Ultimately, the best outcome of your commitment to financial literacy will be increased confidence in yourself. When you have the knowledge you need to make informed decisions, you’ll be able to trust that you can avoid going into debt or investing with too much risk.

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With a good or excellent credit score, you can qualify for lower interest rates on loans and credit cards, credit cards with attractive and money-saving perks, and a range of offers for financial products, which gives you the chance to choose the best deal.

But to improve credit, you need to know what factors contribute to your score. Payment history has the biggest impact on your FICO® Score☉ , the credit score most commonly used by lenders, accounting for 35% of it.

Pay all bills on time to keep this important element of your credit as strong as possible. Next you'll want to focus on credit utilization, or the amount of revolving credit you use compared to your credit limits.

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National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC): Member organizations of the NFCC offer credit counseling locally and remotely, and the NFCC’s website includes free planning tools and calculators that can help you budget and plan for retirement.

Look into credit counseling. Expert help is also available from credit counseling agencies, which employ counselors certified in budgeting and debt payoff techniques. If you have the means, you could also consider working with a financial advisor such as a certified financial planner.

Kelis Ford