6 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 woman who raised her credit score nearly 200 points, 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. Heck, that doesn’t even mean you’ll have it tomorrow.

What? We’re serious. One of our favorite first steps in escaping credit card debt is to refinance it with a personal loan.

It might sound counterintuitive — like you’re just moving your debt from your credit cards to a loan — but the truth is, this could lower your monthly payment, save you tons of money in interest over time, and allow you to pay off your debt faster..

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. Then you’re left with just one bill to pay every month.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. 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.

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

Secret No. 2: Never Leave Free Money on the Table

You’ve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. That’s not always the smartest move, though.

If you’re looking for a place to safely stash your money — but still earn some money on it — a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 11 times the average interest on the money in your account. (The average savings interest is .06% these days. That’s nothing.)

That’s what Denisa Petricko did. The financial planner had her money saved at a “Big Bank,” but when she looked closer at the breakdown, she wasn’t happy with what she found.

“After looking at the breakdowns of how my money was being handled by a larger bank, I realized that I had large sums just sitting in an account accumulating interest — but not for me,” she said. “It was for the banks themselves.”

That’s when she switched to Aspiration.

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Secret No. 3: You Can Leave Your Kids $1 Million

If you have kids, you’ve probably worried about what’ll happen to them if something were to happen to you…

For single mom Rebekah Pearsall, this was difficult to consider. “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.

That’s when she started looking into life insurance.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and, if you’re approved, you could leave your family $1 million by spending a low monthly fee on term life insurance with a company called Bestow.

Plus, the peace of mind of knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

It takes minutes to get a free quote.

Secret No. 4: 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. 5: Be an Advocate For Yourself (and Your Credit Score)

It’s easy to pass your credit score off as some silly three-digit number — that’s what most of us did throughout our early twenties anyways. 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 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 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.

**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.

Secret No. 6: Invest Like a Tycoon (Even if You’re Not Rich) 

Here’s one of our favorite stories: Meet Robyn Bri. When we chatted with her, she was 19 and had more than $85,000 saved.

How? She had a number of side gigs growing up and has been incredibly frugal. But she’s also been extremely savvy with her money and started investing ASAP.

Not sure where to start? A lot of people use the app Stash. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — buying pieces of other companies for as little as $1.*

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google or Apple, for as little as $1. The best part? If a company profits, you potentially can as well. Some companies may even send you a check every quarter for your share of any profits, called dividends.**

It takes two minutes to sign up, plus Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**

*For Securities priced over $1,000, the purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05. 

** Not all companies pay out dividends. Please note, dividends may also be subject to tax implications.

You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian. 

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

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