Did You Hear How Tony Raised His Credit Score in Three Months, by 720 Credit Score

Every other week, I hold a question-and-answer session for the students in my credit-education program. Usually, I help people with their specific credit situations, give advice, and answer questions about the program.
The other week, though, I was fortunate to have Anthony join the call.
When Anthony started my program three months ago, his credit report was peppered with collection accounts and a judgment, so his score was about 580. To give you an idea of how that fares, anything below 620 is considered bad credit. So Anthony was considered the highest-risk borrower.
But today, just three months later, his score has jumped 60 points.
I tell my students that they should usually expect to wait about six months before they start seeing a significant jump in their credit score. But Anthony has followed all of my advice to the letter. And his score is on its way up, and fast.
Here’s how he did it:
First, he got a secured installment loan from a credit union. He was denied a few times, but Anthony was persistent. Finally, he found a credit union (Cal Coast) to give him a $600 secured installment loan. He put this $600 into an account at Cal Coast, deposited another $6 to cover the fees on the loan, and he uses the account to pay off the loan–$101 a month for six months.
This is a great tactic because it means the credit unions have no risk—after all, he’s keeping the money in the bank. And it helps you, the borrower, increase your credit score by paying the installment loan on time.
Anthony has made just three payments, and his score is already on its way up.
He also opened three new secured credit cards. He keeps a balance on these cards, but only so that they remain active, and he pays his bills on time.
“It’s amazing how simple it is once you know the rules,” I said to Anthony. “If you don’t know the rules, though, it’s just unfair.”
And that’s when Anthony said something that was my favorite part of the call. He said, “If you take the emotion out of it and you take it for what it is—a numbers game—then you see that there are tactics to it. I appreciate that. We can attack our credit scores more strategically rather than getting tied up in the negative emotions of it.”
Anthony said this perfectly. We get so scared about finances. We get this awful, pit-of-the-stomach, all-consuming feeling.
But if we are strategic and rational, rather than panicked and reactive, we get results.
Sixty points in the first three months! I can’t wait to see what happens to Anthony’s score in the next few months.
If you are feeling scared about your credit score, leave a comment below. Get your fears out of your mind. When you put the fear aside, you can start working on the solution.

For my 720 family, by 720 Credit Score

I have some opportunities for entrepreneurs, and I have a few congratulations for you…
First the opportunities:
A close friend of mine is a culinary genius and owns a dozen restaurants. He just bought a high-end wine store, which sells about 2,000 baskets each year. He expects this number to grow under him, and he plans on enhancing the already-luxurious baskets. This is where you could come in. He needs the following:

  • A supplier of artesian baskets, bowls, or anything else that could be used for high-end gift baskets.
  • Artists that make anything that could be sold in a high-end wine store.

If you know any vendors who could help him accomplish his goals, please reply to this email.
1) One of my close friends finished his book on financial planning. I’ve read a lot of books on personal finance, but frankly, most of them are boring and exhausting. Jeff’s book, on the other hand, is really unique, if you are looking for a book on personal finance, check this out: Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future.
2) Congrats to Norma Bellos, whose son Richard just got into Harvard. Wow!
3) Congrats to Kiddy and Jonathan Davis for paying off $44,000 in credit card debt in 12 months. You figured out a plan, followed it, and now you can reap the benefits!
4) Congratulation to Nic Sirrine, who raised his credit score after a bankruptcy from 520 to 700,in just four months! Nic – you rock! Thanks for following the advice perfectly.
5) Congratulation to Jimi Akiboh, who raised his credit score after a divorce and bankruptcy from 535 to 727 in 17 months. Great job, Jimi!
Here’s to making the end of 2013 the best ever!
As you know, I love to hear about the accomplishments in your life. If you have any big successes, credit or otherwise, comment below.

What to Do if You Can’t Stop Worrying About Your Bills, by 720 Credit Score

One of my friends just told me that he owes $68,000 in credit card debt.
He’s 26 years old.
And he has that feeling in the pit of his stomach—you know that feeling. He can’t ever truly relax because he’s so worried. All these questions start racing through his head…

  • How I will ever pay all these bills?
  • Will I ever have fun again?
  • Are they going to sue me? And if they do, will my wages be garnished.

