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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Financial Spring Cleaning Tips

... have you (or someone you know) ever thought about doing some Spring Cleaning with your Finances? I have.
It's SPRING!!! Yes! It's that time again.  Out with the old to make room for the new!  Spring is the season of newness!  Time to put away all of the winter clothes and blankets and bring out or make room for the Spring and Summer stuff. If you are planning to do some spring cleaning this year, are you planning to do some Financial Spring Cleaning?

Financial Spring Cleaning is just as, if not more, important as Spring Cleaning in your home and closet. Here are a few tips on Financial Spring Cleaning with your Paperwork, Wallet, Credit Report and Budget.

  • FILE ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTS / SHRED NON ESSENTIAL DOCUMENTS. If you have a desk, filing cabinet, drawer or box full of old bank statements, checks, bills, or other financial documents, sort through them carefully and keep only the important documents that you know you will need to reference at a later date. Do NOT just throw the documents away in the trash. If you do, you are begging to be a victim of Identity Theft.  If you do not own a shredding machine at your home or do not have access to one at your job, take your shred box to a local Shredding Company.  They are awesome!  Just dump, watch it get shredded and drive away! Search for a local Shredding Company or ask your local financial institution if they do Shred Events.

  • GO GREEN / PAPERLESS.  Most financial institutions encourage their customers to sign up for electronic statements. This is more cost effective for them because they save money on paper, ink, postage and mail service. This is beneficial to you because you don't have to worry about more paper coming in the mail.  Don't fret! If you need to have a hard copy of your statement to audit or review, you can simply print you statements via online banking.

  • REDUCE THE PLASTIC.  If you have more than one debit or credit card in your wallet, you may be setting yourself up for over spending. Or worse, you may give that thief who stole your wallet access to all of your money and credit. Save the planet and just PICK ONE already! Only having one debit or credit card in your wallet to use for a purpose is the best way to control spending.  

  • USE CASH! A wallet is for cash!  Keep cash in your wallet to see exactly how much you are spending.  The may help you with a new financial reality check.

  • GET IT FREE! Before you decide to apply for credit anywhere, you should know your credit status. Lenders should NOT know your financial reputation before or better than you! Being afraid of what is reporting is no excuse for not getting a copy of your credit report.  You should know what creditors are saying about you. You never know, the stuff they are saying and reporting about your could be false "rumors."  You will want to nip that in the bud sooner than later. You can get a FREE copy of your credit report at least once a year at or by calling (877) 322-8228.

  • SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT! If there is false information reporting on your credit report, it is your obligation to set the record straight and get it corrected.  Creditors are going to notify you that they are reporting information incorrectly!  This is YOUR financial reputation we're talking about.  It will suck when you are declined for credit because of information that is incorrect. Each credit reporting company (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) has an online process to dispute incorrect information. They also provide detailed instructions on how to dispute information via mail as well.  Get started at
  • GET ONE! If you do not have a written budget, this is the time to get it together.  Once you see where your money is going money, it will help you make better financial decisions. If you need help creating a budget or spending plan, click here for my FREE eBook on 5 Steps to Building a Budget that Works
  • UPDATE IT! A budget or spending plan is a living and breathing document. There are some things that may have changed within a year, which may require changes to your budget. So, if you do have a budget established, now is the time to review it and update it as necessary. Who knows, you may have a few extra bucks to save or to pay off another debt. Better yet, treat yourself if you were able to stay on target with your budget! You deserve it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

3 Ways to Sabotage Your Credit Score

...Have you (or someone you know) ever wondered why when you think you are doing everything right regarding your credit, your credit score still takes a dive? I have.
Don't worry.  You are not alone.  I have been asked about this by numerous consumers and almost all of my clients.  The Credit Score is a calculation of credit performance behaviors that tell how risky you are to lend or provide a certain service to.

