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Your Credit Score, Your Money & What's at Stake (Updated Edition): How to Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future Paperback – February 19, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0137016617 ISBN-10: 0137016611 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (February 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137016611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137016617
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #581,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Liz Pulliam Weston is the most-read personal finance columnist on the Internet, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Her twice-weekly columns for MSN Money reach more than 12 million people each month. She’s also the author of the question-and-answer column “Money Talk,” which appears in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers throughout the country.

 

Weston appears regularly on television and radio, including NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” and “All Things Considered,” American Public Media’s “Marketplace Money,” and “Fox Business.” For several years, she was a weekly commentator on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” Her advice on credit and finance has been featured in Consumer Reports, Elle, O the Oprah Magazine, Parents, Real Simple, Woman’s World, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, and numerous other publications. The first edition of her book Your Credit Score was selected as “recommended reading” by The Wall Street Journal Online.

 

Formerly a personal finance writer for the Los Angeles Times, Weston has won numerous reporting awards. She was part of a three-member writing team that won a Gerald Loeb Award for coverage of the Comparator Systems penny stock scandal in 1997. She was also a member of the Anchorage Daily News team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service in 1989 for coverage of the alcoholism epidemic among native Alaskans.

 

She is the author of the books Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life (2007, FT Press) and Deal with Your Debt: The Right Way to Manage Your Bills and Pay Off What You Owe (2005, Pearson Prentice Hall). Her advice on budgeting is featured in The Expert’s Guide to the Baby Years (2006, Clarkson Potter).

 

Weston is a graduate of the certified financial planner training program at University of California, Irvine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She can be reached via the “Contact Liz” form on her Web site, www.asklizweston.com.

 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Your Credit Score

Your Credit Score, Your Money & What’s at Stake: How to Improve the 3-Digit Number That Shapes Your Financial Future

Introduction to the Updated Edition

“In recent years, a simple three-digit number has become critical to your financial life.”

That is the sentence that opens Chapter 1 of this book. In previous editions, the statement was a surprise to many readers.

Although most people had heard of credit scores, I’d found relatively few really understood the pervasive impact these numbers have in our financial systems and our day-to-day lives.

Now, their impact is obvious, thanks to the financial crisis that began in 2008.

In the years leading up to the implosion, lenders that had once used credit scores as a factor in their decisions started to rely on them almost exclusively, ignoring other important details such as the borrower’s income, assets, job stability, and other debts.

Lenders made riskier and riskier loans thanks to their over-reliance on credit-scoring formulas. Wall Street encouraged the gambles by snapping up massive bundles of this toxic debt and selling them to investors. Financial firms compounded their exposure with complicated financial instruments, including derivatives and credit default swaps.

As mortgage defaults rose, the effects boomeranged through the financial industry. Suspicion spread that banks and Wall Street firms were hiding the true impact of bad loans on their bottom line, causing investors to bail and once-chummy firms to stop lending to one another.

The credit crisis quickly became a conflagration that spread throughout the global economy, destroying Wall Street behemoths and leading to unprecedented government interventions and bailouts.

Yet this calamity didn’t undermine the importance of credit scores for consumers. They’re more crucial than ever.

As the crisis grew, the world split into two, with one set of rules for the credit “haves” and another for the “have nots.”

People who didn’t have good credit scores saw their options dwindle as the lenders that once courted their business were forced into bankruptcy. The banks and credit card issuers that remained grew wary of taking any risk, particularly with borrowers who had trouble paying their bills in the past.

By mid-2008, for example, auto lenders were approving fewer than one in four applications from would-be car buyers with bad credit. A year earlier, those lenders had approved two out of three borrowers with the same poor scores.

Rejection rates soared for mortgages and other loans, as well. Credit card issuers began raising rates and lowering limits first on their highest-risk customers, then on those with better credit.

But people who had the highest scores still had plenty of options.

Lenders need to make loans to make money, so they concentrated their efforts on the people most likely to pay them back. Credit card issuers, in particular, continued to pelt these desirable consumers with low-rate offers. Savvy borrowers quickly discovered that if their current issuer wouldn’t rescind a rate increase or restore a credit limit, they could just go to a competitor.

