The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gives
you the right to a free copy of your credit report once each year
from the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Rotate through the firms during the year by requesting a credit
report every four months. The Bankrate feature, "How
to get your free credit report," provides the contact information.
Other consumer reporting agencies like ChexSystems
(banking) or MIB (life insurance) that fall under the Fair Credit
Act also have to provide you with a free copy of their report once
each year. The Bankrate feature, "Specialty
consumer reports reveal your secrets," tells you how to
request these specialty consumer reports.
Shred your unneeded financial documents. Buy a shredder, preferably
a cross-cut shredder, or, if your community offers this service,
attend the next community shred.
Although I have found the credit
monitoring service valuable this year because of the ChoicePoint incident, I don't
see myself continuing that service when it's my nickel paying for it.
This hasn't been much of a problem in my e-mail this year -- the
spam filter must be doing its job -- but you need to be vigilant
about how you share your personal information on the Internet. Phishing
is an Internet scam that uses spam or pop-up messages to trick you
into disclosing your bank account, credit cards, Social Security
number, personal identification numbers, or PINs, or other financially
sensitive information. It's a fairly insidious attempt at identity
theft. When in doubt about a request for information, go to the
Web site on your own and look for commentary or discussion about
a phishing scam. Never click through on the links in the message.
The FTC has a guide
that provides some tips about protecting yourself against phishing
Stop the status quo
This top 10 tip relates to Newton's first law of motion.
That is, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends
to stay at rest unless another force acts on it.
If not being able to decide
what mutual fund to invest in is keeping you from contributing to a retirement
account, then find a way to get past that obstacle. If you already have an investment
portfolio, review your holdings and decide if you need to rebalance or reallocate
the portfolio to bring it in line with your attitude toward risk and your investment
Find your way around the obstacles that are keeping you from your
goals. If you're spending more than you make, put together a spending plan. If
you are living paycheck to paycheck, try to build some liquidity. When you can't
figure out how to get around a roadblock, ask for help. Whether it's a financial
planner, fitness trainer, motivational coach or trusted friend, a fresh set of
eyes and ears can help you see your way past the obstacle and put you on track
to meet your goals.
Stop missing out on smelling the roses
Easier said than done, I know, but there's more to life than
working to pay the bills. Find a way to put joy in your life if it's missing or
add to your joy if it's not. People make New Year's resolutions because they're
hopeful as to what the New Year will bring. Go beyond fitness and finances to
figure out what you want out of life and work toward it.
Bankrate experts' advice
Repeating your money errors of the past
is a sure way to personal finance wreck and ruin.
Here, Bankrate columnists identify their picks
as the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to your finances in the areas
of real estate, debt, taxes, bankruptcy and personal finance, along with tips
on how to avoid them next year.