At some point, most everyone will need to borrow money, whether it’s for school, a car, a home, a business, or to meet daily expenses during a personal financial downturn. Of course, how that money is borrowed and how it is paid back can make a big difference in the total cost and a person’s overall financial standing.
The experts at BMO Financial Group offer the following suggestions to ensure responsible borrowing:
• Know your credit score. This number is vital, and will often determine whether you can borrow money, how large a loan you can secure, and what interest rate you’ll pay. Creditors will look at this score to gauge your ability to pay back a loan. It’s made available via three main agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Credit reports from these agencies should be checked regularly to ensure accuracy.
• Manage your credit score. There are many factors that play into a credit score, including your credit history, outstanding debts and your total number of credit accounts and loans. Paying off debt, making payments on time, and not opening new credit accounts will all help bring your credit score up.
• Understand your responsibility before co-signing anyone else’s credit or loan. If a friend or family member makes that request, be sure you know what you’re signing and have the ability to make payments in the event the primary signator is not able to.
• Prioritize your debt, whether you’re paying it off or taking out a loan. If you’re faced with multiple sources of debt, make a list and determine which should be paid off first. If possible, make more than the minimum monthly payments to keep interest costs down. When taking on more debt, avoid new credit cards where possible and focus debt where it can help you over the long run—in a home or a college education.
• Set your kids up for success by educating them on borrowing. Give them small loans and charge interest as they’re paid back. Explain how credit cards work, and how much interest is paid when the bill comes. As kids get older and closer to college, talk to them about student debt and their prospects for paying those loans back after graduation.