Fix My Credit Score Now

There’s a surplus of ways to harm your credit score such as running up student loans. Luckily, with some diligence and hard work, there are also a surplus of ways to fix your credit. So, if you’ve stumbled into a bad situation and found yourself wondering, “Yikes! How can I fix my credit score now?”, you’ve come to the right place.

The Beginning: What is a Credit Score?

This is a 3 digit number generated by an algorithm using info in your credit report. This number is used to predict risk. For example, it allows potential lenders to get a big picture view of your credit and make an educated guess about how likely you are to repay any obligations in a timely manner. Everyone has a credit score. In fact, everyone has 3.

Everyone has a credit score for each of the major bureaus:

Equifax
Experian
Transunion

The Middle: How is My Credit Score Determined

If you don’t understand all of the factors that go in to determining your credit score, it may seem as if this 3 digit number is just random. Somewhere, some guys are sitting around rolling dice to determine what everyone’s credit score is. However, in reality, these scores are based on some very concrete factors. In order of most to least importance:

Payment history – This includes late payments.
Amounts owed – The amount of debt you have.
Length of history – How far back your credit goes (the longer the better).
Types of credit used – Types of accounts you have (ex. revolving and installment).
Credit inquiries / new accounts – are you opening a lot of new accounts? Are a lot of inquiries being pulled (this happens when you apply for new credit and sometimes when you seek new employment)?

Now that you know more about your score we can finally answer the question “How can I fix my credit score now?”

When looking for ways to “fix my credit score now”, keep in mind that your credit isn’t chalk on a blackboard. You can’t take an eraser and just wipe it away in the blink of an eye. Bad reports on your score will typically hang around for seven years and bankruptcies can be reflected in your score for as long as ten years.

The End: Helpful Tips to Fix My Credit Score Now

Tip 1: History is Important

Unfortunately, this aspect of your score is somewhat beyond your control. You can’t start establishing a credit history until your 18 and it takes years to be classified as “good”. This means it is important to open up a few credit cards ASAP, keep them open, and keep them in good standing.

The part you can control is how long a card stays open once you have been approved. If there is a card you no longer want to use, instead of closing it, simply store it or destroy it. Leaving the account open, as long as you aren’t being charged an annual fee, will allow you to keep building a credit history.

Tip 2: Don’t Apply All at Once

Applying for a lot of different types of loans (ex. credit cards) in a short period of time can lower your score… as can opening a bunch of loans in a short period of time. This is a pretty easy way to fix your score. Simply stop applying for a bunch of loans and opening new accounts

Tip 3: Pay Bills On Time Always

If you have trouble remembering to pay certain bills, set up automatic payments so that the money is automatically deducted from your bank account each month. If this isn’t an option, set up automatic reminders on your phone or email program’s calendar.

Tip 4: Pay Down Debt

Lowering your debt to credit ratio by paying off debt is another way to improve your score. Paying your debt off on time (as mentioned above) is critical but if you can, you should also pay off debt ahead of schedule. Any little bit (even just $10 extra a month) will help you accomplish this goal and lower your debt to credit ratio.

Tip 5: Check Your Credit Report 3x a Year

Doing this will help you spot mistakes and fraud like identity theft.

You are entitled to 3 free credit reports a year (one from each of the major credit bureaus).

Pull a credit report every 4 months and carefully examine it. Take any mistakes seriously… they could be signs of identity theft.

Tip 6: Negotiate with Collectors

Paying off an overdue account won’t automatically remove it from your credit report. If you’re only slightly late, the balance is extremely low, or you’re going to pay the debt off in full, you may be able to negotiate with the collection agency to have the item removed from your credit report.

A Candid Interview With the “First American” Tony Salzman – How Did This Tiger Earn His Stripes?

As I sat across from Anthony Salzman, better known in the media as “The First American”, I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world could rattle such a charismatic, over-achieving, innovating man. Well, let me tell you not very much…

Having lived and worked in Vietnam for over 18 years, this native New Yorker is tough as nails. I mean how else could he have survived and succeeded in a country under U.S. embargo, with inexistant banking system, no cars and poor infrastructure?

