A couple weeks ago, I went ahead and ordered my first credit report ever. This is one of those things I've known I should do for a long time, but just keep putting it off. The process itself was exceedingly simple: navigate to www.annualcreditreport.com, put in a few bits of personal information, and click submit. As we're all allowed one free report (but not score) from each of the three agencies yearly, you can request them all at once or space them out. I plan to space them out, so I only took my Equifax report this time around. In another four months, I'll head back over there and get one from Experian or TransUnion and get the final unclaimed report four months thence.
Getting and checking your credit report at least once a year (ideally thrice) can be crucial for your financial well-being. Fortunately, my report was free of errors. But don't take my word for it, you should definitely check yours for yourself ASAP, especially if you've never done so before. Errors can easily creep in when you're not looking. Exactly what kind of errors are you looking for? Anything imaginable. Make sure everything on there is something you signed up for. Make sure everything you signed up for is on there. Make sure no one else signed "you" up for something that's now on there. And most importantly, make sure the companies are keeping accurate records on all your accounts.
If everything on your report is correct and accurate, you don't have much to worry about. Just keep up the good fight on paying down any debt if you want to improve your debt, life, etc. You may even want to consider a credit freeze if you feel like you have plenty bills in your life already. However, if stuff isn't all hunky dory, you might be in for quite an experience in getting issues righted. You will need to call up the appropriate parties in what will almost assuredly be a harrowing process to convince them that what their computer is telling them is wrong. In our digital age, you might not even have paper copies of some items. However, it is crucial that you keep some sort of record of major financial transactions, especially if something important was decided.
Along with that financial documentation, you should keep a record of whom you spoke with and their identification number/rank/etc. When you check your report again in four months and see the same exact issue still on the report, you can now call the company(ies) in question with renewed force. Of course, in a perfect world, it shouldn't take four months to clear up your credit report. Then again, you also would have a perfect report in a perfect world.
Now you know how to get your reports into your hot little hands and how to make sure they stay error-free, but what does it all mean? Well as you may have been able to surmise, your credit report is a [seven year] snapshot of your financial life and it has a myriad of uses. Companies use it to decide on if they'll extend you credit, whether that credit be a credit card, auto loan, mortgage, or even a department store card. Employers use it to screen job applicants, for promotions, etc., especially for any position that involves responsibility and/or handling money. Landlords use it to screen tenants. And there are probably a few more I missed. So you want to make sure you keep everything accurate and in order because it is crucial to achieving your goals. If you've never gotten one before, you should plan to get one in the very near future and making that part of your advancement strategy.