There's one number that's a great indicator of your financial health: your credit score.
When was the last time you checked your credit score? If it’s been more than a year, you may want to make a quick note to yourself to check it soon. Over time, your credit score changes—for better or worse—based on activity in your accounts. Your score will generally go up if you consistently pay lenders on time, pay off balances monthly, or when credit card companies increase the line of credit available to you. However, it can also go down—and quickly—if you miss payments, pay late, close a line of credit, or have errors on your credit report.
Check your credit reports at least annually to make sure they’re error free and to ensure any errors are corrected as soon as possible. Regularly monitoring your credit reports can also help nip attempts at identity theft in the bud, which could save you thousands of dollars in legal fees over time. You can request one free credit report annually from each of the different reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. While “hard pull” credit inquiries from potential lenders (with permission from you) can lower your scores slightly, there’s no penalty for checking your score yourself; that’s called a “soft pull.”
Keeping your credit clean and your score as high as possible will help you qualify for better rates when applying for a credit card, as well as auto, personal or mortgage loans. It can also help you when changing jobs, as more and more companies run credit checks in addition to background checks on potential candidates.