When you search Salzman on the internet, you find out he played a key role in the normalization of the Vietnam-US relationship as well as the signing of the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement.

But, you also read he was “the first” at everything in Vietnam… Really? I ask him… the first at everything?

Any powerful man has his detractors, I argue, and those probably wonder if Salzman was indeed the first to ever issue a check… Wasn’t there a banking system in Vietnam before Salzman arrived in 1992? – Was Salzman really the first ever to own a car? that seems so unlikely that in the 90’s a country like Vietnam wouldn’t have cars? and then comes the biggie, the Chicago Tribune states that Salzman was “the first” American to ever do business in Vietnam. Come on! surely there were other Americans who flew to Vietnam with a dollar and a dream and somehow did business there in 1992, no?

Tony Salzman aka “Tony the tiger”, the chairman of V-TRAC Development Co. is a soft-spoken, charismatic (yes I already said that), almost humble man… As he sits across from me while I’m playing the devil’s advocate, he chuckles at my questions and smiles calmly… unbothered he explains:

T.S: “Banks. No, there were no foreign banks in this country when I arrived. No means zero. While I was here, sometime after I arrived, the ANZ bank Australia was the first. Citibank was the second. The country manager for the Australian bank was a wonderful guy named A.M. I chose to deliver the caterpillar banking business to him.

I ran one of the most successful and innovative marketing programs ever: it was a contest to find the oldest operating piece of caterpillar equipment in Vietnam. The reward was $1000. At that point in time the average monthly wage was $80. Submissions poured in from all over Vietnam. And, I thought it was high time that the first check be issued in Vietnam. It was after all a 100% cash society. A virgin banking market. So, we found the oldest caterpillar in the country that was still operating, a bulldozer built in 1937. The runner-up was 1939.

There ought to be some kind of archive photos of this someplace I’ll try to find them. When we announced the winner, it was a celebration attended by a lot of people, and the winner, who was an engineer who owned a tugboat. Sorry, the oldest engine was on the tugboat, the second oldest on the bulldozer. On the tugboat it was used for the propulsion. I remember having seen those huge checks when I was a kid on game shows. The ones the size of the bed. I decided that that was exactly what my company and the bank needed. A gigantic check with both of our logos on it made out to “bearer”. One of my staff members described the smile on the winners face as ear to ear Ivory! Well, the ivory disappeared when he saw this thing, the check, which I announced he had won. During the ceremony I proceeded to explain what a check is: a negotiable instrument. I told the audience that it was about time for Vietnam to start using negotiable instruments, and here is the first one! I invited the very perplexed men to come to the stage, and then I gave him a cheap plastic pen. He looked even more confused. The huge check was held by two bankers as backdrop to me and the very perplexed winner.

At this point in time I asked the bankers to turn the check around to show the blank side to the audience. They did this, and then I asked the winner to sign his name so as to endorse it. You can imagine, he looked even more perplexed then more perplexed then more perplexed! He did not want to sign. I then directed his attention to another representative from the bank who was holding two plastic shopping bags bearing the banks logo. The shopping bags were bursting full of cash. The ivory smile returned. He started to head for the bankers. I said no, you have to sign your name on the back of the check. He really did not know what I was talking about but he realized that he was not going to get near those bags of cash unless he signed his name

So, he signed his name. Then he headed for the bags of cash and once again I told him no, the two other bankers who were holding the gigantic check gave it to him to carry over to the guy holding the two bags of cash he carried the big check over to the other fellow, then an assistant took it from him, and the bags of cash were delivered into his hands. At that point in time probably only me, my wife, and the bankers understood what the heck was going on! Certainly nobody else did! Anyway, that was the first check negotiated in the history of Vietnam, regardless of which government regime one talks about.

Now, you have become the fifth or sixth person in the world to understand the nature of that ceremony and transaction. Unfortunately, I’ve never written any of this any place, or told any reporter. Eventually I’ll find the check picture I hope, in any case it’s quite a story.”

