Monday, September 28, 2009

Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

Here's a final takeaway from what I learned at my Credit Scores class.  Look for a consumer class coming soon!

Avoid Identity Theft!
  • Monitor your credit report annually  Whether you sign up to monitor your credit with the company that has those catchy ads, or do it yourself, make sure you do it!  Remember that they have to pay for those ads and do so by charging a credit monitoring fee after your first report.  To monitor your own credit completely FREE, go to
  • Secure Your Mail  It might be a good idea to have it delivered to your office or post office.  Outgoing mail should be posted at the post office or a secured mail box.
  • Electronic keypad signatures  One of the most common points of theft.  Add the date after the signature so it cannot be reused.
  • Never list your social security number  And never carry your card with you!
  • Destroy all statements and solicitations  It's not enough to just tear them in half and throw them away.  Shred!
  • Don't leave paper trails  Take ALL ATM and gas receipts with you.  These are other very common points of origination for identity theft.
  • Always review your statements  Make sure all of the charges are yours.  If you don't recognize a store or vendor, call your credit card company and ask. 
  • Know who you are dealing with  Don't give out personal information over the phone or internet.  If someone calls claiming to be your bank or credit card company, call them back using the number on your statement, not the number the caller gives you.
  • Know your delivery dates  If the bill isn't there when expected, call.
  • Remove bar code from magazines and shred them!  There is a world of information about you contained in those little lines.
  • Keep your medical insurance card safe  Medical ID theft is the newest form of identity theft.
  • If you pay your bills by check  Put your work phone and address on your checks.
  • Have different passwords online  and change them every so often.
Hopefully this has been helpful information.  I know I learned a lot and wanted to share it.  There is nothing that feels quite so helpless as when someone is using your information- protect yourselves!

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's not a Sprint, it's a (half)Marathon

Last winter I decided I might try a half-marathon.  I've been a runner for a lot of years, and it is my preferred method of exercise.  (As Aunt Judy puts it, you get the most benefit from the least amount of time spent)  It occurred to me that it was time to push my limits a bit and run toward a goal.  With my mind nearly made up, I happily announced it to my husband.

"No, you are NOT running a half marathon!" 

I know how this looks.  You might be thinking something along the lines of: Whoa.  Who asked John Wayne Bobbit anyway?  I should probably back up and 'splain myself.

About 7 years ago, my now sister in law invited me to run a half marathon with her.  "Come on!  It'll be fun!"  Hmmm.  Sounds intriguing, I said, but I haven't really been training.  "No big deal- how much do you run?  I never train!"  Now, if she were some kind of ultra- running workout superstar I would've come up with many more reasons why I wouldn't.  But she isn't.  She works out, but not excessively.  Plus, I thought, I could kick her butt running any day.  Yeah.  Ok, yeah, I'll run it.  What fun!  What a challenge!  What great exercise!

What an idiot.  When I told my friend Charles recently that I had run that race without really training, he was horrified.  "That's downright dangerous."  Umm, yeah.

This wasn't some leisurely, flat course.  It's the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon.  Here's a description of the course, taken from the Georgetown to Idaho Springs website:

There is .5 mile of gravel road in the 2nd mile, and 1.5 mile of dirt road from mile 6.5 to mile 8. Also be aware of a steep grade with a 90° turn at the bottom of Clear Creek Drive in the 1st mile of the course.

The elevation at the start is 8500 feet, and gradually arrives at 7500 feet at the finish. Temperatures in the early morning at this elevation can be 50°, and can reach 85° by the finish. While conditions are usually optimal at this time of year, athletes should always be prepared for adverse weather while being in a mountainous location.

Holy Crap.  That doesn't even warn the innocent anywhere near enough.  The morning of the race dawned plenty early.  On my drive up the mountain to meet up with sis and her best friend, I went over my strategy.  Ok.  I can do this.  I ran 8 miles on Wednesday and took the rest of the week off to prepare.  Plus, I had a banana this morning, so my stomach should be fine.  Oooh look, outlet stores...!

At the start, we sat in the car to keep warm.  It was 30 degrees out, but at least it was sunny.  When we could no longer sit in the car without missing the race, we lined up.  POP!  We're off!

The first mile was easy.  The other ladies had this idea that we should run for 10 minutes and walk for 1.  Wimps.  Well, ok, I've never done this before, so if you guys like to do that, that's fine.

Around mile 6, I felt good.  The cold morning was turning into a warm day, and I could do this, no prob.  Around mile 8, my lungs were filled with dust and my legs were feeling the exertion.  Somewhere around mile 9, my feet started to burn.  From mile 9.1 until the end is not very clear in my mind.  Sis fell away to a walk at some point, and her bff joined her, but in the haze was a thought that if I stopped now, I might not start up again.  Coming in to the finish, I saw a couple of people being helped into medical tents, the finish line, my husband, my daughter, water, water, where's the water?, food, Port-a-Potty.  I did it, I did it, I'm dying, but I did it.  Just need to make a quick stop at the potty... I almost didn't come back out.  We still had to drive home 1 1/2 hours, but it was more like 2 1/2 to 3 with all the stops I needed to make.  I spent most of the rest of the day between my bed and the bathroom.

What an idiot.

So, you can see why hubby wasn't too encouraging.  He later admitted to me that he had seriously considered taking me to the hospital that day, and he was pretty freaked out.  But this time I'm going to train!

