Establishing Credit for Beginners

by Sara Seeger 20. September 2013

Credit Cards






Maintaining a strong credit history can be one of the most difficult lifetime challenges for people; especially young people just starting out. The paradox most people face is being able to establish credit without established credit! A good first step is to apply for a credit card with requirements that are easy to meet. Credit cards are useful financial tools and a great way to establish credit – but used improperly, they can be an easy way to rack up a lot of debt. Before you dive in to the world of credit cards, it’s important to understand credit-related terms, what they mean and how they help or hinder a person’s individual situation.

What is Credit?

Credit is referred to as a specific amount of money that is made available to be borrowed by an individual. Credit must be paid back to the lender (in this case, the bank) sometime in the future. In short, credit allows an individual to purchase goods or services without having to have “actual” money at the time of purchase. The amount of credit a bank will grant a person varies, depending on individual circumstances like credit history/score, existing debt (credit card balances, school and other types of loans, etc.) and reliable employment, to name a few.

Lesson: Establishing credit is necessary and should be handled as carefully as one’s reputation.

What is an Interest Rate?

An An interest rate is quite simply a fee paid by the credit card holder, for the privilege of borrowing money that would otherwise take time to accrue. Many banks offer an interest-free period for new credit card holders (usually 12 or 18 months) that give the borrower a bit of relief on the balance. After that time, interest will start to accrue on the credit card balance unless the balance is paid off in full every month.

Lesson: Look for promotional, interest-free offers, but keep the potential accumulation of interest costs top-of-mind, especially during this interest-free period, to avoid unpleasant surprises and unplanned expenses.

What Determines the Interest Rate on Your Credit Card?

Many banks have a range of interest rates that are assigned to a specific borrower. The primary factor banks use to determine the interest rate that is assigned to a credit card is an individual’s credit score. What’s in a number? Well, a lot, actually. A credit score tells the bank a lot about a person; for instance how much debt already exists, how timely payments are made, if the person has ever defaulted on an obligation or filed for bankruptcy, how much credit is available to the borrower already, etc. In simplistic terms, the lower the credit score, the higher the interest rate and vice-versa.

Lesson: The decision to default on a school loan or to make late payments on credit card balances or other financial obligations can haunt you for years. Think twice before you decide to take the trip to the Bahamas instead of taking care of financial obligations.

How do credit cards work?

A credit card is used as a form of payment and should NOT be thought of as free money. Each time a credit card is used, an individual is borrowing money, which must be repaid in the future. Most bank credit cards require only a minimum payment of the total balance to be paid monthly; however, unless there is an “interest free” period, interest will accumulate on the balance due.

Lesson: In order to obtain and maintain a strong credit profile, it is important to always pay credit card balances on time and to not over-extend credit limits.

Buying a home, purchasing a car, attending college, preparing for a wedding, and even taking a vacation may require credit. Establishing credit is necessary for most people and provides the flexibility needed to attain goals. The lesson to remember is that our actions and choices impact and shape our credit future.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Credit Scores: GPAs for Adults

True or False? Five Myths about Credit Scores Unveiled

Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit?

Daily Habits of Rich People

by Marylove Moy 22. August 2013

Alarm Clock

Ever wonder how the rich people get rich or stay rich? With so much economic uncertainty these days, it seems almost everyone I know is a bit nervous about their financial future. Interestingly enough, there seems to be some common traits in how rich people structure their day.

Farnoosh Torabi of Yahoo! Finance recently highlighted financial planner Tom Corley and his book Rich Habits: The Daily Success of Wealthy Individuals. (“Wealthy” here is defined as earning at least $160,000 annually and maintaining assets of at least $3.2 million.)

Mr. Corley spent 5 years studying 320 “rich” individuals and determined several common behavior patterns.

1) Early Risers

Almost half of the wealthy individuals are early risers, waking up 3 hours before work; the time is spent reading or working out.