Quite a story indeed, and that takes care of how the tiger earned his stripe as “the first” American to ever issue a check in the history of Vietnam.

But how about being “the first” businessman to do business in Vietnam, that one is pretty preposterous I tell him, now how are you going to explain that Tony?

He smiles, and without a roar he says: “About being the First American doing business, here I confess that the media took some liberties. In fact, there were two others, neither of them had any employees, but there were two others. Oh yes, I am referring to two other Americans in Hanoi, there were some others in South Vietnam, I never knew who they were.”

So that settles it, Anthony Salzman may not have been the only ” first American” ever to do business in Vietnam, but he most certainly was “the first American” ever to have employees in Vietnam. And that is precisely why in 2010 he was bestowed with the most prestigious honor, by receiving the Vietnam Friendship Medal, from President Nguyễn Minh Triết, who recognized the American’s enormous contributions to Vietnam, principally as a pioneer whose personal and business commitment opened a new chapter of friendship and forged the way for others.

While I am impressed with all the anecdotes Salzman shared with me, I point out to him that the devil’s advocate is rarely satisfied…

IDG: I have to ask Tony, the “first” to own a car in Vietnam? Are you kidding? It was the 90’s, every somewhat civilized country had cars… really how could this be?

Without a pause Salzman explains: “NN-35-01, so 35 means United States,and 01 means the first person to register!

The problem arose when the first United States ambassador was appointed. According to protocol, he had to have the number one from the United States!

So I hated negotiation and sued during which I was told that I had to surrender my 01 license plate. There was a solution, typical Vietnamese style: I was given the license number 00 001!

There’s also a story about how I made the match between the ambassador, whose wife had tragically passed away due to terrible illness, and, you guessed it, the female banking officer from the Australia bank.

Now, if your friends the detractors do not believe that I introduced the first American ambassador to his wife, they need to read the next installment of the story!

Hint: The American ambassador had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And the lady banker was a Vietnamese immigrant to Australia. So, the Australian newspapers had headlines saying “U.S. ambassador marries Vietnamese girl”.

Well, this young woman was no slouch! She shot back to reporters saying the headline should have said “ex con Marries Australian diplomat”!

Hopes, I blew the punchline. She had been with the Australian aid organization in Vietnam before she joined the bank.”

That indeed takes care of the “First” to own a car in Vietnam, and of the best American matchmaker in Vietnam. Not only is the record straight but engraved in “steel” rather than stone, as Salzman tells me he still owns the older model Mercedes with its 00 001 Vietnam license plate.

As I thank Salzman for this rather uncanny interview, he graciously thanks me and adds: “When I was a kid there were these stories called “the just so stories” by Rudyard Kipling. My favorite was “how the elephant got its trunk”. I feel like I’ve explained a little bit the same way. [laughs]

In our Just So Story, I say this “tiger” has definitely explained how he has earned his stripes.

Job Costing and Estimating

Small business owners are an underserved group. Tax planning and tax preparation should not be the only skills offered by the business’ advisors. And to small business owners, don’t be so stubborn. Read carefully to understand this discussion. This just might save your life long dream from collapsing.

Construction, roofing, and custom manufacturing are all business types that will benefit from a discussion of direct and indirect expenses. Most already know that direct expenses for a given job or project have to be considered in the cost. Direct expenses include the labor and materials used. It is the indirect expense that is most often forgotten or mistakenly allocated to job cost. The indirect expense is a cost that relates to all jobs or projects and not to one job specifically.

Examples of indirect expenses include: depreciation on machinery and equipment in the production process, depreciation on plant facilities if owned by the small business, rent on the plant facilities, shop supplies, vehicle expenses, utilities, insurance, and the compensation of supervisors, plant managers, and owners of the business. And of course, don’t forget about payroll taxes. There could be other indirect expenses in a given business, but the aforementioned will serve to demonstrate my point. It is also important to mention here the compensation of the business owner or owners. If the owner participates in the production process, a portion of compensation (or all) should be treated as an indirect expense to be allocated to the job cost.