The quick way to remember the Anatomy of the Credit Score is S.P.A.D.E.  SPADE stands for 
  • Spending (30%) - how much  of your credit cards or revolving debt do you use? 
  • Payment History (35%) - how are you paying on all of your credit accounts? 
  • Age of credit (15%) - how long have you had experience with credit? 
  • Diversity (10%) - what experience do you have with different types of credit? 
  • Exposure (10%) - how many times do you allow your credit report to be viewed?
What makes the credit score calculation so complicated is that there are some things that we do, that seem to be good common sense actions, that actually reduce our credit scores.

Here are the Top 3 Ways to Sabotage Your Credit Score.

This seems like a wise and financially responsible thing to do right? RIGHT!!!  But, this action will actually have a negative impact on your credit score.  This affects the Spending category of the credit score, which is 30% of the score.  Credit scores rely heavily on utilization of revolving debt, like credit cards or lines of credit. So, if you close your credit cards, your utilization will be Zero. Not Good!  This is why you may see a dip in your credit score.

HELPFUL HINT:  Keep your credit card or line of credit balances at or less than 30% or the credit limit.

OK, Reality check ... You will not get a 10% on your purchase if you revolve a balance at 18% APR or higher.  The purchase will actually end up costing you more than the 10% you thought you saved.  Besides this misnomer, this action will have a negative impact on your credit score because it affects up to 3 categories of your credit score: Age (15%), Exposure (10%), and possibly Spending (30%)!  That's potentially 55% of the credit score negatively affected.

Here's quickly how this works: 1) You now have a new account reporting on your credit report, which affects the Age category; 2) That inquiry when they pulled your credit report to see if you qualified for the card affects the Exposure category; and 3) if the credit limit given is right above the amount you charged, this will affect the Spending category.

HELPFUL HINT: Don't believe the hype! Use a card you already have or better yet ... use budgeted CASH!

You know ... that small balance you didn't know you owed your doctor because your insurance didn't pay for it. Or that ticket you got in Atlanta. (Sorry ... venting).  Yeah, those.  Here's the thing, the amount doesn't matter when it comes to collection accounts.  So, whether the amount is $50 or $5,000, the negative hit is the same.

HELPFUL HINT: Check your credit report regularly or at least once a year. You can get a copy of your credit report for free at least once a year at

Financially True,

Tarra Jackson, Making Money Sexy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

"It's what they DON'T report that HURTS!"

... Have you (or someone you know) noticed that there may be some accounts or positive information that is not reporting on your credit report that could help your credit score? Well, I have!
We may all be familiar with the fact that there might be incorrect information reporting on our credit reports that are hurting our credit scores with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  However, were you aware that there may be positive information that is not reporting on your credit reports that may help your score?
Here are TWO (2) things to consider if positive information is not reporting on your credit report.
That's Right!  The credit reporting system is voluntary!  Therefore, it is NOT required for financial institutions, buy here pay here organizations, or apartment rental organizations to report to credit reporting companies. Therefore, you may find that your positive payment histories may not be reporting to help increase your credit score.  Some organizations only report negative information; or they may only report to one or two of the credit reporting companies but not all three.
HELPFUL HINT:  Before you sign a credit agreement for a loan, ask the organization or financial institution if they report to all three credit reporting companies. 
#2: MIX UPS!
If you share the same name and may have shared the same address with someone, like a family member (parent/child), trades may be mixed up and reported on the wrong credit file.  Credit Reporting Companies use the Name and Address as the primary matching triggers.  The secondary triggers are date of birth and social security number.  Therefore, this is a common mix up with parents and children who share the same names.
HELPFUL HINT:  Include any name suffixes like Jr., Sr., III, etc., on all financial documents and credit applications and agreements. Also, check your credit reports regularly to make sure all information is correct for you.  If there is incorrect information reporting, dispute the information immediately with each credit reporting company, if necessary.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Karen thought she needed to get second job. I told her NO!" - Here's why ...

... Have you (or someone you know) thought a second job would help solve your (or their) Cash Flow problems? Well, I have!

