared to 16 percent of Boomers and 6 percent of Silent Gens who admitted to similar hardship.
Looking for any silver lining that’s come out of the COVID-19 crisis?
Well, 67 percent of respondents did say it’s brought their families closer together.
“The pandemic has certainly thrown into sharp relief what matters most in our lives,” says Ken Cella, Edward Jones’s client services group principal. “And important discussions have taken place about planning earlier for retirement, saving more for emergencies, and even talking through end-of-life plans and long-term care costs.”
And with the study also showing that an overwhelming percentage of retirees yearn for more ways to use their talents to benefit society, financial services firm Edward Jones believes it’s time to redefine retirement more “holistically” to encompass what it calls “the four pillars” of health, family, purpose and finance.
Successfully addressing most of those pillars admittedly takes more financial savvy than many of us have, though, especially given ever-rising costs. But a financial advisor, such as a local one at Edward Jones, has the perspective, experience and empathy to help.