Other kinds of lenders eagerly catered to this low-risk crowd, as well. Folks with high scores could still secure low-rate car loans, private students loans, and mortgages (even though home loans generally required higher down payments than in the recent past).

Lending standards may loosen as time passes, but they’re unlikely to return soon to the anything-goes excesses that triggered the financial crash. So while credit scores won’t be the only factor in lenders’ decision making, they’ll retain a major role in who gets credit and how much it costs.

So—now more than ever—knowing how to fix, improve, and protect your credit score are essential skills for successfully navigating your financial life.

Praise Quotes

“A great credit score can help you finish rich! Liz Pulliam Weston gives solid, easy-to-understand advice about how to improve your credit fast. Read this book and prosper.”

David Bach, bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire
and The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner

“Excellent book! Insightful, well written, and surprisingly interesting. Liz Pulliam Weston has done an outstanding job demystifying an often intimidating and frustrating topic for the benefit of all consumers.”

Eric Tyson, syndicated columnist and bestselling
author of Personal Finance for Dummies

“No one makes complex financial information easy to understand like Liz Pulliam Weston. Her straight-talk and wise advice are invaluable to anyone with a credit card or check book— and that’s just about all of us.”

Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D., author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
and Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich

“In a country where consumers increasingly pay more when they have bad credit, Liz Pulliam Weston’s book provides excellent tips and advice on ways to improve your credit history and raise your credit score. If you just apply one or two of her insightful suggestions, you’ll save many times the cost of this book.”

Ilyce R. Glink, financial reporter, talk show host, and bestselling author
of 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

“Your credit score can save you money or cost you money—sometimes a lot of money. Yet, most people don’t even know their scores, much less know how to make them better. Liz Pulliam Weston can help you fix that. In this easy-to-understand guide you’ll learn how to make sure your score helps you get the best deal on loans and insurance. You can’t afford not to read it.”

Gerri Detweiler, consumer advocate and founder of UltimateCredit.com


© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.


More About the Author

Liz Pulliam Weston is the most-read personal finance columnist on the Internet, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. She's also an award-winning, nationally-syndicated personal finance columnist who can make the most complex money topics understandable to the average reader.

Her first book, "Your Credit Score," is the best-selling book on credit scoring and was recently published in a fourth edition. Her other recent books include "The 10 Commandments of Money" and the ebook "There Are No Dumb Questions About Money."

Liz's columns run twice a week on MSN Money, which reaches more than 12 million readers each month. Millions more read her question-and-answer column 'Money Talk,' which appears in newspapers throughout the country, including the Los Angeles Times, the Portland Oregonian, Stars & Stripes and others.

Liz has appeared on "The Dr. Phil Show," "The Today Show" and "CBS Evening News with Brian Williams" and is frequently featured on American Public Media's "Marketplace Money" and NPR's 'Talk of the Nation' and "All Things Considered." She was for several years a weekly commentator on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

Weston is a graduate of the certified financial planner training program at University of California, Irvine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She can be reached via her Web site, AskLizWeston.com.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 61 customer reviews
This is a good book for understanding credit reporting and scoring.
M Masaki
Overall, I would recommend this book as a good source of information - I hope that any future editions might use better examples.
BookMan
The book is written in a straightforward style, with information clearly presented, and it's easy to follow.
George Beahm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ammy_Evaluator TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book begins by establishing the importance of a good credit score. While the example that demonstrates this is obviously fictional, it is still a sobering reminder that the cost of credit is something that we usually do not consider when making a purchase.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I think of myself as a fairly informed consumer, and yet, I learned some new things from this book.

Some key nuggets:

# a payment normally has to be at least 30 days overdue before a creditor reports it to the bureaus, so you can probably stop worrying about that utility bill that you forgot to mail in until a week after it was due.

# Not all debt is equal. You should pay down debt on cards that are closer to the maximum credit limit on that card. In particular, your balance should not exceed 10-30% of your total credit limit.