As I was talking to him, I was reminded of the last time I felt that way. Several years back, I carried a loan for a friend of mine. He was making a fortune, but he had declared bankruptcy a few years prior, so he didn’t qualify for the loan.
So I foolishly agreed to carry the loan on his behalf. He would pay me; I would pay the bank.
I knew he was good for it.
Until one day he wasn’t. The market took a nosedive, and so did his business. Suddenly, he couldn’t pay me one month.
And his loan skyrocketed to $9,841 a month.
I got that feeling. That terrible feeling.
How was I going to absorb an extra $9,841-a-month when my own income was down?
The next month, he couldn’t pay me again.
So I remember how it feels. It’s terrible, to put it mildly.
The trouble with that feeling is that it stops people from taking rational steps. They just want the feeling to go away. They’ll do anything to make the feeling go away.
For some people, that means ignoring it entirely. Others start worrying so much that they cannot focus on the solutions in front of them. There’s so much emotion packed into financial problems that it’s hard to be clear-headed and strategic.
But here’s the truth: There’s always a way out. I’ve had clients who have owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that cannot be discharged during bankruptcy—like most student loans and some back taxes.
And there’s always a way out.
But you aren’t necessarily going to see it if you are panicking.
So here’s something I want you to try this week. Go sit somewhere peaceful and calm. Give yourself permission to feel that panic for five or ten minutes.
Then ask yourself a question. Ask yourself: “If I were to consider every single opportunity for resolving this situation, what would be on that list?”
Then start making a list. It might include things like declaring bankruptcy, selling your house, or getting a second job. It might include things like dipping into your children’s college fund or selling your car and taking the bus.
These are things you might be thinking that you would never, ever consider. But Don’t judge the things on your list. If you pile more fear on top of the fear you already have, you aren’t going to find a solution. The key is that you want to allow your mind to open up to all of the possibilities. Let it wander. Invite it to consider the absurd.
And see what you come up with.
There are always options. In fact, the universe is filled with infinite possibilities. The question is: Can you see the options?
So take a deep breath. Believe that there is a way.
And let me know what you come up with by leaving a comment below.
And one other thing because I want to give you an example of a solution that you might be afraid to think about.
Most people are terrified when they think of bankruptcy. Considering filing bankruptcy just makes them feel worse.
But is it really that bad?
I don’t think so. Bankruptcy allows people an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. It gives them the chance to start over, without having to feel financial stress day in and day out. And it also allows them to start rebuilding their credit score a while lot faster than if they just keep struggling to stay afloat for years on end.
But you won’t see options like this if you do not allow your mind to consider them.
So if you would like a referral to a bankruptcy attorney, send an email to and we will put you in touch with a bankruptcy attorney in your area.
Otherwise, keep us posted on your progress by leaving a comment below!

