Rebuilding Your Credit the Right Way

Repairing your credit is the first step in rebuilding credit. To bring up your score, it takes patience, dedication and a willingness to change your ways. Credit scores are based on credit history. This means creditors will look at several years’ worth of your credit history to determine whether you are a good credit risk. You know you need to have a healthy credit score to get the things you want in life. In fact, your credit score affects all aspects of your life.
  • Without a good score you will struggle to get loans or will likely pay high interest rates on car loans, home loans and even personal loans.
  • You will pay higher auto and homeowner’s insurance rates.
  • Paying high interest rates take money directly out of your pocket and affects what you can buy today, including things like groceries.
  • Ability to secure a lease on your dream apartment will be impacted. Low credit scores may keep you from renting an apartment or home without having a co-signer.

When you are short on cash, because you are paying high interest rates on various loans and credit cards, you are tempted to rely on credit cards to buy day-to-day items. This creates a dangerous cycle that can leave you swimming in debt and struggling with the monumental task of rebuilding credit.

Why is rebuilding your credit so important and how does it help your credit score?

  • Establishing credit is one of the ways you can increase your credit score. You need to prove your ability to make payments on time
  • Rebuilding credit is crucial to achieving goals you may have like buying your dream home, owning a new car or even securing a loan to send your child to college.
  • You never know when you may need to take out a line of credit to pay for medical bills or elective procedures like braces for your child.

There are many benefits to rebuilding your credit that will make your life a little easier.

  • Confidence and peace of mind knowing you can buy the things you need in life without worrying about a poor credit score holding you back.
  • Getting lower rates on insurance, car payments and other financed items puts more money in your pocket to put into your savings account.
  • Freedom to choose the best loan with the best rates available instead of taking whatever you can get.

Life is stressful enough without worrying about a low credit score. You need credit from time to time to get the things you want most out of life. Rebuilding credit is something that can be done. With the 10 strategies outlined in rebuilding your credit report, you can achieve that healthy score you have longed for. You won’t have to worry about being denied credit and being forced to do without. It is time to make a change for the better and start doing what you can to take back control of your credit.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving to all on this day of thanks and friendship. We at BxCheapskate and Martinez Consulting Services wish you an awesome holiday.

Building Credit With Cosigners

Building credit without the help of someone can be very difficult. You have to know the ins and outs of the business, and tackling a billion dollar industry on your own can be difficult. One method people use is the help of cosigners. It is important to remember the pros and cons of cosigning, whether someone has cosigned for your, or you have cosigned for someone else. Also, knowing how to cosign effectively for someone is important to build/rebuild your credit.

What are Cosigners?

Cosigning means that due to your lack of credit or poor credit, the bank would like someone with good credit to back you up if you default on the loan. This method is good when you are trying to build or set up credit. Talk with a family member or a friend to have them cosign for you since you don’t have credit. In addition, let them know that you are trying to build your credit.
After a year of on-time payments, your credit should be at a level where you no longer need the cosigner to stay on the loan. Call the lending company and ask them to remove the cosigner. This shows the cosigner that you met your part of the bargain and was responsible with their Now, if you stop paying on the loan, the bank will go after the cosigner for the balance of the loan. If this happens, the relationship will definitely sour, so be cautious about entering into a cosigning agreement with someone.
If you go down this route, take steps to protect yourself and the cosigner as well. Start with a small loan at the bank and make your payments on time for a year, paying off the balance so that you can release your cosigner. The quicker you can release the cosigner, the faster your credit will increase, and the relationship will improve, as trust in you will increase.
Building credit takes time, but if done correctly, you can reap the benefits greatly. You don’t need to be rich to take your dream vacation or buy your dream home. Budgeting wisely and using credit correctly can help you do these things and more. If you need assistance in achieving these goals and more, feel free to contact me for more information.
Talk to you later….

The Benefits of a Secured Credit Card

I hope you are doing well as we enter the holiday season. It is almost 2017, and many of you still have not taken the step towards financial freedom. One way you can build or rebuild credit is with a secured credit card.

What is a secured credit card?

Getting a secured credit card and using it responsibly is an excellent way to build creditor’s trust in your ability to use new credit so that eventually you can get an unsecured card. With a secured credit card, the companies need the cardholders to secure their credit purchases by depositing a certain amount of money as collateral. That way, if you don’t pay your secured credit card, the bank can get repaid by withdrawing the money owe from the deposit you provided.

These cards can be used the same way as an unsecured card, except that your money secures them. The good thing about secured cards is that no one knows that the card is secured. The downfall to these cards is that they usually come with high interest rates, over-the-limit fees, late fees, annual fees, cash advance fees and maintenance fees. This is the credit card company’s way of encouraging you to pay to build your credit. Once you have reviewed your credit report, you are ready to sign up for a secured card.

