Financial tips from personal finance guru Ruth Hader

Well-known personal finance consultant Ruth Hader was on Kerri Miller’s Mid-Morning program on Minnesota Public Radio last week. The hour-long discussion was packed with a lot of great personal financial tips. Here are a few, as summarized by MPR’s website (you can listen to the entire episode here):

1) What’s considered a good credit score is creeping up. The high-600s used to be considered good, but now you need to be in the 720-760 range.

2) The two most important factors in achieving a good credit score are on-time payment of bills and the relationship between your credit use and credit limits. The more headroom the better.

3) Eighty percent of credit reports have errors, according to some reports. You need to visit to check for errors. First, make sure all your personal information is correct — spelling of your name, accuracy of address, etc. Then, check your actual financial records for errors. If you find errors in your personal info, contact the credit reporting bureau. For errors in your financial records, contact the creditor first. If you get no satisfaction, you can add the disputed information to your credit report.

4) One way to build good credit: Take out a small loan from a bank or credit union but don’t spend the money. Make regular payments from that pool of money.

5) Think of the credit report as a picture of you being passed around. How can you make it look better? Change the things over which you have control. You can’t change the system, so how do you work within it?

6) It’s better to have two cards or stay well under the limit on one card, then to just have one card that’s close to being maxed out.

7) Credit card balance transfers can be a good way to help pay off debt if you’re not just moving debt around. Playing a debt shell game doesn’t look good to credit bureaus. Consolidate to lower rates but then begin chipping away at the balance.

In particular, I think it’s very important to periodically review your credit report and have any errors corrected. Although many of the credit bureaus offer expensive “fraud alerts” and the like, you can save the money and easily stay on top of your credit report yourself. Go to for a free copy of your credit report from all three of the major credit reporting bureaus. Some people prefer to get all three at once because each one can contain slightly different information. Other people like to pull the 3 at different times over the course of a year as the report changes. Whatever you do, make sure to take advantage of the free reports to ensure that your credit report gives the best possible picture of your finances for lenders.