My Wife Won’t Sleep in Our House, by 720 Credit Score

After renting for years, my wife and I just bought a house.
It’s our ideal house—exactly what we were looking for in the exact neighborhood we wanted. We have dreams of raising our children there, and we smile thinking about the birthday parties, sleepovers, and graduation celebrations that will fill our home in years to come. When our children grow into adults, we imagine what it will feel like when they return for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We think about what it will feel like when they come to visit with our grandkids many, many years from now.
It’s a house that will be a home that will hold a family that builds memories together.
Right now, though, as I write this, our dream house is infested with scorpions.
The family who owned the house moved out 3 years ago. Unbeknownst to us, in the absence of human occupants, scorpions took up residency.
Talk about a buzz kill.
We planned on having a special celebratory dinner to mark our first night in our home. But in place of this, my wife and kids are sleeping at my parents’ house while I walk through the house hunting scorpions.
You might not know this, but it’s easier to find scorpions at night because they are nocturnal. Scorpions glow neon blue when illuminated by a black light.
These are facts I wish I didn’t know. I wish our perfect vision had come true.
I’m trying not to get too depressed about it because there’s a lot to be happy about, too. We’ve had the house treated, and in seven to ten days, the scorpions will be gone (fingers crossed). My two oldest kids just started first grade and kindergarten at a great school. My wife and I have a rock-solid marriage, and my two youngest kids are healthy and happy.
But those scorpions.
I told a friend of mine about the scorpions, and her response was laughter.
“I don’t think you understand,” I said. “It’s awful. Have you ever seen a scorpion? Can you imagine how scared we are? There’s no way our kids can be in the home. They glow-in-the-dark. It’s a kid’s worst nightmare: A glow-in-the-dark monster.”
She laughed again.
“I know, but it’s only scary right now. In a few years, you guys will look back on this as a great memory. You’ll think: Remember what a nightmare it was when we moved into this house, and it was infested with scorpions? And you’ll think: Look at our family. We’ve gone to battle together.”
When she put it like that, I thought: It’s only scorpions. We’ve been through worse. Surely, we can get through this!
I am reminded of another friend, who couldn’t find a job when his daughter was young. He lost his job while his wife was pregnant, and he didn’t find a job until his daughter was three.
Recently, I asked his wife, Connie, what their daughter’s first word was. She joked, “I can’t remember for sure. All we talked about during those first few years was Mick’s job search, so her first word was probably ‘résumé.’”
Then they shared a laugh. “Remember how awful that was?” Mick said. “We had to live with my parents.”
But they both had big grins on their faces. It was only awful back then. Now, it’s part of the fabric that bonds their family.
Here’s my takeaway: Our struggles define us as much as our victories. In future years, we will remember the tough times we have survived as battles that we have won. The scorpions in our lives will turn into beautiful, sacred memories that mark a lifetime.
I know that many of my readers are having financial struggles, and I know that these metaphorical “scorpions” can be worse—much worse—than my actual scorpions. It is my hope that you fight this battle and win it, so that in future years, this chaotic time somehow transforms into a memory you can look back upon with a smile.
In the coming months, we will be transforming our website so that it supports you in this mission. Please keep visiting our blog so that we can continue to share our message with you. And as always, we want to hear from you. We can’t address every comment left on our site, but we do read each and every one, and we use this as input in developing content for our site. Please let us know what is on your mind by leaving a comment below.

In and Of Itself, a Credit Score Is Meaningless, by 720 Credit Score

I know how weird it might seem to some people that my credit emails and my blog are oftentimes about my personal life…
And while I know that people want (and desperately need) practical advise on how to deal with the confusing and critical world of credit scoring, I also know that ultimately, everything boils down to a person’s personal life.
In and of itself, a credit score is meaningless. More important than a three-digit number is how a person, or a family, uses it to enrich a life.
So with that said, thank you for allowing me to share yet another personal story—a story I believe has relevance in your own life.
My two oldest kids (Ava, who is six, and Dom, who is five) started school this year. And it just feels … so permanent. There’s no going back now. My babies are kids, and now, more than ever, we have to make sure that the culture inside our home is stronger than the culture outside our home.
We have had our share of trials as parents. We have four kids, and the oldest is six, so that brings its own set of challenges. The first few years of our life as a couple and then a young family were rocky. I had been in the mortgage industry, and all that took a nosedive in 2008 and 2009, right as our family was growing to include Ava and Dom.
Since then, we’ve had the normal problems any couple faces: Lily and I haven’t always been on the same page as parents. We’ve lost loved ones and grieved as we parted ways with dear friends.
But all that pales in comparison to the challenges before us.
Our kids are starting school, so there’s only so much we can do to control the external forces. Our focus has to be on making sure the internal forces are accompanied by rock-solid values.
Then, over Labor Day weekend, I read an article in a Canadian paper that put some of my emotions to words. One of the people interviewed for the article said …
“January 1 isn’t really the beginning of the year for most families. [The beginning of the year] tends to be Labour Day because everything starts fresh again. September seems to be the reset button for most families.”
It’s true, isn’t it? When the summer ends and kids go back to school, families revert to their routines. We set goals and start thinking about what’s going to happen next.
For us, with our kids starting school, it feels like a giant reset button on life in general. With our oldest kids at school, it’s time for us to set some new goals with this new context in mind.
Life has shifted, as so too must our goals.
What about you? Is this a good time for you to take stock of your life and make shifts? What has changed since the last time you set goals?
And what can we do to support you?
At, one of our main goals is to help you find ways to strengthen your financial life, mindful that the final goal is a happy, successful personal life. We invite you to let us know if there is any information that you think we should include on our site that might help you along the way.
If there are, please leave a comment below..
And remember: A high credit score is a powerful tool that can help you live an easier life, but it is not a reflection of who you are as a person. A great credit score is meaningless if you aren’t using it to support your deepest values.

