Dear Dr. Don,
I am trying to get my credit up to par and am getting nowhere. Last year, my FICO score was 619 and my current score is 624. I have one credit card which I pay off every month and only use as a way to show my good credit behavior.

I also have two installment loans, one with a balance of $14,000 and another at $99,000. These loans were used to pay off my mother’s adjustable rate home equity loan and to buy a house for myself. All of my payments have been on time and the accounts are all 6 months to 9 months old. I have some old bruises on my credit, but nothing more recent or worse than a foreclosure from April 2003.

What else can I do? Is there an expert or organization out there who can help me strategize to get up to at least a normal credit rating before I die of old age? I will be job hunting soon and I fear this will limit my possibilities.
— Linda Laments

Dear Linda,
Bankrate can help you form a strategy to improve your credit rating. You don’t need to find a credit repair firm to help you fix things. You don’t appear to be in a situation where you need credit counseling or a debt management plan to get your credit under control, you just need to boost your credit score. Bankrate’s, “5 steps to do-it-yourself credit repair” explains what you need to do.

The FTC Facts for Consumers guide, “Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best” also points out why credit repair firms aren’t likely to help you improve your credit score.

Your credit score is based on the information in your credit report. The foreclosure is going to stay on your credit report for seven years. A clean payment history will help your credit score, but the foreclosure will continue to have an impact on your credit score through 2010. You say that your mortgage (installment) loans are only 6 months to 9 months old. You build your credit score every month that you pay on time.

It’s probably a good idea to get another credit card. The Bankrate feature, “6 good reasons to carry multiple credit cards” explains how having several credit cards can help your credit score.

On the employment front, don’t agonize over what you can’t change. If a prospective employer decides to pull your credit report, there’s not much you can do about it. Worrying about it isn’t going to help.

I can understand your frustration in wanting to get your credit on track as quickly as possible, but you have less than a year of credit history on the two loans and you have a foreclosure on your credit report. And you are right — there are few things worse than having a foreclosure listed on your credit report.

It sounds like you’re doing all the right things, but you want results now. There’s no magic solution to get those results now. Keep paying your bills on time, get another credit card (use it sparingly) and things will get better.