Stay tuned for more.....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tipping the Credit Score Scales in Your Favor

You might be wondering what you can do to improve your credit score.  Here are some good tips from the Credit Scores class I took last week:
  • Pay ALL of your bills on time or early.  Even a 30 day late on a small credit card can have a significant negative impact on your credit score.  Sign up to have the minimum payment automatically deducted on the due date to ensure that no matter when your "real" payment gets there, you have at least paid your minimum on time every month.
  • Don't co-sign loans!  Remember that their late payment becomes your late payment.  No exceptions, no do-overs.
  • Don't open new accounts unless absolutely necessary.  Inquiries may or may not affect your score depending on the rest of your credit history.  There are two types of inquiries: hard or soft.  A "hard" inquiry is when your full credit file is pulled, as when you try to open a new credit card.  A "soft" inquiry is when you pull your own credit score.  Fortunately, multiple credit inquiries from mortgage companies or auto loans within a 14 day period will not hurt your score, so you can shop around.  Just be careful where you do this- online mortgage companies are reportedly not the way to go.
  • In related news... Department Store Credit Cards hurt your credit!  It can be so tempting to "save 10% all day today".  However, the credit is only good in that particular store, so it isn't good for your overall rating.
  • Report Fraud Immediately!  If you are a victim of fraud, contact the credit bureaus, your credit card companies, banks and the FTC at
  • Monitor your credit.  Order a FREE copy of your credit report once a year at  This site will not require you to sign up for paid service.
  • If you are planning on refinancing or buying a home, do not make any purchases or runup the balances on your cards.  Wait until you move in to buy that furniture, carpet, appliances, etc.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Goes into Your Credit Score?

It seems like some kind of mystery.  How DO they figure out your credit score anyway?  Until recently, the calculations were fairly well guarded.  Yesterday, I took a class that gave an estimate of how it is figured. 
Being the mommy of a 9 year old, and a former teacher, I like to advocate SHARING!  So, here it is:

Payment History= 35%
  • Pay your accounts ON TIME, even if it is only the minimum.  You can usually sign up to pay the minimum automatically online.  This ensures that a payment is recorded on time every month, even if you still mail paper payments of any amount.  Most of us have experienced going out of town and forgetting to mail your bills...  this takes care of those "oops" moments.
  • Length of Positive Credit History. The longer you have your credit and pay it on time, the better
  • Severity and Quantity of Delinquencies. 
Amount Owed= 30%
  • Quantity of Credit Accounts.  Too many credit cards with balances can lower your score.
Length of Credit History= 15%
  • The longer the better
  • How long have your credit accounts been established?  It can take 6 months to a year to establish a payment history on a new credit card.  Until that time, it is a negative against your credit history because it is unestablished.
  • How long has it been since you've used your accounts?  If you have many cards that you never use, this can count against you.  Unfortunately, suddenly closing a bunch of accounts is not a good idea either.  Ultimately, you should have 3 cards that you use, and pay, regularly.

New Credit= 10%
  • Opening several credit accounts in a short period of time is a greater risk- especially if you have not established a credit history.
Types of Credit in Use/Having a Healthy Mix= 10%
  • 2 Intallment Loans (eg. Car payments)
  • 3 revolving Credit Accounts with balances
  • Balances on revolving debt below 30% of the high credit (credit limit)
  • No collection accounts
  • No public records
  • No foreclosures
  • No late payments
Coming Next:  Tipping the Scales in YOUR Favor

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Funnin' with the Numbers: what does "Months of Inventory"(MOI) mean?

I just read the simplest description yet for Months of Inventory.  So, here we go:

Months of Inventory are figured out when you find out how many homes sold in the last 12 month period and compare it to how many homes are actively on the market today.  If nothing else came on the market, the Months of Inventory are how long it would take for the current number of homes to be purchased, based of the prior year's activity. 

A "normal" housing market is defined as six months of inventory.  When the number is LESS than 6 months, the sellers have the advantage.  There are more buyers out there than there is inventory.  When the number is MORE than 6 months, it is a buyer's advantage market.  There is too much inventory for the number of buyers available.

So, where does Henderson stand?  Overall, the Henderson, CO, market is at 3.6 Months of Inventory.  Sounds really great if you are going to be selling.  But HOLD ON!

The numbers should be broken down further to make more sense.  To truly get a feel for whether now is the time to list your Henderson home, it makes sense to analyze how these break out:

Price Category:      Num Sold:     % of Sales:     Num Active:          MOI:
<85K                        0                     0                    0                    0
85K-135K                   1                     .8%                0                    0
135K-210K                55                   43.7%            11                   2.4
210K-315K                66                   52.4%            17                   3.1
315K-460K                 4                    3.1%               6                    18
460K +                       0                      0                    4                      *

For those homes listed above 460K, time will tell how quickly they sell. 

It is safe to say that if you are thinking of selling your home at a listing price between 135K and 315K, this is your market.  With such low supply, buyers are going to be anxious to purchase houses at this price level.

Be sure to consult with a REALTOR to find out what your most likely sold price will be!

If you are looking to upgrade, now may be the best time yet!  If you have a house to sell in that price range and are looking to buy a bigger, fancier, or better house...  as long as you can get the loan, these properties are a steal!

You can see what's available in any price range by visiting my website:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New pictures for Franklin!

What happened to fun driving?  It's not fun anymore.  It is guilt inducing (the Environment!  Greenhouse gasses!), boring, and just plain tedious.

Unless, of course, you are picking up your new floors!  Now that is exciting.  Ok, maybe it isn't exciting yet, but it leads to so many exciting things...  Meanwhile, here are a few pictures to let you know how it's coming:
Look at how Open and Bright it is!
More soon.....