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Managing Your Debt

FINRA Foundation research shows a significant number of military families have large credit card debt, with one in four respondents reporting outstanding balances of more than $10,000. Use these tools to learn more about credit scores, managing credit and ultimately making better financial decisions.

Action Plan: Dig yourself out of debt
It’s easy to fall into debt — especially if you are supporting a growing family. But just because you’re in debt now doesn’t mean you have to stay in debt. You are taking the first step to dig yourself out of debt by reading this Action Plan. Whether you’re in serious trouble or just want to pay down some bills, take the steps in this Action Plan to get going.

Action Plan: Control your credit
It’s hard to imagine functioning in modern life without a credit card. Renting a car, reserving a hotel room or shopping online would all be much more difficult without plastic. But credit cards can also get you into trouble. It is very easy to overspend and find yourself in an extraordinary amount of debt.

Action Plan: Check your credit score
Your credit score is a three-digit number that can have a big impact on your finances. It tells creditors how likely you are to pay back the money you want to borrow. The lower your credit score, the riskier you appear to lenders, and the more you will likely pay for loans, credit cards and insurance premiums.

Action Plan: Improve your credit score
Your credit score, the three-digit number that follows you around for life, requires your supreme care. The amount you pay for credit and insurance premiums, and whether you are offered a job, approved to live in an apartment, or get utilities turned on in a new residence can be governed by your credit score.

Action Plan: Choosing a credit card
Choosing a credit card is a very personal decision ? the card that’s best for you might be very different from the best card for someone else. Avoid making a big mistake when choosing a credit card.

Action Plan: How to shop for a mortgage
Before you can buy a house, you will need to shop for — and qualify for — a home loan. A mortgage will likely be the biggest amount you ever borrow, and could take 15 to 30 years to pay back. That makes shopping for the lowest interest rate and fees even more important.

Action Plan: How to shop for a car loan
People tend to spend a lot of time shopping around for a car, and very little time shopping for a car loan. Keep yourself in the driver’s seat when you walk into that showroom. Know how much car you can afford and shop for the best rates and terms available to you before the negotiations begin.

Action Plan: Report identity theft
Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in America. More than 9.9 MILLION victims were reported last year, according to a Federal Trade Commission survey. What is identity theft? Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of your personal information, such as your Social Security number or driver’s license number, and uses it for his or her own personal gain. The Federal Trade Commission has a website that will provide you with tools and resources to protect you from identity theft or help you if your identity has been stolen.

Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (Identity Theft Act) to address the problem of identity theft. Specifically, this act makes it a federal crime when anyone knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.

Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years — and their hard-earned money — cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. Learn how to minimize your risk or recover from identify theft.

Committing time to improve your credit score, pay down debt and get on a financially stable track is important. However, your hard work can unravel if you become a victim of identity theft.

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