5 Shrewd Secrets from Women Who’ve Fixed Credit, Paid Debt and Made Fortunes

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Looking for some advice when it comes to managing your money?

We have stories from a former Merrill Lynch executive, a mom of nine who overcame a job layoff and a college grad who was able to pay off $100,000 worth of debt — then start her own business.

They share their tips and secrets for financial success. You can even start using some of their strategies right now.

Secret No. 1: You’re Not Stuck With Your Credit Card Debt

Wanna know something? Even if you have loads of credit card debt right now, that doesn’t mean you’ll have it forever. One of the easiest first steps you can take to escaping debt faster is to refinance it with a personal loan.

If you’re not sure where to start looking, use a website called Fiona. It’ll match you with a low-interest loan (rates start at 3.84%). You can then use that loan to wipe out your credit card debt, so you’re left with just one bill to pay every month.

Pro Tip

When shopping personal loans, look for interest rates lower than your credit cards’ and manageable monthly payments. Oh, and don’t take out more than need to pay off your credit cards.

We chatted with one San Francisco resident who struggled to keep up with her credit card debt. She faced a minimum monthly payment of $274 plus $154 in monthly interest plus a $99 annual credit card fee. She said it felt like she was on a treadmill.

She refinanced with a personal loan, which spared her from what would’ve been $14,000 in interest over time.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars.

Secret No. 2: You Can Leave Your Kids $1 Million — Without Being a Millionaire

If you have kids, you’ve probably worried about what’ll happen to them if something were to happen to you… That’s where life insurance can help ease your mind.

Before you start thinking you don’t have the time or money for that, look into policies through a company called Bestow. It offers policies up to $1 million; rates start at just $5 a month. Your application shouldn’t take more than about five minutes.

You can change or cancel your plan at any time. Plus, the security of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

For single mom Rebekah Pearsall, life insurance is an important step she’s taking in securing her son’s future. “Since my son doesn’t have a biological father in his life, I wanted to make sure he was secure if something were to ever happen to me,” she said.

It takes only a few minutes to get a free quote.

Secret No. 3: You Don’t Have to Have an MBA to Start a Business

If you dream of starting a business, don’t let the fact that you don’t have a business degree from an Ivy League school hold you back. (Yeah, imposter syndrome is the worst.) We’ve talked to plenty of women who’ve successfully started businesses on their own.

Here’s a story that really resonates with our frugal hearts: The Budget Mom.

After graduating college, Kumiko Love had $100,000 worth of debt — student loans, credit cards and medical bills. All that good stuff. Still, she had trouble sticking to a budget. So she gave up.

Then she started studying the psychology behind money and that gave her a renewed hope: She started viewing her situation through a positive lens. She combined several budgeting tactics and started logging her process through her blog, The Budget Mom.

And guess what? Love is now debt free and she recently quit her full-time job to focus on her seven-figure business, The Budget Mom.

Secret No. 4: Your Credit Score Can Grow Hundreds of Points (if You Know What You’re Doing)

It’s easy to pass your credit score off as some silly three-digit number. But what happens when you want to buy a car? Or a house? That seemingly arbitrary number starts to play a huge role in your life.

And here’s the unfortunate fact: You can do everything right, but if your credit report has an error (one in five reports do), it could be holding you back — for no good reason. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on things.

Thankfully, a free website called Credit Sesame will give you your credit score for free and help you detect any errors on your report. If you find any, it will even help you dispute them.

Salome Buitureria, a working mom of nine in Louisiana, found a major error on her report — a supposed unpaid medical bill that had definitely been covered by Medicaid. Using Credit Sesame, Buitureria fixed the mistake and took additional recommended steps to raise her credit score from 524 to nearly 700.*

Now? She’s focused on buying a home.

It only takes about 90 seconds to sign up with Credit Sesame.

Secret No. 5: Women Should Invest Differently Than Men

Traditional investing companies have never really considered the fact that women statistically get paid less, yet live longer.

That’s why Sallie Krawcheck, the former head of Merrill Lynch designed an investing company for women called Ellevest.

With Ellevest, you can start investing with as little as $1. Plus, when you sign up through The Penny Hoarder, you’ll get a $25 bonus in your Ellevest account.**

When you sign up, Ellevest will build an investing plan just for you and your financial goals. It considers gender pay differences, any potential career breaks and overall lifespan. Even better? It invests your money in women-owned businesses.

Thanks to Krawcheck, we can invest exactly for our needs and feel more confident in our financial future.

*Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

**The Ellevest The Penny Hoarder promotional offer is valid for the first 1,000 new clients of Ellevest who enter through this designated landing page. Clients who enroll and fund their non-retirement account will receive $25 added to their highest priority goal in their Ellevest account. Clients who enroll and fund their retirement account will receive a $25 Amazon gift card which can be redeemed by visiting www.amazon.com. Please review Amazon.com Gift Card Terms and Conditions prior to redemption. Ellevest is not responsible for lost Amazon Gift Cards. Ellevest’s processing time for depositing $25 into a client’s Ellevest account or delivery of a $25 Amazon gift card may be up to 60 days.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.