WodStar asked fellow WodStar Kirk W. Diller, Senior Vice President and Wealth Advisor out of Morgan Stanley in Scottsdale, AZ about what it takes to be Financially Fit. This is the first of more articles to come from Kirk Diller.
Achieving financial success is no simple matter. It takes hard work, perseverance and adherence to strategies of saving, investing and managing your finances. Just as there are good habits associated with staying physically fit, there are also best practices involved with keeping financially fit.
Reduce and Manage Debt
The first simple strategy is managing your debt. Consider how much you spend on debt service for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and student or other loans. Lenders typically look at two metrics when deciding whether or not to extend credit: the front-end and back-end ratios.
The front-end ratio shows what percentage of your income goes toward housing expenses, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance and association dues. The back-end ratio shows what portion of your income is needed to cover all of your monthly debt obligations, including housing, credit card bills, car loans, student loans and other debt service. Most lenders look for a front-end ratio of no more than 28% and a back-end ratio of 36% or less.
Develop a Plan for Eliminating Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is one of the most expensive debts you can carry. Interest rates often top 18% on existing balances. Paying off just $100 more per month on a $5,000 balance could pay off the entire balance in 32 months instead of 94 months, saving almost $3,000 in interest (assuming an interest rate of 18% and a 2% minimum monthly payment).
Check Your Credit Report
Credit reports offer a snapshot of how the world views your “creditability.” Credit scores range between 300 points and 850 points, and most fall between 600 and 750. A score above 700 usually suggests good credit management. You can request a free copy of your credit report once each year from each of three major credit reporting agencies–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion–at AnnualCreditReport.com.