Financial Tips | Debt Management

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1/10/09

How Long Can a Bad Credit Report Haunt You?

A good credit report is an important financial asset to possess. A good credit report can help you obtain loans (including the big loans such as a mortgage, a car loan, and/or a college loan, to name a few), help you obtain a low interest rate on those loans, and will help you obtain favorable loan terms. Therefore, a good credit report will help you obtain loans and will help you save money by way of lower interest payments.

There are many things that you can do to your credit report that will negatively affect it. Some things are small (such as having a low credit to debt ratio, having too many credit report inquiries, and closing a credit card account, to name a few), but there are many "big" things that you can do that will severely lower your credit score.

A bankruptcy is probably the worst, one trick pony that can happen to your credit report. Before you decide to file for bankruptcy, you need to think long and hard about the benefits and penalties. The most obvious benefit is that most of your debts will be discharged (with the exception of certain debts like mortgages, student loans, and IRS liens), however, a bankruptcy also means that your credit report and your credit score will be severely damaged. By severally damages, I mean that your credit score will decrease by several hundred points.

Things such as late payments, charge offs, and collection accounts can also dramatically reduce your credit score. These things will not reduce your credit score to the same extent as a bankruptcy, but they will still do some pretty heavy damage. Therefore, you should consistently pay your monthly payments on time so these things do not happen to you and thus, will not be reported in your credit report.

Even though these things will dramatically reduce your credit score, many people may think that this is not a big deal because the information will be removed from their credit report eventually. What these people do not know is that late payments, charge offs, and collection accounts can stay on a credit report for up to seven years. Therefore, should you do things to improve your credit score during this time, those improvements will be offset by the negative information that remains. Even worse than the seven year time frame for the above listed credit report problems is a bankruptcy. A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to ten years.

The point is, these problems do not go away overnight and thus, should you engage in this kind of behavior, you will pay for it for many years.

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