20 Steps to Financial Health: Achieving Lifelong Financial Fitness
4. Dispute any erroneous information on your credit report
If you find an error on your credit reports, you are protected under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the credit bureaus are required to provide correct and complete information to companies requesting credit histories. If you find an error on your report, simply follow these steps:
• Write to the credit reporting agency disputing the item and include any supporting documents. Keep a copy of all documents for your files.
See a sample dispute letter here: www.ConsumerCredit.com/financial-education/credit.aspx
• When the credit reporting agency receives your letter disputing the item, they must investigate the item in dispute (usually within 30 days) by presenting the information you submit to the creditor.
• By law, the creditor must review your evidence and report its findings to the credit bureau.
• The credit bureau must then give you a written report of its investigation and a copy of your report if the report results in a change.
You can also fill out an online dispute form provided by the credit bureaus. If an item on your report is found to be an error and is corrected, you can request that the credit bureau send corrected copies of your report to any creditor who received your report in the previous six months or any employer who received your report in the previous two years.
5. Set financial goals
Setting financial goals is an important step to financial health.
Before you set your goals, follow the SMART rules.
Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
S = Specific; I will pay off $5k in unsecured debt
M = Measurable; I will allow $100 per month for that payment
A = Achievable; I can achieve this if I cut back on my expenses, my cable TV and my cell phone bill
R = Realistic; Instead of buying books or renting movies I will use my local library and attend free events
T = Timely; I will have my credit card debt paid off in 30 months
6. Set short, mid and long term goals
When establishing your SMART goals, you may want to break them down further into short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.
Goals will differ in the length of time needed to achieve them. Short-term goals are priorities that can be accomplished within one year. Mid-term goals are priorities that can be accomplished within two to five years. Long term financial goals are priorities that may take more than five years to accomplish.