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What do you want in life? Although most people would say that winning the lottery and being able to live in a big house or sail around the world sound nice … that’s not really what people strive for.

Most people strive for similar things — things like getting a college education, buying your first car, buying a home, marrying someone you love, having children, and raising those children to be contributing members of society. That sounds like a pretty good life, and it’s one that many people strive for!

But there’s a problem that most people don’t realize: Each of those things cost a substantial amount of money — often an amount that we simply can’t realistically save up.

Take college, for example: College tuition can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, and then there’s the books and the living costs. It adds up, and we’re basically at a point in history where you have to put aside money regularly so your grandchildren can afford college!

Now factor in all the other expenses — and don’t forget that prices are rising faster than wages. Now you’ve got a recipe for a troubling situation: The cost of having even a regular life is more than most people can save for.

That’s where credit comes in. Good credit enables you to borrow money from a lender to afford these things. (Remember, we’re not talking about exorbitant costs but just the regular stuff of life — stuff like a college education, a car and a home!)

That’s why I believe that good education starts in the home, and parents should start educating their children about credit and helping them develop good credit even from a very early age.

No matter what age you are, if you want to enjoy the life that you aspire to have, follow these six simple credit tips to help.

    1. First get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.) Go over your credit reports carefully, watching for errors that you should report immediately.
    2. Pay all bills on time. This will help you increase your score rather quickly. If you are forgetful, opt for automatic bill payments.
    3. If you have revolving credit, try to pay more than the bottom line. Paying just the minimum is not a good sign, especially to a lender. Paying even just 5% over the minimum will help you chip away at the debt faster, not to mention the amount of interest you will be saving.
    4. Attempt to pay off your credit card every month. If you have to carry a balance, keep it as low as possible and pay it off as quickly as possible.
    5. Don’t be quick to close off unused credit cards. Instead, keep your credit cards active by occasionally making a purchase on those cards (and paying them off right away).
    6. Set a budget of what you can afford so that you don’t rely on your credit to cover your over-budget expenses and then find yourself in debt that you can’t pay off.

We live in an age when even the regular expenses of life can be more than what we can reasonably save. Fortunately, with careful credit report management, you can ensure that you have healthy credit to give you access to the money you need to afford these expenses.

Image: Liderina

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