Financial Fitness: Credit Scores & Credit Reports

Your credit score is like a thermometer measuring the overall health of your credit worthiness. It can impact everything from your ability to get a loan or credit card to the terms of the loan/credit card. It can even impact approval for renting an apartment or getting a job. The score may seem disconnected from your day-to-day life but its health, or lack of, can definitely be felt in your wallet…check out this infographic to see how. 

Unlike the reading on a thermometer measuring your body’s temperature, you want your credit score to be as high as possible. Credit scores range from 300-850 and unfortunately it can take much longer to rehabilitate a poor score than it did to bring it down. Negative activity, such as a late payment, can stay on your credit report, affecting your credit score, for 7 years!

What’s the difference between a Credit Score and a Credit Report? The credit score is determined by a formula developed by FICO (Fair Isaacs Corporation) using the information found in your credit report. You generally need to purchase your credit score but you can obtain a free credit report once every 12 months. Watch this 2 minute video to learn more about how the credit score and credit report impact each other. 

The first step to addressing the health of your credit score is to get a credit report. There are three organizations that gather and report credit-related information: Experian, TransUnion, Equifax. While they all contain the same basic information, they can have slight but important variations. For this reason it is good to request a report from each agency. One way to take advantage of the free report once every 12 months is to stagger your request. Get your Experian report then four months later get your TransUnion report then four months later get your Equifax report…and repeat. Also, if you apply for a loan or credit card and are denied you are entitled to a free report.   

You have your credit report, now what? Look it over for any errors. Make sure that your personal information is correct and notify the credit bureau if there are any changes that need to be made. Make sure that the open accounts, payment history, and any potential negative items are accurate. If you believe any of this is in error you can dispute it. Each credit reporting bureau will give you information about how to do this and you can also check out  this article.

Unless your score is in the excellent range make a plan about how to bring that number up. Unsure how to do this? Check out these tips to repair and improve your credit score . If you are feeling swamped by debt and need help managing it consider working with a credit counselor. There are many companies that may take advantage your situation. Make sure you only use a credit counselor that is affiliated with either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the  Financial Counseling Association of America.

Cultivating Happiness with Gratitude

Happiness…it’s more than a feeling. Happiness is not about what we have or what we do, but how we are. We can use happiness to measure the quality of life, “Does this make me happy?” We can also use it as a catalyst for making changes, “What can I do differently to be happier?” Happiness leads to greater overall health. It is a factor in decreased stress and increased resiliency. This means that happiness isn’t just a pleasant feeling, it is actually good for you!

How do you increase your capacity for happiness? Start with gratitude. Being grateful does not mean you ignore the difficulties, the challenges, or the deficiencies. Perhaps there are real and pressing struggles in your life, but if you only focus on them you will probably feel overwhelmed by them.  Are there blessings in your life? What are they? How do they impact your life, day-by-day and moment-by-moment?  When you start with gratitude you have a “place” to build upon. You can move forward from where you are. You cannot truly increase happiness if you start with a “lack of” mindset.

Gratitude is a practice, not a one-time activity. Try to weave it into your daily life. Contemplate the blessings in your life before getting up in the morning, before eating a meal, or when you arrive at work or home. It might be helpful to look for gratitude in the face of something that, on the surface, is benign or you usually take for granted. With regard to noticing the blessings all around us, Rick Hanson, PhD, says, “These gifts are freely offered; no one can possibly earn them. All we can do is be grateful for these gifts and do what we can in our own little corner of the world to use them well each day.” (from just one thing: developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time)

As you bring gratitude more into your life notice if your mindset changes. Do you see personal strengths or opportunities that you did not see before? Do you have more motivation to change something that has been dissatisfying? Do you find more joy or fulfillment in the “ordinary” things of life? Are you able to experience happiness more, and more fully? 

If this seems beyond your reach, if there are challenges that are overshadowing any glimmer of happiness, contact THRIVEeap. We can help you rekindle the light.  

Making Work Your Happy Place

Are you skeptical about “happiness” and “work” being in the same sentence? If so, give this article a chance to change your mind. If you already experience happiness at work, or at least believe in the possibility or value of it, keep reading too.

