For me, debt and divorce seem to be synonymous. During my 16-year marriage, the focus was always on his credit, his finances, but never on mine. Yet after filing for divorce in November, I found that I have quite a bit of cleaning up to do when it came to my credit. So I had to sit down, formulate a plan and make sure that I can stick to it so that I can refinance my house and take on all of the bills as a newly single mom. And if you find yourself starting over in your 30s like I am, it's a plan you might want to implement for yourself.
Evaluating My Credit
I began evaluating my credit by downloading a free copy of my credit report from all three bureaus (you can do this once per calendar year) on www.annualcreditreport.com. From here, I evaluated the debts that were mine, the debts that were his and the information on my credit report that was incorrect. As it turns out there was a lot of it. My report was merged with someone living in Houston who had the same first and last name as I did.
When I received my reports, I discovered that her social security number and information was at the top of my Experian report, along with her foreclosed mortgage and multiple repossessions. I started by journey to cleaning up my credit by disputing this information, believing it would be an easy fix. I was wrong. I'm still disputing this information every 30 days, with each "updated" copy of my credit report. However, I'm not giving up. I'm continuing to dispute erroneous information both with the credit bureaus and with the creditors listed on the report in order to prove that I am me, and she is who she is, but that we are not, in fact, the same person. I am confident that I will get this cleaned up in the next six months, with consistent effort.
I track all of my disputes via a spreadsheet, with separate tabs for the credit bureaus and separate tabs for each creditor. On the first Saturday of every month, I schedule my follow-ups. I sit down for an hour or two, write my letters and mail them. The key is in the follow up. So far, I've been able to clean up two items, and I only have 32 more to go.
Increasing My Income
I would be remiss if I didn't note that some of the bad debt on my report does indeed belong to me. However, much of my bad debt is scheduled to fall off of my report by early 2014. That debt I plan to leave alone and let time take its course. However, for debt that was accumulated during my marriage that is a little bit newer, I realized that I needed to increase my income if I was going to be able to pay it off within a year. Overall, I was looking at about $15,000. So I made a plan to increase my income by that much in 2013.
How I'm Doing It
I got a normal day job as a sales manager for a local real estate firm. I do freelance writing and assistant work on the weekends and I bought into a franchise business with a travel company. Between these three businesses, my goal is to earn enough money to pay off all my debts this year, and make a sizeable payment on my home, making it easier for me to refinance in 2014, post-divorce decree, if not pay off my house in full. That means I need to earn $200,000 in 2013, and if I work hard enough at all three of my jobs, I can and after that, I can live quite comfortably.
If I learned anything from my experience it is that it is incredibly important for every woman to be as financially independent from her spouse as possible no matter what; capable of earning her own income if the worst happens, and to be strong enough to pick up the pieces in the event that you (like me) neglected your personal financial life in favor of your spouse's.
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