$1 Offer - TransUnion Credit Monitoring - Surprise 300x250

Ask for the following questions before you sign a contract or send any money:

  • Does your company report to all three credit bureaus?
  • When will I qualify for an unsecured line of credit?
  • What are your credit card fees?
  • Talk with your major local banks and credit unions.

 What is the best way to find secured cards?


Banks known to issue secured cards with low limits:

  • Capital One
  • Orchard Bank
  • New Millennium Bank
  • First Premier Bank
  • Applied Bank
  • Compass Bank
  • First Progress
  • Open Sky
  • Discover
  • Wells Fargo
I hope you are working on improving your credit and start the new year on the right foot about credit. You might even be able to take your dream vacation once you get your finances in order, regardless of how small your income is. There is always a way to improve your finances and enjoy life without making extra expenditures.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about any of the services we offer.
Talk to you later…
 black friday

Personal Credit and Business Credit

Personal Credit

Credit is everywhere in our lives, and without it things can get pretty difficult to function on a daily basis. People tend to assume that credit is credit and when it comes to business there is no difference. This is completely false, and you must be on top of your personal credit, and if you have a business, establish business credit completely separate from your personal credit. Personal credit is for exactly what it implies, your personal things, like a house, a car, major purchases, etc. Mortgages, car loans, school loans, store cards and credit cards usually make up a personal credit file. This credit file is established when you open a bank account and/or request credit from a company (credit, auto, bank, store). This credit file will be with Equifax, Experian and Transunion, the three major credit reporting agencies. These agencies will keep track of every time you apply for credit, how many companies grant you credit, how well you pay your credit obligations, where you live, where you work and if relevant, who you marry. These are the things that are relevant to a personal credit file. None of the items in this file should be for a business you own/run. Your personal credit file should never be used for your business. You must establish a separate business credit file for each business you own/run.

Business Credit

A business credit file is something that every business owner should have completely separate from their personal credit file. When you apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or more commonly known as the business tax identification number, you register your business with the IRS for tax purposes. This EIN will be used to pay the business taxes, opening a bank account for the business and apply for credit for the business. Unlike a personal credit file that is established with one’s Social Security Number, the EIN alone does not establish the business credit file. You as the business owner/manager must take the extra step and also apply for a DUNS number from the Duns & Bradstreet company. This DUNS number works in conjunction with the business EIN number and then a credit file for the business is established. A business credit score is called a Paydex score, which like personal credit files, is keeps track of the credit obligations, and the payment history of the business. Once you establish a few credit files with various companies, your business credit file will be available and you can apply for loans and other major purchases under the business, and never having to use your personal credit.


 Sometimes, personal and business credit intermingle, but you should always strive to keep them completely separate from one another. Keeping them separate from the beginning will ensure you keep them distinct from one another. If you use your personal credit to establish the business, try to make it separate as soon as possible. I know that sometimes the type of business you have doesn’t require the need for credit and you will use your personal credit to open up shop and keep it running, but the sooner you separate yourself from the business, the easier it will be to keep your personal and business funds from intermingling. The intermingling of funds and lack of business records keeping are the major downfalls for many start-up businesses. Once you intermingle funds/credit, it becomes easy to continue doing the practice, making it difficult to separate the two down the line. If you need assistance is establishing your business credit, repairing your credit, or just want guidance on your future credit/business endeavors, feel free to contact me for a consultation.

Notary 101 and Other Services


In the litigious society we live in, many documents need to be notarized for validation. Notarizing a document simply entails signing the document in front of a notary public. The notary public is an officer of the court, meaning they can witness the signing of documents. There are many types of notary services and they can differ from state to state. Florida notaries can perform marriage ceremonies, but here in New York, where I’m at, a notary cannot perform these marriage services.

Regular Notary

When signing before a notary public, you have to prove you are the person you say you are and the person named in the document. The most common method is producing a state issued photo identification, i.e. a drivers license. Most people have problems with the identification because they feel any identification is valid. First, the ID cannot be expired, an EXPIRED identification is not valid. Second, the ID has to be issued by a government agency, i.e. driver’s license, state identification, state benefit card with picture and signature, to name a few. Certain situations will arise where the person has no valid identification. In many instances, you can use a witness, or two, that will confirm the individual’s identity.

Notarizing Minors

Special situations call for different approaches when dealing with a tricky notary. In immigration matters, a child may be needed to submit an affidavit for a family member, and it has to be notarized. How do you notarize when a child has no government issued ID? Not all kids have passports, so this kind of notary must be handled differently. Personally, I ask one of the child’s parent to be present with their valid ID and the child’s birth certificate. Immigration applications have increased and the need to notarize these kind of documents has also been on the rise. Make sure you ask what is needed and be ready to provide what was requested from you. There are no set rules on how to do these types of notaries, make sure you ask what the notary requires or the service.

