CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 02: A trader signals an offer in the Eurodollar pit at the CME Group prior to the Federal Reserve's announcement that interest rates would remain unchanged November 2, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Federal Reserve announced that interest rates would remain unchanged. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Americans are not great savers; they don’t always handle credit responsibly, and often live beyond their means.  The good news is all is not lost. It’s never too late to change some bad habits and work toward prosperity. Here are some tips to keep you in the black.

Your FICO Credit Score

Your FICO credit score is what financial institutions use to assess your credit worthiness. Or, in English, whether or not you pay your bills on time each month. The range is between 300 (no way you can borrow a dime), to 850 (How much do you need?)

People who have bad credit usually know they have bad credit. And many don’t feel it’s anything to be concerned about, “I’m not going to be applying for a loan so my credit score means nothing.”

Well that’s incorrect thinking. If you are trying to find affordable car insurance your poor credit score will probably increase the amount you will pay. There is no such thing as income discrimination but your credit score will play a part in whether a landlord will rent to you or not.

You can get a free “annual credit report from each of the credit bureaus, but it won't include your actual FICO score. DO NOT USE “Free Credit Report.Com.”

How Is Retirement Looking?

Rule One: Save something, anything, as much as you can. Rule Two: See Rule One. Compound interest is one of God’s greatest creations. Try to save 15 percent of your income. Most of us piss away more money than we imagine.

We buy on impulse; we buy a high-end coffee here, order an entrée with lunch there, etc.

But save, save and save. Pay yourself first.

Do You Have Emergency Savings?

Currently 76 percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. It’s a lot easier said than done. Saving is easy until you need your saving then what do you do when it’s tapped out? The rule here is to have at least six months of income saved.

If you use the median income in the US we are talking $14,000. Taking five years to save that would mean putting away $223.33 each month. How affordable would that be for you?

Believe it or not that might be possible. Take one month and write down everything you spend. I’m talking every penny. Not just bills or food I’m talking everything. At the end of the month cross out what you could have done without and see how much is left.

Saving is much like losing weight. Fewer calories = weight loss.

Some Final Thoughts

Be aware of your net worth too. Net worth is just all your assets minus all your liabilities. Are you plus or minus? Money is a tool, not a Band-Aid. Money is an employee that each of us has. Put that employee to work.

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