Teaching Kids About Credit Scores, by 720 Credit Score

Last week, I sent part one of my back-to-school credit tip.
I told you my “crazy plan” for helping your children build a great credit score.
Part two of this plan include an educational platform whereby your children learn about, budgeting, savings, interest rates, and credit scoring.
Last week, I reminded you that no one else will teach this information to your children—not the schools, not their future employers.
The responsibility lies with the parent.
So after making your children an authorized user, start talking to them about credit scores, interest rates, budgeting, and the like.
Then, establish something I call the “Bank of Mom and Dad.”
If your daughter wants to buy something, lend her the money and then sit down with her to create a weekly or monthly payment plan whereby you budget the payments, which should include interest, just like a credit card company would do.
If your child is late with any single payment, assess a late payment, just like a credit card company would do.
Expect your children to make mistakes, and use these mistakes as teachable moments. Don’t berate them, but make sure they understand the consequences of being late with a payment.
Once your child demonstrates continued financial responsibility with the “Bank of Mom and Dad,” consider providing an actual credit card to your teenager.
If you are worried that your children will be irresponsible with the credit card, my suggestion is this: Allow your child access to the card only if you are present and only long enough to hand it to a cashier. This way, the child will not be able to memorize the credit card number, nor will he have prolonged access to your account.
Then have your child repay you directly for the purchase. Because you are the primary cardholder, you can preserve your credit by making payments on the account regardless of whether your children are paying you.
The purchase can be small or large, depending on your budget and your comfort level. Make sure it is not so big that you will be unable to pay your credit card debt should your child default on payments to you.
Just like with the “Bank of Mom and Dad,” make your children pay interest on their credit card purchases. If they exceed the prearranged limit or fail to make a payment by the due date, you should access an over-the-limit fine or late payment penalty.
When the credit card statements arrive, sit down with your children and explain the statements. Discuss your annual percentage rate, annual fees, late penalties, over-the-limit fines. Ask your children to verbalize their plans for paying their loans in a timely manner.
Expect your children to make mistakes, and help them create plans for correcting their mistakes. If they splurge and end up owing more than they can afford, perhaps they can do extra housework in exchange for an increased allowance. And, of course, teaching children about credit means that you call their cell phones—perhaps at 8 on a Saturday morning—to inquire about any late payments!
Teaching your children about finances and credit is like teaching your children manners. It won’t happen over night. Your children will make mistakes. But it’s far better that you teach them—in the safety of your home—than allow them to enter adulthood without a shred of knowledge about credit scoring and finances!
Okay, that concludes my back-to-school lessons.
P.S. Do you still think my plan is totally crazy? Leave a comment below!

A back-to-school credit lesson, by 720 Credit Score

My two oldest kids started school this week, and it reminded me that this is a good time for a lesson about helping children build great credit scores…
So here goes…
Basically, I think you should make your children authorized users on your credit cads.
A lot of people think this is totally crazy, but unless parents decide to make a concerted effort to begin teaching their children about credit, how else will they learn?
Our banks, educational institutions, and government officials tell us virtually nothing about credit.
Did you learn in school that no credit is just as bad as bad credit?
Did they tell you that you might not be able to rent a place to live unless you had a great credit score?
Did they tell you that you would pay hundreds and maybe even thousands of extra dollars each year if you didn’t have a 720 credit score?
No, they didn’t.
The job of teaching kids about credit belongs to parents.
And I think the way to do it is by adding your children as authorized users to one of your credit card account…
So long as it is in good standing.
When you add your children as authorized users, they are given the opportunity to “borrow” your history on that credit card.
Which means their scores will start to build.
If you don’t do this, consider what will happen…
Your children will enter adulthood with poor credit scores.
And since poor credit is just as bad as bad credit, they will pay sky-high interest on their first credit cards.
They will have a hard time getting a job or renting an apartment.
And they very well might get taken advantage of by lenders.
Helping them build their credit scores now, while they are at home, means they can enter adulthood one, two, or ten steps ahead.
Now, that said, I don’t think you should give your kids a physical credit card.
When you establish your children as authorized users, request that the credit card company not issue a card to your children, or simply shred the credit card when it arrives.
In this way, your children’s credit scores will benefit from the behavior on your account, and your credit will be protected.
Now, this is just part one of teaching your children about credit.
Stay tuned because next week, I’m going to tell you part two about my plan for teaching children about credit. In the meantime, read this article if you want to learn more about authorized user accounts.