Notarizing in a Hospital Setting

Hospital notarizations are tricky and not done by all notaries. Many hospital notaries are emergency situations where the signer can be really sick, possibly terminal, and/or having surgery. Others are just in that setting and must handle matters during their stay. When dealing with sick people, who are possibly medicated, you must first see the person and how they interact with others around them. Listen to the details they use in their speech, their level of lucidity, and other body language cues that can be used to measure the person’s level of competence. Pay attention to the people present, who might have an interest in what is about to be notarize. Are they trying to fleece the signer or take advantage of the person and their property? Individuals in hospitals are usually in a vulnerable state and can be easily manipulated. As a notary, you must learn to detect the signs of abuse, neglect and/or manipulation, especially when Powers of Attorney are involved. Listen to how the family interacts with each other and with the signer. Be prepared to stay for at least 1/2 while you gauge the situation.

Rules and laws governing notaries differ greatly across the country. Make sure you check with your state on the costs, since prices vary and some notary publics like to take advantage and charge more than the state allows. In New York State, a notary can only charge $2.00 per notarized signature. I’ve seen notaries charge up to $10.00, although this is allowed in other states, like California, it is not allowed in New York. Notaries can offer a wide range of services, not just the notarization of documents. Many notaries offer mobile services, apostille services (American paperwork that is going to be used in a foreign country), among other services. Talk to your local notary before you seek services elsewhere. Chances are, they can offer the service you need, and usually are properly trained to offer the service.

So You Think You Are a Landlord

landlord-tenantThe housing market has started to turn around after the mortgage and banking fiasco of 2006. More and more houses are being purchased, which in turn means more people are becoming landlords. New buyers are off-setting their monthly costs by renting out units in their own home, as well as investing in rental properties. The landlord-tenant relationship can be kept in good terms if steps are taken to ensure everyone is on the same page from the start.

Becoming a landlord is fairly easy. You buy the property, and then you advertise that you have rentals available. Very simple, but now comes the hard part. When renting property, you must and should have a complete tenant file. What if the tenant fails to pay rent or violates a clause in the lease, your case can be dismissed because you don’t have all the documents necessary to defend the case. Even before going to court, if you don’t have the tenant’s identifying information, i.e. Social security number, state identification number, date of birth, etc., you cannot start a case against them.

The tenant file also should contain the unit’s maintenance record. Staying on top of property maintenance can save you thousands in future repairs and emergency situations. Also, the tenants can have peaceful enjoyment of the property as their lives are not hindered and/or interrupted by management having to do major repairs.

A landlord, regardless of how many units they own/manage, should always have the following basics in the tenant file:

  • Rental application
  • Credit check report
  • Fully executed rental agreement and riders
  • Invoices and receipts
  • Property inspection checklist
  • Tenant rental ledger
  • Copies of any correspondence with the tenant.

The Landlord Rental Starter Package is a great tool to have in your landlord arsenal. The package contains template forms and letters that will help keep you organized and on top of things in your rental property business. The package also contains the tenant file checklist as well as important dates you should take note of for every unit you have rented.

Renting property might be your livelihood, and as such, you should take all the necessary steps to ensure your investment and income are both protected and documented correctly. A small investment on template forms and letters can save you thousands in the long run.

Goal Setting and Personal Analytics

goal setting personal analytics

As this week comes to an end, we have started a new month and the weather has warmed up rather quickly. Here in NYC, it was about 45 degrees one day, and 82 degrees the next and has continued to stay warm ever since. The summer is here early and even though you might want to stay out and enjoy the glorious weather, you shouldn’t neglect your duties as an entrepreneur. If you have systems in place,  which you should, you will have the time to handle all your duties and enjoy the weather. One example of said system is  goal setting and personal analytics.

Setting Goals

Setting goals is a great way to stay on track. Goals give you something to strive for, as well as act as a measuring tool on your progress. I like to push myself a little farther, especially after achieving the goal I had set. I review the goal list for the month that just past, keeping note of the ones I achieved, including date of achievement, and the ones I failed to meet. I note what prevented me from completing that goal and 3 different ways, for each excuse, on how to overcome the barrier. Nine times out of ten, the solution lies within you and you just have to figure out the best way to bring it forward. Analyzing the goals is a great method in figuring out your barriers and what you need to demolish them.

Growing from the Failures

As I write down my goals for the new month, I include the ones I did not complete, with the methods I will be using for each goal, in order to meet the goal this time around. If need be, I research and study all the things that were holding me back. Let’s say you did not meet the sales numbers you had set upon, but you noticed you did not network properly to expand your clientele and name in the community. You might want to take a confidence class, which will help you speak and network effectively and with confidence. Confidence breeds success, and when you are confident in your self and what your do or offer, others will see the same and be more willing to work with you. Another example of a business goal not achieved is lack of leads from social media accounts. You might want take a class/course on social media marketing and tools to increase your knowledge in the area and learn the tools necessary to implement a profitable social media marketing plan. The analysis is the easy part, the action you put into meeting the goal is what counts. If you do not intend on doing the work, it makes no sense for you to set goals, since you plan on doing nothing with the information learned.