2) Structure

Wealthy people do not waste time. They maintain daily lists of tasks and complete (and check off) approximately two-thirds every day. Also worth noting, wealthy people have short and long term goals (which they review diligently).

3) No Long Lunches

In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko said, “Lunch is for wimps.” He appears to have good company in that Mr. Corley determined that most wealthy people forgo long social lunches; instead they network or conduct business at lunch.

4) Calorie Counting

Wealthy people watch their weight. They limit alcohol and junk food snacks to 300 calories a day. Health is wealth to them.

5) Gossiping

Only 6% of those interviewed admitted to gossiping; they are too busy making money to care about anyone else’s business.

6) Limited Internet

High net worth people spend their down time networking or socializing, whereas the lower net worth interviewees spend at least one hour a day on Facebook and/or elsewhere on the internet.

I don't know about you but I am going to start setting my alarm clock quite a bit earlier and avoid the snooze button!

Record Low Mortgage Rates a Thing of the Past

by Anirban Basu 19. August 2013

Anirban BAsu

It was only a Matter of Time

We knew they wouldn’t last forever. An extraordinary confluence of circumstances, including a deep recession, deflationary forces and hyper-aggressive monetary policy, produced the lowest mortgage rates in history. As of July of last year, interest rates on benchmark 30-year fixed-rate loans were hovering around 3.5 percent, sometimes lower. They bottomed out at the end of November, when rates hit an unheard of 3.31 percent according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Until the last few weeks, these rates had managed to remain below 4 percent despite ongoing economic recovery.

But the mere possibility of slower bond purchases by the Federal Reserve produced a surge in mortgage rates. Recently, these rates have been in excess of 4.5 percent, a level that hasn’t been observed in over two years. As pointed out by MoneyWatch and other publications, at the end of June, rates leapt nearly 0.5 percent, producing the largest week-over-week increases in more than a quarter century. Many economists viewed the bond market’s reaction to possible Federal Reserve policy shifts as overdone, but rates have not declined significantly since their initial surge.

For those who prefer to view the glass as half-full, the rise in mortgage rates is to a large extent the product of better economic news. The nation is now in its fifth year of economic recovery. It has added more than 2.2 million jobs over the past year, including nearly 200,000 in construction.

Improvement in the housing market has taken center stage. Since the final quarter of 2011, advances in homebuilding have been responsible for roughly a fifth of total economic expansion. As a result of improvements in homebuilding and remodeling, housing’s overall share of the economy is gradually climbing back toward historic norms.

Correspondingly, the housing sector, which led the economy into recession in late-2007 and into near financial collapse in September 2008, no longer needs as much monetary policy support as it once did. Home prices are now rising, creating a level of urgency among prospective buyers that did not exist during earlier stages of the economic recovery.

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, a leading measure of U.S. home prices, average prices rose 11.6 percent and 12.1 percent for the 10- and 20-City Composite indices for the 12 months ending in April 2013. Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Minneapolis posted their largest annual gains since the inception of these indices. Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Francisco generated year-over-year gains exceeding 20 percent.

In Maryland, median sales prices are up 5.9 percent over the past year (June 2012 versus June 2013) and average sales prices are up 4.3 percent. Unit sales are up 13.1 percent.

Looking Ahead

It is quite possible of course that the recent rise in mortgage rates will slow progress in the housing market going forward. Already, there has been major impact in the market for mortgage refinancing, with refinancing demand recently slipping to a 2-year low.

To date, loan applications for home purchases have not been as significantly impacted. With mortgage rates having risen, some prospective purchasers have undoubtedly reconsidered their selection of mortgage product, with more opting for adjustable rate mortgages than would have had rates remained unchanged. That flexibility allows would-be buyers to continue to benefit from ultra-low rates even in a rising rate environment. Moreover, the latest data continue to indicate rising home prices, which means that the motivation to purchase and enjoy future appreciation still remains.

Anirban Basu, Economist, Sage Policy Group, Inc. & First Mariner Bank Board Member

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City's economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

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