An Answer To John's Question… by 720 Credit Score

Sometimes, I hear from people who are drowning in debt. They just don’t know what to do to get themselves out of their financial holes…
One of my readers, John, recently left such a comment on my blog, and I wanted to take this opportunity to answer it. Here is a summary of his comment:
I recently filed bankruptcy, and I know I need to open three new credit cards, but I cannot get the secured cards that you recommend because I have no extra money. Please help me. I’m drowning.
Okay, I have several pieces of advice…
First, if you have been through a bankruptcy, it is important to open three new credit cards after the bankruptcy has been discharged.
I recommend secured cards, which require you to pay a deposit. But if secured cards are not an option, then I recommend becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit cards (in good standing).
If neither of these options are available, then and only then should you apply for subprime credit cards.
I dislike subprime credit cards because they usually come with high fees and high interest rates. You can’t do anything about the high fee charged to you upfront (or annually), but you can avoid the interest by charging only small amounts on your credit card to keep it active, and then paying the balance in full.
That said, I have another concern about John’s message: “Please help me. I’m drowning …”
This is my advice: Do not use credit cards as a method of paying for day-to-day life, especially post bankruptcy, unless you have a long-term budget that shows you can repay the debt.
If your budget does not prove that you can repay the credit card debt you plan on incurring to pay off your other bills, you will find yourself even deeper underwater in the months and years to come.
Yes, credit cards are a great tool for getting yourself out of a financial jam, but only when you know you have the means to pay your bills down the road.
You must—must, must, must—create a budget, take a hard look at your finances, and know exactly and when you can pay off those credit cards.
Philip X. Tirone
P.S. As always, leave your comments and concerns below!

A three-for-one, by 720 Credit Score

The best thing a person can do to increase his or her credit score?
Reduce credit card debt.
Aside from your past payment history, which you can’t do anything about anyway, outstanding debt is the top factor in determining your credit score. The lower your balance (as a percentage of your limit), the higher your score.
Another thing that is great for your credit score is having an active or paid installment loan on your credit report.
So how can you accomplish both of these goals in one fell swoop?
Visit your local credit union and ask for a debt consolidation loan. Then use this loan to pay off your credit cards. If you are lucky, the interest rate on your debt consolidation loan will be lower than the interest rate you pay on your credit cards.
And there you have it: lower credit card balances, an installment loan on your credit report, and lower interest payments!
Of course, for this strategy to work, you must keep a low limit on your credit cards (though you should be sure to keep them active), and you must pay your debt consolidation loan on time.
At first, your score might drop a little bit. Adding a new loan to your credit report could hurt your score a bit.
But as soon as your credit cards report your new balance, your score will start to jump.
And once you’ve made about six months of timely payments on the debt consolidation loan, your score will climb even higher.
Have any questions on this strategy? Leave them in the comments section below!
Philip Tirone

Tip – ID fraud and smartphones, by 720 Credit Score

I recently read that smartphone owners experience a greater incidence of fraud and identity theft, and here’s why…
About 32 percent of smartphone owners save login info on their device, and 62 percent of them don’t use a password on their home screen, which means anyone who finds their phone can access their login info!
Here’s another problem with keeping personal info in your Smartphone – anyone who repairs it can download your personal info, and then use it to wipe your accounts clean or apply for credit in your name.
As the owner of 7 Steps to a 720 Credit Score, I’ve seen the effects identify fraud first-hand, so I wanted to pass this information along to you …
Protect yourself by:

  1. Putting a password on the home screen of your Smartphone
  2. Storing personal information in a file that cannot be accessed by someone who gets a hold of your Smartphone. If you ever need to get your phone repaired, the repair technician will have access to everything on your phone, so be sure to keep sensitive information somewhere else!

Any other tips for keeping your Smartphone safe? Post them below!
Philip X. Tirone
P.S. Another thing you might consider is turning off your phone’s “location services,” which stores your location within every photo you take—this is bad news particularly if you have children. Imagine that you take a picture of your toddler eating spaghetti, and then post it online. Unless you disable location services, anyone who saw the picture could find the exact address of your home!