My Goals for June

Investing in yourself to meet a goal will pay off ten fold in the future. Knowledge is something no one can take away from you. The more you learn, the easier it will be to meet your goals and the more time you have to enjoy yourself and family. Just remember, ad I cannot stress this enough, learning alone will not bring forth success, you have to put into action what you have learned. I set goals every month, and my goals for the month of June are as follows: (1) $10K in sales; (2) Attend 2 networking events; (3) buy new laptop and printer; (4) begin studying for the PACE Registered Paralegal Certification Exam; (5) Do my first webinar. Have you set your goals for June? Feel free to post them on the Martinez Consulting Services Facebook Page or under the picture, featured above, on the Martinez Consulting Services Instagram Page.


Never Stop Learning

never stop learningOver the years, I have been involved in many types of businesses, legal and illegal. I have no shame as my father used to tell me you learn everything, because you never know a day might come where you will need those skills to survive. My father was my first teacher when it came to business, and never stop learning was ingrained in me. At first I thought it was fun, I was five years old and helping my dad with his “work”. My dad had many legitimate businesses over the years, but he always supplemented his income running numbers, or better known as the ghetto lottery. In the eighties, my dad started giving me little jobs to do in the business, since he ran it from our home, I had business education .

Beginning Years

At an early age, although I was having fun with my sister, I was being taught how a business is run with systems. I would see my dad creating charts by hand to document his “work”, then their were recordings of phone calls as back ups to the charted data, and more. As I grew older, I wanted to take part in my dad’s other business which consisted of property management, video stores, grocery stores, a social club and a softball team. My dad took me everywhere with him and I learned about all the businesses and participated in the management too.

By age twelve, I was managing one of the video stores, working along my dad learning about the administration of employees and dealing with direct sales. Up until this point, I was always behind the scenes doing mostly administrative work at home. By the age of eighteen, I would’ve continued working along my dad, but his words still resonated, never stop learning. Since my business background was probably more of an education than I would’ve received at any institution, I decided to go into the legal field. I attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC and received a Bachelors in Legal Studies.

Before I even received my degree, I started to work in a law firm, learning what else but real estate. I actually am trained in all areas of law, but my main activities revolved around the buying and selling of property, as well as management and the eviction process of tenants. I have continued to learn in the 15 years I’ve been actively working in the legal field, and I use what I’ve learned in all of the businesses I now own. I have developed a tough skin, especially since I’m a small business owner in a male dominated world, especially in the real estate business in NYC. It doesn’t help me that I’m only 5 feet tall, you should see how I look in Court among dozens of attorneys, usually 5′ 8″ and taller. I have to literally push my way to the front just so the judge can see and acknowledge me when the case is called.

The Downfall

In recent years, I had to learn about Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. In 2008, my dad fell down the stairs on New Years Eve. I was bleeding for hours, unconscious on the floor, until a tenant found him at around 1AM, January 1. Because my dad smelled like beer, he was automatically classified as an alcoholic that was celebrating too hard. No testing was ever done and no follow ups were scheduled. He again fell and had to be taken to the hospital, sometime in February. Again, no testing was done and no follow-ups were scheduled. Since I was working in the law firm, I did not notice that my dad was doing worse than originally thought of, but the tenants noticed and they began to take advantage of the situation, including my uncle, his brother.

The “falls” stopped for years, so I was continued to be oblivious to the situation in the  businesses. My dad had already put me on the business documentation, but I had not taken over anything, as I did not see the need. In my mind, dad was still capable of running things. Everything changed when Hurricane Sandy hit, and our main residence was damaged. Since there was an apartment vacant in one of our rentals, I was able to move in with my daughters. Now I was spending more time with my dad, since we was now together everyday; my mom moved in with my sister since that was closer to her job.

Picking up the Pieces

Now that I was there everyday, I was shocked to see the state of things, and immediately began to take action and enforce the paperwork dad had prepared. I began to evict all the tenants that were not paying and began to rehabilitate the properties. You need to invest money, to make money. I had some help from about 3 family members, but that is it. No one wanted to help me because I would not do things shady, or was not lenient with any of them.

As things started to turn around, my dad “fell” down the stairs again and had to be hospitalized. This time around, he had to spend 8 days, since the injury to his skull was severe. About a month after being released from the hospital, he had a seizure early in the morning. The doctors again said it was the alcoholism, but my dad was now living with me permanently, and he was not drinking at all. I was ignored and he was released a few hours later. The following month, Thanksgiving day, my dad fell and had another seizure. This time around, I changed the hospital and he finally got the treatment he needed. He was having seizures all along, but since he was classified as an alcoholic, he was never tested or treated for it.