Karen, a single mother and successful corporate executive, made good money (over $80,000 a year). When Karen started her coaching sessions with me, she told me that she was thinking about getting a second part-time job to be able to pay all of her bills and build her savings.  I told her NO! I gave her several strategies that helped her save about $5,000 in a year.
Here are TWO (2) of the strategies that I coached her through.
Karen admitted that she hated to cook, so she and her son ate out frequently. She also bought her lunch everyday during the week. She spent an average of at least $30 per day. Instead of telling her to stop eating out cold turkey, I suggested that she eliminated eating out for one meal.  She would at least save $10 per day.  She decided that she was going to take her lunch to work.  
Karen saved $10 per day, $50 per week, which totaled $2,600 for the year.
Karen admitted that she was fixated on buying "Name Brands" when she went grocery shopping. So, Karen and I went grocery shopping as a Field Trip. When she picked out something that was "Name Brand," I picked a "Generic Brand" to compare ingredients and PRICE!  She realized that most of the Generic Brands had the same ingredients with LOWER PRICES. During this Field Trip, Karen saved almost $100 on her grocery bill and got more food (to make her lunches). Karen went grocery shopping twice a month. 
That's $200 savings per month, which totaled $2400 for the year.
In one year, Karen saved about $5,000 without getting a second job. Her part-time job became making her lunches and implementing the strategies she learned during our coaching sessions. 
This allowed her to spend more time with her son!
Lesson:  It's the little changes that make a BIG difference!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Your Credit Score Actually Means

Tom Murphy owns and manages rental properties in one of the Top 25 markets in the United States. His rents range from $750 to $1200 a month, but every tenant must pass the same test before they get a key to the front door.

They've got to have a good credit score,” Tom told “I want to know if they have demonstrated responsible financial behavior.

“It’s nice if everybody says he’s a good guy and takes his family to church every Sunday and all that … but what I really want to know is whether he has a history of paying on time.”

Bankers, insurance companies, car dealers, utilities and plenty of other businesses would say “Amen” to that!

Are You a Good Financial Risk?

What a credit score really indicates is whether you are deemed a good financial risk, based on your history of paying bills. If you’re trying to get a home loan, a car, insurance for that home or car or just get the electricity turned on, the most influential factor in making it happen, is probably going to be your credit score.

“If you’re irresponsible about paying your bills, the general feeling is you’re likely going to be irresponsible about how you drive or when you pay your mortgage,” said Dave Viola, an insurance broker in the same city. “You still might get some insurance with a bad credit score, but you’d be flabbergasted by the rates.”

Representatives from banks, insurance companies, car dealers and property owners confirmed that credit scores do affect the terms and conditions of any agreement they make with a consumer. In most cases, the higher the credit score, the lower the monthly payment. And if the consumer’s credit score is at the low end of the scale, some companies won’t do business with them at all.

Credit Score Range

The lines of demarcation in credit scores, also known as FICO scores, range from 300 at the low end to 850 at the high end. The median FICO score is 723, meaning half of people with credit scores are below 723 and half are above.

The FICO scores are compiled by three companies:  TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Each one claims to use a different formula in arriving at their score, but generally speaking it’s computed like this: Payment history (35%); amount owed and credit available (30%); credit history (15%); new credit (10%); and type of credit used (10%).

It would be wise to note what doesn’t affect your credit score, namely how much money you make, age, sex, race, religion, marital status and where you live. 

The problem for most people is that they don’t know their credit score and haven’t reviewed their credit report. Consumers are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months, one each from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. The free report is available at, but credit scores are not included. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that only 20 percent of consumers request their free credit report.

If you receive your credit report and aren’t satisfied with what you see, there are some steps you can take to improve your credit history:

  • Check the accuracy of the report. Incorrect information is the leading cause of consumer complaints about their credit history. Remember, all three companies that issue reports use different data, so get a free one from each company and check all data.
  • Pay your bills on time. This is especially significant with credit cards and bank loans. Set up a bill payment reminder system, if necessary.
  • Pay down the balances on credit cards.
  • Do not open a new credit card account unless absolutely necessary.
  • Maintain a good mix of credit (mortgage, car loan and credit cards).

