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Tips for financial fitness

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

Are you unhappy with your personal financial situation? If so, you're not alone.

In a recent online survey, 38 percent of 1,218 U.S. adults said they weren't financially fit. Another 43 percent said they'd like to improve at least one aspect of their financial situation. Only 12 percent said they were financially fit and happy about their personal finances.

Wow.

Heather Battison, senior director of consumer education at TransUnion, the Chicago-based credit bureau that commissioned the survey, said in a statement that it's easy for consumers to become worried and confused about managing their finances in today's "changing and unsettling economic conditions."

But rather than "get stressed out," Battison added, consumers should educate themselves, so they'll be able to improve their financial fitness.

Here, courtesy of TransUnion, are four tips.

  • Pay all your bills on time every month. Late payments, collections and bankruptcies have the biggest negative effect on your credit scores while a long history of on-time payments can help you build a healthy credit profile.
  • Check your credit reports regularly to ensure they accurately reflect your credit history. Question information you don't recognize. Contact the creditor associated with the account or the credit bureau if you spot any errors.
  • Keep your credit card account balances at less than 35 percent of your available credit limits. If your card limit is, say, $1,000, keep the balance you owe to no more than $350.
  • Apply for new credit in moderation, if at all. A large number of credit inquires during a short time period could be taken as a sign that you're experiencing financial difficulties or overextending yourself.

Most banking activities, such as making a deposit, writing a check or closing an account, won't impact your credit report or score. But some banks will check your credit if you want to open a new account. Others will report a line of credit linked to a checking account as a revolving account. A bad check could be reported to a credit bureau if the bank sends that item to a collections agency or internal collections department.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff

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