The epileptic seizures runs in our family, as does Alzheimer’s, which accelerates if the seizures are left untreated. All of these obstacles in the latter part of my life, have opened me up to learning more. Not about business or legal stuff, about myself. I’ve learned that I can do it, no matter how hard the obstacle seems. I was faced with threatening tenants, abusive family members, abandonment when everyone turned their backs with the hurricane and with my dad, as well as legal issues and contempt when I had to evict my uncle from an apartment. It was hard but I learned and pushed thru. I still get the occasional hater, but I just brush it off and continue to do what I have done.

never stop learning

Never Stop Learning

I was able to work on the properties, all the while taking care of my father, 2 girls and officially starting my business, Martinez Consulting Services. I was already providing these professional services to many locals since the early 90s, I just never made it official until 2015. I learned I was being selfish by keeping all the skills I have learned over the years, and I should be sharing them with others, not just locally. By providing professional services, I have been able to continue to deal with the mess my father created, unintentional, but still a problem I had to deal with, since no one else stepped up to the plate, out of six kids.

Everyday I try to learn something new and share something new. Maybe I’ll start a new saying with my girls: Never stop learning, but at the same time, never stop teaching. Your gifts and talents are not yours, they are to be shared with the those who need them.

Filming Around Town 5-10-2016


Happy Tuesday everyone. Its a beautiful morning in NYC, and nothing smells better than the possibility of success in the morning. If you are lucky enough to have the day off, here’s a list of movies and shows shooting around town:

Don’t forget to comment below if you find any locations not mentioned above. Enjoy your day….

Filming Around Town 5-6-2016


It’s Fridayyyyy. Awesome week, a little rainy here in NYC, but temperature wise it was good. I hope you’ve already purchased/made your Mother’s Day gift by now. If not, check out the Groupon deals, in the sidebar, for some great ideas around your town mom will enjoy. If you are in New York City, check out the locations of filming sets, shooting in the city today:

Have a great day.

Live and Learn: How I Got into Credit Repair

For many years, over 20, I have provided professional services to mainly my dad’s friends, senior citizens that didn’t speak much English. Social security papers, employment documents, etc., I would help them fill out whatever form they needed assistance with. From there, I started giving business advice to those same Spanish speaking friends of my dad that owned businesses. I was typing papers and letters for various businesses, all before going to college. Learning about credit repair was not even an idea at the time, honestly I didn’t know something like that existed at the time

As the years went by, I continued studying and expanded into the legal field, with an ultimate goal of becoming a lawyer. I became a paralegal to get practice in the field, but doing the administrative and research part was, to me, more enjoyable and I desisted on going to law school. I continued to do some business consulting and assisting as I worked in various law firms through out years, gaining experience in various sectors of the legal field. I concentrated on my career, and was not involved in the family real estate business at this point of my life.

The Downfall

Then, Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, and everything changed. The house we lived in was damaged during the storm, looted by thieves afterwards, and insurance didn’t cover any of it. FEMA gave us approximately $4,600 for repairs, but that all went mainly on the clean up and removal of the tree that fell on the house and securing the house to prevent further break-ins. I wasn’t worried about the money at the time because we owned property, in mind it was going to be easy to get a loan for everything we needed to repair and move back home. Boy was I wrong. My dad was developing Alzheimer’s and had not been running the business correctly. I was so busy with my career and kids that I didn’t see the signs that he was sick. He had fallen on several occasions, but each time the doctors said it was because my dad was drinking. He was labeled an alcoholic and was not tested on, if they had , they would have discovered he was having seizures. The seizures were accelerating the Alzheimer’s symptoms, which explained why the business was the way it was.

I tried getting a loan, and was denied because the business didn’t have credit. How could this be when the properties all have a total combined value of approximately $1.2 million. Why am I being denied when we are technically millionaires, at least on paper? The business didn’t have a red cent to its name. The tenants had already noticed something was wrong and were taking advantage of the situation.

I took a step back and started taking control of it all. I began evicting all the non paying tenants, and I took steps to rehab the properties, as they were in disrepair. While all of this was being done, I began to take courses on finances and credit. I had to learn why I was denied, and what I had to do to fix that. It took time but I have learned the ins and outs of credit repair and building credit files for both individuals and businesses. I decided to incorporate my consulting business and build a separate credit file, as I have learned my lesson, the hard way, but at least I learned. I also want to teach others the same before they are faced with a predicament like mines, so I added the service to the list of professional services I offer. Running a business can be bank-breaking, especially the first two years in business. Being able to establish credit early in order to enable the business to run continuously is essential if you want to succeed.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

I hope my story sets an example of what not to do, and make sure your finances are in order, both business and personally. It’s best to always be prepared because you can’t rely on things, like insurance, to get back on your feet in the face of adversity.

Filming Around Town 4-29-2016

imageIt’s a beautiful day in New York City, a bit cloudy, but beautiful. Passover ends this weekend and public school resumes on Monday, which means back to the quick hustle and bustle the city is accustomed too. If you have the time, check out some of the locations, in and around the city, your favorite stars will be working at today.

