Support Marketplace

Letters: How can my kid build credit history the responsible way?

Visa credit cards

Joining guest host Tony Cox to offer advice and help sort out your personal finance challenges this week is Liz Weston, an advice columnist and author of several books, including "The 10 Commandments of Money: How to Survive and Thrive in the New Economy."

John from Anoka, Minn., wonders what it will take for his daughter to build a credit rating. His daughter graduated college last May. She made it through college with no debt and now has a full-time job. She currently lives at home and has about $16,000 in the bank. She would like to buy a house, a fixer-upper. But she has no credit rating and couldn't get pre-qualified for a home loan. She did get a credit card, which she puts gas and some meals on, and then pays off each month. What else is available to help build her credit?

"This is actually a fairly common problem of people who avoid debt wind up having no credit score or no credit score to speak of. Credit scores are really important in today's life. It doesn't mean you have to go into debt to have a good one," says Weston. "The way she is using that credit card is absolutely the right way to go. Charge a little bit on it. Make no more than 30 percent or so of the credit limit. Pay it off in full every month. You do not to carry debt to have good credit scores."

Weston says to speed things along, John might consider adding his daughter as an authorized user to one of his credit cards. She says John should talk to his credit card company to make sure that his information for his card will be exported to his daughter's credit file because that doesn't always happen. Other ways to jump-start her credit? Get a second credit card (having a couple in the mix can really help) or consider getting a small installment loan. Weston says she should track her FICO score at myFICO.com because that's the one most lenders look at.

Amy from Bakersfield, Calif., wonders if there are any downsides to paying off student loans quickly. Her and her husband have student loans totaling $107,000 and most are at 6.8 percent. Their plan right now is to put as much money towards paying these loans off as possible and live on the bare minimum. Based on income, she says they could probably pay off the loans in about two years. But should they be saving for retirement instead?

Weston advises her to save for retirement.

"I would say you are a great time in your life to get started with saving for retirement. You do not want to pass up those opportunities," says Weston. "The longer you put it off the harder it is to catch up. So I would say don't be in such a rush to pay off those loans. Take a look at what your retirement savings opportunities are. Make sure you have adequate insurance -- that's really important. Health insurance, maybe life or disability insurance. Make sure you have an emergency fund, then start pounding away at that student loan debt. Make sure all your ducks are in a row before you go after this relatively low rate tax-deductible debt."

Listen to the audio player above to hear advice on whether it's worth it to be debt free and her thoughts on annuities.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...