Dear Dr. Don,
I am in my early 30s and have a car repossession on my credit record. This taught me that I should never put a car in my name for a family member or anyone else again.

I never had a credit card. My parents have always put things in their name. So I don’t have a car or house in my name.

I can’t get credit approval when I try. I have a 401(k) account through work. I’ve had my current job for eight years and make decent money.

I have no idea where to start or how to begin to establish a positive financial record. If things keep going like this, I have no idea how I could ever retire.

Does this mean I’ll have to work hard my entire life for no reason?

— Lee Lament

Dear Lee,
To begin, you need to purge the thought that access to credit defines your personal sense of worth. You can build, or rebuild, a credit history.

Access to credit wouldn’t determine whether you’ll be able to retire. If you build a proper retirement portfolio to provide retirement income, you’ll have what you need when the time is right.

Car repossessions have happened to many people. You must not allow this one event to define you. Most negative information remains on a credit report for seven years.

Paying any money owed on the repossession will be reflected as a positive on your credit report, but the issue won’t be removed prematurely.

Start by taking a look at your own credit score and credit report to see where you stand. Then apply for a secured credit card instead of a conventional credit card. That’s one way to begin establishing a positive track record.

Some financial advisers argue that you’re better off debt-free. While you have attained that status the hard way, a credit history is something you will be able to build over time.

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