TV Series: Mr. Robot
Stars: Rami Malek
Location: E 51st St and Madison Ave, NYC

TV Series: Braindead
Stars: Danny Pino
Location: Worth and Centre St, NYC

V Series: Jim Gaffigan Show
Stars: Jim Gaffigan
Location: 58th St and 10th Ave, NYC

TV Series: Iron Fist
Stars: Finn Jones
Location: Cherry and Pike, as well as Spruce and Nassau, NYC

TV Series: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Stars: Denis Leary
Location: Cooper Ave & 83rd St, Queens

TV Series: Rebel in the Rye
Stars: Kevin Spacey
Location: Gates Ave and Marcy Ave, Brooklyn

Movie: Return to Montauk
Stars: Stellan Skarsgård
Location: Liberty St, NYC

TV Series: Search Party
Stars: Alia Shawkat
Location: 16th and Prospect Park West, Brooklyn

If you see any other sets around town, post the location in the comments below. Enjoy your day.

Aren’t Credit Bureaus Supposed to Protect Us…

I have worked as a paralegal in many aspects of the legal field for over 10 years, and working on various bankruptcy cases I’ve learned many things involving the credit industry. Many people are under the assumption that going to an attorney for their credit issues will protect their rights, but this is wrong. Attorneys are trained in bankruptcy law and collection practices, but very few learn the ins and outs of the rights consumers have and how they can be protected prior to any court intervention.

You should always work on your credit and have errors corrected and/or removed before filing for bankruptcy for two main reasons. First, some attorneys charge by the number of accounts they will be “discharging” for you. Second, once you file for bankruptcy, you have automatically verified all your debts, whether they can be legally collected on or not. Unless you verify your accounts, especially collection accounts, the credit bureaus are not going to correct or delete them all together. Many attorneys are trying to process as many bankruptcies as possible, and will not bother to verify the accounts before filing. They will go by the accounts listed on the credit report and process the case accordingly.

Credit repair does not have to be done by an attorney, but there are several attorneys that will go the extra mile for a client before advising them to go down the bankruptcy route. Using a reputable credit consultant is advisable but finding one with integrity might be difficult. We have been conditioned to believe credit repair is not legal and many engage in shady practices. A reputable credit consultant will give you a contract of services, they will not guarantee results, has a cancellation clause in the contract and does not conduct illegal practices like purchasing trade lines for your report.

Credit bureaus and creditors pay large sums to advertise that credit repair is illegal, but don’t believe the hype. Credit repair is LEGAL and regulated under the 1996 Credit Repair Organizations Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1679-1679j), and these organizations/companies use the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 USC § 1681 et seq) to repair a client’s credit file. These laws have been around for decades, but big bucks are paid to have you think credit repair is illegal and that nothing but time can fix your credit.

If you are interested in saving money by working on your credit file, correcting errors and improving your credit scores, contact me and schedule an appointment today.

I Suck at Budgeting!

budgetFor years I have struggled with keeping a budget the way most advisors say it should be kept. Being involved in business, I have always been surrounded by numbers and finances. Since I’ve been involved in businesses since the 80s, most of my research was done the old-fashioned way, going to the library and borrowing books. Each and every book I have read throughout the years only repeated the same information…you must keep track of everything that comes in and goes out.

Budgeting is the lifeline for everything in life, whether for business or personal. All the books say you must keep track of everything you spend money on, no matter how small the amount is. Seriously, having  a full-time job, running two businesses, taking care of my dad who has epilepsy and Alzheimer’s and a single mom, its difficult keeping track of the small expenses. The notion that you cannot budget correctly unless you account for it all is a set up for failure for many, especially when you are not used to using lists and budgets to keep track of it all.

Budgeting has to be realistic, and should cater to everyone’s level of budgeting ability. You should keep track of when your payments are due, since most money gets spent on overdue and late payment fees. Making sure your payments are made on time teaches discipline and can enable you to move from living paycheck to paycheck to just living. As long as your  bills are paid on time, too much shouldn’t be spent stressing on the little things you are spending money on. Eventually you will take everything into consideration, but it takes practice and discipline, take baby steps. Don’t force yourself to change your habits overnight. Forced things never stick, and you want to be able to practice good budgeting skills as if it was second nature.

One thing I do stress from the beginning is to make savings and an emergency fund a required monthly bill. An emergency fund is money that you use in an emergency, just like the name implies. It is customary for financiers to say you need at least six months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund. This will enable you and your family to survive, whether it be because of loss of employment/income, natural disaster, etc. When starting an account like this, you can account for anything, besides your monthly expenses, that you want to make sure its covered for, in case of anything. You do not need to start setting aside large amounts, starting by setting aside as much as $1.00 is all you need. We always make excuses when it comes to saving funds, but saving money is a learned practice that increases over time. You set the bar with the amount every month. Over time it will increase as your budgeting practices get better.

