What You Don’t Know Can Cost You

Financial IQ Vera blog post

When it comes to your financial health, what you don’t know can cost you. Just like the annual physical with your doctor keeps your body’s health on track, knowing your financial vital signs can save you money and help you keep fiscally fit. Match your financial knowledge in the categories below to see where you can shape up!

Net Worth

Do you know what your net worth is? If the answer is no, you’re not alone: most Americans don’t! But knowing your net worth, the value of your assets (your savings and retirement accounts, your house, collectibles, your car) minus your total debts (including house payments and car payments) – is key to tracking your financial health. Knowing your net worth offers a clear picture of your financial state, showing you how you spend your money. Calculate your net worth regularly—ideally once a quarter—to identify areas where there’s room for improvement.

Mortgage Rate

According to a new Bankrate.com report, a whopping 35% of Americans don’t know their mortgage interest rate. How about you?  Rates have bounced around historical lows for years, yet many homeowners who could benefit from refinancing haven’t taken advantage of the potential savings because they were unaware of their current rate. With rates expected to rise from 4.2% to over 5% in 2015, now is the time to do some easy research and stop leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

Credit Score

Your credit score – a three-digit number that represents your credit risk with a number that ranges from about 300 to 850 – is looked at by everyone from lenders to landlords. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling recently found that 60% of adults hadn’t reviewed their credit score within the previous 12 months.  Big mistake, particularly if you’re in the market for a loan.  Why is this number so important? Score high (mid 700s) and you could save thousands of dollars in low interest rates. Score low (below 620) and when you apply for a loan you’ll be offered a higher rate, favorable terms or even worse, you may not be able to obtain financing at all. Want to know where you stand? You can get your score for free from any number of providers including Mint.com. If your score is low, work on improving it by making your payments on time (try Mint Bills to get reminders when bills are due, stay organized, and pay on the spot). Also, cut back on using credit cards; a good rule of thumb is to avoid using more than 10% of your available credit on any card.

Make Friends with Your Credit Report

Your credit report contains detailed information about your credit history including things like credit-card use, auto loans and debts that were sent for collection. For such important information, an alarming number of credit reports contain mistakes. In fact, an FTC study indicates that as many as 40 million Americans have a mistake on their credit report. Since fewer than one-in-five consumers check their reports, chances are most people don’t know about the errors. Yet if a mistake is serious, it can lower your credit score and possibly result in your being denied credit. Get a free copy of your credit report on AnnualCreditReport.com and review it carefully.

Vera Gibbons, Mint Contributor and Personal Finance expert

This post was corrected on March 6, 2015.


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