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Is it true that poor decisions you make now can affect you for up to seven years? Can they negatively-affect one beyond then? What are some steps one could take to repair the damage?

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10 years in some states in the US. Also, items don't ever leave your credit report, but time will improve your credit score.

Repair the damage? First find the damage. In the US you are entitled by law to a credit report from each of the bureaus once a year. Some folks get them all at once, some people get one every four months.

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

Please don't pay for a credit report. Anybody who advertises will be the ones selling you a report and they are basically stealing.

You have a pretty good chance of finding errors in your report. You will have to dispute them with the reporting bureaus. Be prepared for a few months of registered letters and lots of phone calls to get your report cleaned up and accurate.

Then,

  1. Know how credit works.
  2. Know your score. I have used credit.com for free to get an estimated score. It also cover #1 with some nice info on how credit is calculated.
  3. Pay down debt, don't acquire more
  4. Don't cancel your credit lines that are paid down. Cut up the cards, never use the accounts again, but don't close them.
  5. Once you are debt free, if you use credit wisely that doesn't hurt. Pay for stuff with credit cards but always always always pay them off at the end of each month.

Time is the best way to fix your ills. Use credit properly for a nice long time and your score will improve.

Don't use credit counseling: All they do is bargin for lower payments. You can do this yourself.

Don't use credit protection services: They don't do anything you can't do yourself for free. (Read some consumer credit web pages to learn your rights)

EXAMPLE I ran across this tale, which is pretty well written, very clear and mentions a lot of the steps and details I never knew.

http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/34709834/m/934001917831

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