Now that there is a list of indirect expenses, how should they get allocated to the job cost? Typically, indirect expenses are allocated based on direct labor dollars, direct labor hours, or direct materials. My personal favorite method of allocation is based on direct labor hours. If there are 20 direct laborers in a given business, and each is projected to work 1,900 hours annually, there will be 38,000 hours of total direct labor in a given year. If the summation of indirect costs is $1,500,000, this business will have an indirect cost per direct labor hour of $39.47. If my average hourly wage for direct laborers is $25.00, then total cost per direct labor hour is $64.47. If this particular business desires an industry average gross margin of say, 36%, it will need to charge $100.73 per labor hour. This billing rate is determined by using the full absorption method of accounting. Full absorption accounting is a required “generally accepted accounting principle” and must be used in all external financial statements unless otherwise disclosed.

5 Financial Freedoms You Must Protect

We’ve all dreamt about the day we can retire, the free time we’ll have to find a new hobby, travel to a new place, or simply, do nothing but sit and relax. But in order to enjoy the retirement years like you want to, you’ve got to plan ahead. In particular, you need to protect five financial freedoms. They are:

1. Guaranteed Income

Have you taken the steps today to secure your financial future: for yourself, your spouse and your family?

Remember when you retire, you won’t receive a regular paycheck. Not having that steady income may come as a shock. You may start to panic as you begin to dip into savings for daily expenses. You may need to live on a strict budget. You may end up needing to find a job. And, if you decide you need to return to work, it most likely won’t be in a full-time position with a full-time salary.

As you think about retirement, you need to realize this: the day you stop working is the day you surrender your guaranteed income. However, by developing a strategic plan now with your financial advisor you ensure that your financial situation is set up so that you can enjoy your retirement years worry free.

2. Travel

The number one thing most people want to do when they retire is travel. In fact, retirees are in the top 3 groups of travelers in the United States and spend about 20% of their retirement income just on travel.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that retirees are on the move. They have the freedom to take vacation whenever they want since the job isn’t tying them down anymore. However, the question that needs to be asked is that as retirees, while you may be able to pack up and go whenever you please, do you have the financial freedom to do so? How can you fulfill your dream of visiting new locales in America or around the globe if you live on a fixed income?

By working with your financial advisor, travel is possible. Together, you can create a retirement plan that includes travel in your financial future so that you don’t need to give up your desire to explore the country and even the world.

3. Legacy

As parents, your instinct is to take care of your children even when they become adults with kids of their own. One of the most important ways you can do this is by giving an inheritance to your kids once you’ve passed on.

While you have many years of making memories with your family, now is the time to make sure you’ve invested your money wisely. Making wise choices means considering the various tax benefits that different financial options have to offer. I know it can be confusing and frustrating to compare the options available to you, and that’s why it’s a good idea to turn to a financial advisor to counsel you on these important decisions. Your family’s well-being is at stake.

4. Autonomy

Life prepares us to be independent, doesn’t it? Sure, at first, we depend on our parents to care for us, to protect us. As we grow older, we build our independence. We start our own families. We become the providers.

However, during the retirement years doubt may begin to creep in about your ability to live autonomously. Without a steady stream of income, you start to wonder if you need to find a job or whether you can afford to live on your own. Talking with your financial advisor and planning for your future can alleviate these doubts and give you peace of mind knowing that you can continue to live the independent life you want.

5. Choice

When you think of retirement, a number of things come to mind, particularly a list of all the things you want to do and the age you want to retire. However, one vital piece of information that you may not have thought about is how much you’ll need to retire AND live comfortably. If this describes you, talk with your financial advisor today. Believe me, you don’t want to wait until you’re close to your targeted retirement age because you might discover that you’ll need more to live the retirement lifestyle you want. Your financial advisor will work with you to make sure you’re saving enough now so your dream lifestyle can be your retirement reality.