The tired old saw is that your credit report is your financial report card. Tired or not, it's accurate.
You probably don't spend much time thinking about your credit report, which lists where you've lived, what jobs you've had, any time you've been late in paying bills, as well as whether you've ever declared bankruptcy or been sent up the proverbial river. Ignoring this document can lead to some anxious moments on some momentous occasions, like when you're applying for: a loan, a job or an apartment.
To avoid a nasty and deflating surprise, it's a good idea to check out your credit report every two or three years -- and definitely before you have to file an application where it will be checked. Doing otherwise is like submitting a resume pulled together by a stranger, sight unseen. Fact is, many people find inaccuracies on their credit reports, and these can be corrected.
There are three main credit-tracking agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can request your report for about $8 on each firm's Web site or by phone. You can also order a report from each via TransCredit.com for about $35, with a quick and dirty analysis of your report for about $5 more. Here are these companies' Web sites and phone numbers:
10 Things You Should Do Before You Invest
- Figure out what you're worth.
- Set your goals and figure out how much they cost.
- Spend less than you make.
- Build an emergency savings fund.
- Pay off your credit card debt.
- Insure yourself against the unexpected.
- Contribute to tax-deferred retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs.
- Consider using software to keep track of your money and help with your taxes.
- Be your bank's thriftiest customer.
- Check out your credit report.
Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
firstname.lastname@example.org, but he cannot give specific financial advice.