A savings account is separate from your emergency funds, because buying a car or a house is a luxury and not an emergency. A savings account is for whatever luxuries you want to buy. You want to go on a vacation, it comes out of your savings account. You want a new car, the deposit comes out of the savings account. Just like the emergency fund, you can start saving as little as $1.00 until you get used to the practice. As your budgeting gets better, you will automatically increase the amount of money you set aside and before you know it, you can afford to give yourself certain perks that were not possible before.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard or a burden. Keeping track of finances is hugely important, since many aspects of our lives are controlled and dominated by money and credit. Here’s a simple MONTHLY BUDGET PLANNER I have created to make budgeting easy. Good credit starts by budgeting and keeping track of credit obligations. I have included simple instructions with planner and I hope it helps you with your finances as much as it has helped me.

Finding Time

One of the biggest problems I have, and most other business owners, is finding the time to get things done. With hectic schedules revolving around our jobs, family life and personal duties, it’s a miracle things get done at all. It can be overwhelming and at times I want to give in because it is easier to quit and just continue life without worrying about getting certain things done.

Being a single mom, running two businesses, working a 9-5, really a 9-whatever, and taking care of my dad who has epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, is really hard, but my daily to-do lists are what keep me going. Just so you know, I never get everything done on my list, that is impossible with so many interruptions that arise throughout the day. The to-do list is only a guide for me in which I have prioritized the tasks I have for the day and week. I can get all of the important things done and a few of the other minor items that pose no urgency. I always write down my daily as well as weekly tasks. I do this in case a miracle occurs and I actually get everything done. This has never happened, but I prepare for it anyways. It’s my goal to get everything done and I know eventually I will. I’m just not at that position yet.

I’ve heard people say that if you are not completing everything in your task list, you are getting easily distracted by outside factors affecting performance and/or output. This is wrong as life is unpredictable and you must be fluid in how you get things done. You have to account for the unexpected, especially when you have children. These unexpected factors are what gets you prepared for other situations, as these are the times we tend to learn best.

In business, clients are also your children, and as such, they are equally unpredictable. When you provide a service for someone, they expect your undivided attention, and that’s okay since they are paying for your time. Scheduling and writing down your daily tasks can help keep you sane in a very unpredictable world. Eventually, your to-do list will take into account these unexpected situations, and you will be prepared, time wise, to deal with it effectively.

Writing down your to do list is the first step in ensuring you get everything done. Our brains work in mysterious ways, and writing things down, setting our daily goals and tasks, helps provide some form of accountability. Sometimes you only need that push or nudge to get things done. I’m very visual and being able to cross an item off of my to-do list gives me the psychological motivation I need to get another item done and crossed off. The act of crossing off the item fills me with a feeling of accomplishment and self worth.

The hardest part is finding the motivation to get the first item crossed off the list. Being the business owner, usually there is no one pushing you and providing the motivation necessary to complete the tasks at hand. As the business owner, you motivate your staff, or at least you should be, setting yourself up as a leader and not just a boss. Once that first item comes off, the rest is down hill from there. Like I said before, I never get everything done, but everyday I push through another barrier and hopefully one day I will be able to get all things done and still have time leftover for me….hey an entrepreneur can dream.

What is a Credit Score?

Every where we go, you hear talk about good credit, credit checks, credit scores, and other credit terms that can baffle you. Credit and credit scores are the lifeline of the financial industry. It is very difficult to go through life without applying for some form of credit. Credit is when an individual or business gives you something of which you promise to pay at a later date, usually in installments. Loans, mortgages and credit cards are the well known types of credit there is, but changes in the credit reporting industry can have accounts reported from utility companies, insurance companies and landlords/rental companies.

Credit is granted based on what is in your credit reports and your credit scores. A credit score is a numerical calculation on the likelihood that you will pay your credit obligations. The higher the number, the more trusting a company is to grant credit. The numerical calculation is based on your payment history, types of credit, amounts owed, length of credit and credit inquiries.

Payment history is makes up 35% of your credit score, making it the most important. Always make your payments on time and never skip one. Missing one payment or paying late can drop you scores by 20 points, even more, and recovering from that can take a long time.

How much you in all your credit obligations accounts for 30% of your credit scores. Just because you have a $1,000 credit limit on a credit doesn’t mean you should use it all. The optimal rate is using 30% of your available credit, going over this percentage reduces your credit scores.

Length of credit history is 15% of your credit scores. The longer you have had credit accounts open and active, the better your scores. This shows that you’ve had credit for some time and have kept up your part of the bargain. The longer you have had credit, the better the odds of attaining new credit.

Your credit scores also take into account the kind of credit you have, and it makes up 10% of your scores. An optimal credit report has 1 mortgage loan in good standing, 1 auto loan in good standing and 3-4 credit cards, active and in good standing. Having different types of credit accounts shows all around financial stability and creditworthiness.

Finally, inquiries into your credit reports account for 10% of your scores. Whether credit is granted or not, every time you apply for any typ of credit, a notation is made in your credit reports. Too many inquiries, especially around the same time, can raise a red flag while lowering your scores at the same time. Creditors assume you are applying for credit irresponsibly when you request lots of credit at the same time.

