Financial Literacy Class

September 27 & 28, 2014

8:30 to 5:00 each day

Professor Nathalie Martin

Pre-Course Requirements

To take this course, students must do the following five things before the class starts:

  1. Get copies of your credit reports and a credit score, either for free from creditkarma.com or by buying one from one of the agencies. DO NOT DELAY UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE! This takes time.
  2. Read the reader that you can pick up today in the copy center.
  3. Track every penny spent over one week in a notebook.
  4. Save any consumer offers for credit cards, mortgage financings, or other financial products that you get in the mail between now and the class, and
  5. Watch the Movie The Joneses. You can stream it on Netflix or get it from RedBox. If you don’t have access to either, I will set up a screening at the law school.

You must pass a pre-test in order to qualify to take the course. It is based upon the above course preparations. There also will be a test at the end of the course on Sunday, September 28, 2014.

Credit Reports and Scores

  • The three main credit reporting companies are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They offer both ‘credit reports’ and ‘credit scores’ – and the two are not identical. You need to get a copy of your credit report and score from each agency. The reports are free, the score is not. Read on to find out how.
  • A credit report is a historical listing of credit and personal information, usually presented without comment. Reports show all of the participating entities who have extended or denied credit to the individual, and also show the timeliness of the individual’s repayment of his/her debt obligations. Also shown are any adverse financial judgments, collections actions and closed (i.e., ‘charged-off’) accounts.
  • A credit score is a point award based on the information in the credit report. Although the different reporting companies use different formulas to arrive at the score, the basic range of points is standardized, with 300 at the low negative end and 900 at the high ‘credit-worthy’ end. An individual with a credit score of 650 or higher is generally considered a decent credit risk. Variable interest rates are usually offered at an inverse ratio to an individual’s credit score.

Free and Fee-based Credit Report Services

To access these reports through the internet, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also request your reports by phone at 1-877-322-8228 or by mail at: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281. Free reports do not include a credit score. You have to purchase that separately, which you can do from this site or others. You can also just pay for both your reports and score. You can buy them from the reporting companies directly, or you can use any of a large number of personal ’credit-watch’ services but personally I think most of these are a big rip-off and should be avoided. This year, I am experimenting with letting people just get a free estimated/unofficial credit score from www.creditkarma.com.

Class Links

Credit Cards

Cars

Investing

Overall Financial Health

No-Load Mutual Funds

Tips for choosing a no-load fund:

  1. Research the investments that each fund has made, focusing on performance and diversity
  2. Look for funds with tenured managers (5 years or more) and find out about the manager's investments
  3. Match the fund to your own goals, risk tolerance, and buying power
  4. Read the prospectus carefully