Happiness at work has gained a lot of attention in the past few years and there has been a surge of it recently. This may be due in part to the very popular book, written by Zappos former CEO Tony Hsieh, “Delivering Happiness” that chronicles how and why the company has made employee happiness the pillar of its business strategy. Hsieh presents a compelling argument for why happiness at work matters.

What is the case for happiness at work? Numerous studies have shown that when employees experience happiness (and feelings associated with happiness) they are more focused, more creative, and more innovative. Absenteeism goes down as do stress-related health problems.  All of these results translate to a more productive environment and ultimately a more successful (in whatever way your organization measures success) outcome. And, from a values perspective, if you are not striving to create a work environment conducive to happiness, what are you striving to create?

There is also the management and Human Resources case for endeavoring to foster happiness at work. Here are just a few of the potential outcomes from a happier workplace culture:

  •       ​​Lower turnover
  •       Fewer interpersonal conflicts
  •       Increased efficiency with work and organizational mission/purpose alignment
  •       Decreased time and money spent on recruitment due to high number of employee referrals for open positions

But what does happiness at work mean? Happiness at work is serious business. We are not talking balloon animals and jokes. We are talking about meaningful stuff…like employees feeling connected to the mission of the organization; making opportunities to get to know each other; inspiring employees to do and be their best; providing employees with challenges and nurturing their potential; and, among other things, making sure that policies and procedures are consistently implemented. Happiness at work is not about pasting on a smile, in fact, it is about the exact opposite because it is about authentic and genuine practices.

How do we foster happiness at work? First, while everyone is responsible for their own happiness there are certainly things that can be done to nurture this experience. Second, creating a culture that values happiness is the responsibility of everyone. Small gestures can create big changes. That being said, a guiding framework can help your organization begin to make changes and/or evaluate if decisions and practices are aligned with happiness. Happiness Works offers five characteristics of a happy workplace culture: Connect, Be Fair, Empower, Challenge, Inspire. Of course these overlap and interact with each other but let’s look at how we can bring some of these characteristic to life. I happen to like groups of three so here are the areas I suggest your organization focus on:

Connect: find and create opportunities for employees to build relationships with each other, demonstrate care and respect for the employees you supervise, foster team work and encouragement of each other.

  •       Make the break room, kitchen, etc. inviting so employees want to congregate there on their breaks or lunch time
  •       Start staff meetings with brief, fun, low-risk getting to know each other activities
  •       Ask open-ended questions and LISTEN during supervision
  •       Set a tone of respect and concern for everyone
  •       Celebrate the hire of new employee and employee milestones, don’t wait for the good-bye party and annual employee recognition event

Challenge: trust that employees are capable and do not need a supervisor hovering over them (literally or figuratively), make sure employees have the tools and resources they need to be successful, solicit their input and really listen to them when they give it

  •       Share leadership of staff/department meetings
  •       Let departments/teams solve problems using managers or department heads as consultants to the team not as the primary decision-makers
  •       Ask teams/departments if they have the resources they need (time, materials, staffing, knowledge) to accomplish projects and tasks, strategize with them if they do not
  •       Ask employees to set their own professional goals, check in with them periodically about progress, find out if they have the resources they need
  •       Ask employees to sit on ad hoc committees or groups for things like policy review, wellbeing activity planning, and strategic planning

Inspire: make work interesting and engaging, connect employee’s individual roles and contributions to the greater mission/purpose of the organization, expect the best from every employee not just the ones considered the “rock stars” of the organization

  •       Develop a clear and purposeful mission statement for the organization and read it frequently
  •       Ask employees why they chose your organization and what they want to gain from working there
  •       Feature an employee in the organization’s internal and external publications and/or website
  •       Provide paid time for employees to volunteer in the community and/or adopt a non-profit organization for the year
  •       Create fun challenges to increase employee wellbeing

These suggestions just scratch the surface. Get creative. What ideas fit your organization? How might you begin, or further, nurturing happiness at work in your organization? 

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