Having a good credit score can mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of difference in what you pay for a loan or insurance coverage. You can go online to see examples of the relationship between your credit score and the interest rate charged on your loan. In today’s tight lending market, consumers need to be at the high end of the spectrum to receive favorable treatment for loans or insurance.

Bill Fay writes and blogs for He is an award-winning writer with more than two decades of experience in the areas of news, sports and public policy.

Teaching Money and Credit Management - Whose Responsibility is it anyway?

In the United States, our school system requires all children to take and pass Reading, Writing, Arithmetic (I hated Geometry), a foreign language, Social Studies, Science, and in some schools they still require Physical Education.  However, it still baffles my mind that Money and Credit Management Education is NOT required. 

There may chapters that teach the denominations and how to count currency in elementary; as well as a little bit of finance education in high school.  And yes, there may be a financial management class offered in college as an elective.   Huh?  An Elective?   Yes, I use Reading and Writing every day of my life.  The other required courses … maybe on occasions or for fun, but I deal with MONEY EVERYDAY OF MY LIFE.  As a matter of fact, I dealt with money before I could read or write when my grandfather gave me a dollar bill when I was 2 or 3.

So, the question of the day is… Who is responsible to teach a child how to manage money, to leverage its potential wealth building power and to avoid ending up in tremendous debt and bad credit?

…I hear someone in the audience yell… The Parents!  OKAY…  And who taught the Parents?   

Many parents don’t teach their children about how to manage money because they either assume that the schools are doing it or because they don’t know or weren't taught themselves.  They may have “Colorful Credit” and could be drowning in debt.  They probably were never taught how to balance a checkbook properly.  “Checkbook?  Who uses checks nowadays?  We have debit cards.”  HINT: you still must balance your account when using your debit card. 

So, the second question of the day is…If the Parents don’t or can’t teach their children how to manage money & credit, who is now responsible to teach the child?

…I hear someone else in the audience screaming, “The Church!”  The Church is its people.  Most of those people have not been taught and are seeking financial counsel.

I do believe that Financial Institutions, such as banks and credit unions, are the most qualified to teach the world how to manage money.  Makes cents (sense) right?  “Herein lies the rub…”


IF the financial institutions teaches money management to the communities it serves, it may not have the resources to share the information to every consumer that needs and wants it.  Some financial institutions, do share money matters information to communities, organizations and schools, when they can get in there; but that is a small drop in a large bowl.  BUT…it’s a start!


You can only teach a person that wants to learn.  There are thousands of resources online, in the communities, independent professionals, etc. that provide some form of Financial Education.  However, reality check… the target audience may be set in their ways and probably afraid or unwilling to make necessary changes or sacrifices to help their financial situation.  Money & Credit Management should be taught before bad habits are formed. 

Here is the Oxymoron Answer to this million dollar questions (Pun intended):  It is frankly not advantageous for financial institutions to educate consumers on money management.  Consumer ignorance is a multi-million dollar business. Financial Institutions make money off of financial ignorance, poor money management, and financial irresponsibility of consumers.  Those consumers should take a close look at their monthly bank statements or check out the interest rate on their loan.  The less educated/informed and disciplined a consumer is with their money, the more money they will pay in fees and interest.  Simple math. So… if that is the case, is it really advantageous for financial institutions to have a massive Financial Literacy Campaign for the world?   

I believe that  1) it is the responsibility of the schools to provide the information as a core class from Elementary through Higher Education, 2) it is the responsibility of the Parents to reinforce the information by modeling the behavior of proper financial management for the child and instilling discipline, and 3) it is the responsibility of the Financial Institutions to provide the Financial Educational resources for the Parents to learn more and continue to be informed and fiscally responsible consumers.

Call me a Dreamer or Optimist!  I believe that Financial Knowledge is power. And … Hopefully one day the US Board of Education will understand the significance of and require Money and Credit Management Education as a curriculum in all schools.  Until then…Private Schools / Charter Schools…here is your opportunity to including Money and Credit Management Education to your curricula. (I'm Just Saying!)