# Lenders usually report your balance on the closing date for an account to the credit rating agencies. So even if you pay off your credit cards every month, the balance on your card on that reporting day is what affects your credit score. You should try to pay off your balance a few days before the closing date to ensure that you have more head room between your balance and your max credit limit.

# Don't close your oldest credit accounts. This is because the age of your oldest account and the average age of all your accounts affects your final score.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On a very subjective level, I found the general level of advice in the book to be fairly ordinary.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Walker VINE VOICE on May 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This updated edition (there's an updated Introduction, several references to the current credit and banking crisis, and an explanation of FICO 08, the new version of FICO) of YOUR CREDIT SCORE, YOUR MONEY & WHAT'S AT STAKE turned out to be a lot more valuable to me than I thought. I had a good idea of what went into making one's FICO credit score, but this book debunked a few important myths I believed. As Liz Pulliam Weston explains in the first chapter, "Why Your Credit Score Matters," even a little ignorance about how to make your score higher can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in higher interest payments over the course of a lifetime.

For example, paying your credit card balances in full each month, while a money-saving good idea, has no bearing on your score. What matters is how close your balance is to your credit limit, regardless of whether you pay it in full or not. The biggest myth? That closing accounts will help raise your score. According to Weston, closing accounts will never raise your score and can frequently lower it. There are several other tidbits where those came from!

At the time of this review, the "Search Inside this Book" function is unavailable, so I think it might be helpful to include the chapter listings:

1 - Why Your Credit Score Matters
2 - How Credit Scoring Works
3 - VantageScore - A Revolution or Just More of the Same?
4 - Improving Your Score - The Right Way
5 - Credit-Scoring Myths
6 - Coping with a Credit Crisis
7 - Rebuilding Your Score After a Credit Disaster
8 - Identify Theft and Your Credit
9 - Emergency!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Neil Gandhi VINE VOICE on June 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was a good collection of a lot of information regarding what a credit score is and how to make your score better.

The problem is though that a lot of people that have bad credit and trying to improve it, I feel, already have a pretty good grasp of these things. You have to pay your bills on time, the more credit you have the better, etc., etc.

For anyone that doesn't understand the basics about credit and credit scores or anyone that wants to fill in gaps about their knowledge about the subject, this is a great book that will totally provide you with tons of information about it.

The book missed a star due to what I was alluding to earlier. What I want to know about credit is how to fix it fast and holes in the law that can make fixing my credit faster. For that I recommend the following book:
BEST CREDIT; How to Win the Credit Game, Revised and Updated Edition

I think the two books are great together. One is comprehensive in describing credit and the other is sort of a guide to "beat" the credit "game." There is definitely overlap, but I also think they are complementary.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BookMan VINE VOICE on August 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wasn't sure what to expect from a book on the not-so-fascinating, but all-important credit score, I've really got to admit that You're Credit Score, by Liz Pulliam Weston has provided me with new information that will be very useful to me. In addition to explaining, in layman's terms, what credit scores are, as well as some of the mystery behind how they are derived, she also examines legitimate ways in which to enhance your existing scores and potential problems that need to be dealt with.

The one item that I noticed lacking from this book is how to deal with corrupt government agencies that fraudulently report innocent people as "being in arrears" on child support and the refusal of the credit bureaus to correct that false information. One such case in which the California Health and Human Services Agency, Greta Wallace (former Director of the California Department of Child Support Services) Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department, and Experian were successfully sued for illegally harming one of their innocent victims is well documented by the Federal Courts in Frank Mayer v. California Health and Human Services Agency. et al, (CASE #: 2:05-cv-04747-JFW-SS). This also raises another issue concerning Weston's choice of examples in which she uses a hypothetical case of a man who may, or may NOT, have been cheating on his wife and the processes by which deciding the truth is similar to how credit scores are calculated. To be honest, I found that example to be rather offensive as so many innocent men are subject to harm by fraudulent reports on the credit reports. Sadly, the Mayer case is not an isolated one: it's merely the first to have been successfully argued in Federal Courts about how credit ratings are used to damage innocent people.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a good source of information - I hope that any future editions might use better examples.
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