The credit tips everyone should know before 40

Tips for Improving Your Credit Score
Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

Turning 40 is an exciting milestone. It means crossing the threshold of middle age and hopefully reaching a point where you can take ownership of your choices. Though inching close to the big 5-0 may feel terrifying, there's something incredibly freeing about knowing how to deal with whatever life throws your way, especially when it comes to your credit. To that end, here are some skills to master.

1. The Meaning of 'Good Credit'

At this point in life, you should be familiar with the concept of a bad and good credit score. That's because knowing the latter, be it a FICO score or VantageScore, means knowing what challenges you'll face when it comes to borrowing money — and what type of rate you'll receive when you do. Many scores are available to lenders, so study up on the various models. (You can see where your credit scores stand for free on Credit.com.)

2. How to Dispute Errors on Credit Reports

You're an adult now, so you'll need to handle your credit reports like one. Fortunately, it isn't too hard: Go through every section of your credit reports with a fine-tooth comb and get in touch with the issuing credit bureau if something's amiss. Spot more than one issue? You'll have to file separate disputes for each item. And if you have a lot of errors or just don't want to DIY, you can hire a credit repair company.

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3. How to Spot Identity Theft

Identity theft is rampant, so you need to know when to act. That means paying attention when your credit card is declined, monitoring your credit score for any unexplained drops and checking credit card statements regularly to catch any unfamiliar charges or increase in balances.

4. How to Avoid Overdraft or Bounced Check Fees

Gone are the days when your spending was limited to the actual amount of money in your account. Today, if you opt in your bank will let a transaction go through even if you don't have enough cash for that ATM withdrawal or debit card purchase. And then you'll face an overdraft fee — as much as $35 per overdraft. Some banks even charge $2 to $5 per day until the account regains a positive balance. And if your balance stays in the red, your account could be closed and sent to collections (and that will ding your credit scores too).

5. How to Manage Medical Debt

Growing older means more doctor visits for you and your kids — and medical bills as a result. But lest you think ignoring those bills won't hurt your credit, think again: Though doctors or hospitals don't usually report such debt to credit reporting agencies, they do turn over unpaid debts to debt collectors, who will report them. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, roughly half of all collection accounts on credit reports are due to medical debt.

6. How Your Spouse Affects Your Credit

Whether you just took the plunge or have been married for years, it pays to know how your spouse impacts your credit. Will his negative credit history come back to haunt yours? Are you automatically a co-signer on her accounts? Debunk the myths now to avoid some tough conversations later.

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Want to see the other six essential credit tips you should learn by the big 4-0? Check out the full article on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com:
A Quick Guide to Paying Off Credit Card Debt
How Selling Your Home Can Impact Your Credit
How to Protect Your Kid's Identity

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.