For more information about money and credit management curriculum for your school, contact Madam Money at
(c) 2010 Tarra Jackson Enterprises

Monday, March 4, 2013

10 Financial Freedom Commandments

Here are my 10 Financial Freedom Commandments. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad "B" Word?

Some of us seem to be so scared of the Big Bad "B" word these days.  No...I'm not talking about BANKS, I'm talking about BUDGETING.  
Some of us equate Budgeting with Dieting; and the reason why we may fail at Dieting is because we feel like we are going to DIE of starvation.  But, If we "DIEt the right way by eating 5 – 6 smaller meals a day, we will always feel full.  The best advice for a new and successful Diet is to start with small changes and gradually do more to change our eating habits and execute an exercise regimen.  Next thing we know, we realize that this is not a DIEt...this is a new Lifestyle!  Congratulations!
This same concept is relative to Budgeting.  Budgeting is putting our Spending on a DIET.  The best and most successful Budget (Diet) is to start with small changes in our spending habits.  For example:  Instead of going to the vending machine every day for your midmorning snack, bring a small bag of wheat thins or baby carrots to snack on; or instead of going to a restaurant for lunch, make your lunch at home or pack up your leftovers from the night before and take it to work with you.  These small changes will save you a nice chunk of change and probably a few pounds if you did this for a whole week.
Before we start any new BUDGET or Spending Diet, here are 9 things that should be done to ensure success!!!
#1. Establish your Financial Goals. 

Where do you want to be financially in 30 days, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months?  This only sounds hard but it's really not.  We do this mentally all of the time but we just don't write them down.  For example:  In 30 days, my Goal is to reduce my spending by $100 or more. In 3 months my Goal is save $300 or more. Keep your Goals S.M.A.R.T. (Small, Manageable, Attainable, Repetitive, and Timed).
#2. Assess where you are. 

Before you build your Budget, do a Spending Diary for up to one week. Write down everything you spend money on, regardless how small the amount. Do this on a daily basis to get an idea of exactly how much you are actually spending and what you are spending your money on. You'll be surprised how those $0.60 bags of chips, 2 times a day for a week, adds up.
#3. Determine areas of change. 

Look at your Spending Diary and determine what can be modified or eliminated without it feeling like you are on a Restrictive DIEt. Think BIG but start with small steps.  This is marathon not a sprint!
#4. Build your map towards your Goals. 

Write down the steps you need do towards reaching each financial goal. Again, be S.M.A.R.T. about it!  Sometimes we get selective amnesia, so it may help creating an electronic Financial Vision Board and place it in different areas around the house and at work. (PLUG: Make sure you sign up for my Financial Vision Board Class!)
#5. Take those small steps ASAP!!! 

My mother used to say, "I'm going to start my diet on Monday!"  She said that every Friday for years.  Execution is Key!  How do you eat an Elephant? ... One bite at a time.  Again, "Think BIG but start with SMALL steps."  Then, gradually do more. 

#6. Get a Budget Coach. 

Share your Goals and Plan with a financial success coach that you feel comfortable with, respect and will take their advice when necessary or required.  This person will assist in holding you accountable to meet your goals and be there to help you get back on track if necessary.  (PLUG: Contact me, Madam Money, to be your Financial Success Coach. I would love to help you with your new Money Management Diet.)

#7. Reward Yourself. 

Make sure you reward yourself at least once a month so that you won't feel deprived.  Don't overdo it with a Shopping Spree.  Rather, set aside money every paycheck for that new outfit you want or those gorgeous shoes you have to have!!!  Hint: If it is that Flat Screen TV you were about to get a loan for...STOP!!! it in your budget and save up for it.  Trust me; they will have more TVs when you are able to afford it.  It might even be on sale by then.

#8. Get a Credit Check Up! 

Get copies of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian & Transunion) to see what is being reported to make sure everything is correct. If it’s not, make sure you dispute it. Get your free copy at
#9. Don't be so hard on yourself. 

Give yourself a break!  Reaching your goals will take time and consistency.  So if you fall of the wagon ... dust yourself off, get back on, and begin again.  Trust me, it’s ok!
I am excited about your financial future and am available to assist you through this process!