Do you know the health of your credit profile? When was the last time you checked your credit reports? Are you actively taking care of your credit reports, improving them so your credit scores can go up? If you need assistance in this, or have another credit question, feel free to CONTACT ME.

Credit and Death

 We are always talking about credit and how to deal with it in the now, but what happens to credit obligations when the credit holder passes away. For the most part, people hate having to talk about death and planning for that moment, and usually avoid the issue at all costs. Death and taxes and unavoidable no matter how you choose to ignore it.

Your credit debt does not automatically get “erased” upon death. Your estate administrators have to handle all debts and obligations before the estate can be finalized. You are probably thinking ‘I don’t have enough money to have an estate’, wrong. Everybody has an estate upon death. Some only have personal property like jewelry and home furnishings, while others have large sums of money, real property, etc.

If you die and had a written will, your estate will be probated in surrogates court and handled by the Executor/Executrix named in your will. If you die without a will, your property will go through administration in surrogates court and handled by an Administrator/Administratrix appointed by the court, usually a next of kin. This Executor(trix)/Administrator(trix) has to pay all the debt left by the decedent (legal word for the dead person) before anyone can inherit. Debt can be a mortgage, credit cards, auto loan, medical debt, child support, liens, etc. If you ever received help from the government (welfare, Medicaid, food stamps), they can put a lien on the estate and recoup the funds, which can blindside a family not expecting something like this.

To avoid surprises and family bickering, you should have a will stating everything you want done and who to handle it all upon your death. You should take it one step further and have some form of insurance to cover these expenses, that can be burdensome to a grieving family. There’s burial insurance that can cover all funeral and burial expenses, helping your loved ones since they don’t have to worry about having to pay for this expense. Then there’s whole and term life insurance which can cover all the other expenses and offer some stability to the beneficiaries of the policy. Also, the estate can take long to be finalized, years even.  The insurance policy can help your family/heirs greatly during the court process and can be as low as $5.00 per month. Most of us have shoes that cost more than a simple yearly policy.

Planning for the future is important, especially if you already have children. Why be a burden on them while they are mourning your loss. Taking care of your credit is important while you are alive, but also in death. Credit and the benefits it brings is important in life and can be damaging if not used correctly, but don’t neglect taking care of your credit after death. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions by sending me an email HERE.

Business Structures: What is Best For Your Business

As a business consultant, I am always asked the question “what’s the best business structure?” My first response is it depends what kind of business do you have and how do you want to pay the taxes for the business. There are four (4) basic structures a business can have: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation.

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and cheapest structure a business can have. It’s a single individual that can start the business by filing a “doing business as” or DBA certificate with county clerk or other city official, but it is not necessarily required. You can just start working and file your business profit and loss statement or Schedule C with your personal taxes. Under this business structure, you are liable for all expenses, law suits, etc., incurred for the business.

A partnership is the same as a sole proprietorship, but it involves two individuals or more as heads of the business. There’s usually a partnership agreement amongst the parties involved and liability is shared equally. Partnership income is filed under Form 1065 and included when filing your personal taxes.

A corporation is a business entity formed separated completely from the corporate shareholders. It is formed by filing the appropriate documents with the state and paying the required fees. It is recognized as an “individual” by the IRS and it is given an employee identification number (EIN) or tax identification number. The corporate shareholders are protected from being liable for the expenses, law suits, etc., incurred by the corporation. Depending on the type of corporation the business has elected to file its taxes under, determines the way the corporate income is taxed. If the business is filing as a C-corporation, the corporation pays taxes on the corporate income as a whole and the shareholders subsequently pay taxes on their share of the corporate income, a sort of double tax. If the business elects to file as an S-corporation, the taxes paid are through the shareholder’s personal tax return, like a partnership/sole proprietorship, using Form 1120S. All corporations are required to continuously file forms with the state, including but not limited to, shareholder meeting minutes, elections, biennial statements, etc.

A limited liability company (LLC) is a cross between a corporation and a partnership/sole proprietorship. An LLC provides the protection a corporation provides its shareholders from liability, but it is taxed like a partnership/sole proprietorship. An LLC is also simpler to manage as it does not require to file company forms with the state, on a continuous basis, like a corporation does.

Deciding on a business structure is a difficult decision, but it’s never permanent. You can always change your business structure, provided the correct forms are filed with the state. The beauty of being the business owner is that you pick what you want. Some businesses are better as corporate entities because of the protections offered by the corporate veil, but ultimately it is your choice. As a consultant, I always push my clients towards a corporation or limited liability company because of the protections it offers its shareholders or members. You should always protect yourself from any and all litigation and financial obligations of the business, especially in this highly litigious society we live in.

After deciding on your business structure, you are ready to get the business and all your ideas down on paper, check out the business must haves for your business to succeed.