We've been getting a lot of desperate comments from people who are seeing their credit destroyed as their personal financial lives take a nose dive. Many are losing jobs and others are facing severe medical problems. Some made big bets with investment property in real estate and now face numerous foreclosures. All are probably facing major drops in their credit scores and not able to get new credit in the tight market today.

So how long does it take to fix your score, if your score is down dramatically after a credit disaster? The good news is that your most recent history is what impacts your score the greatest, so as these bad debt reports age you will find your score gradually getting better as long as you pay on time starting from today.

I have seen people with bankruptcies get back up to the high 600s within three years. What does that mean in today's credit market? They would probably be able to get credit, but they will likely not get the best credit offers. In order to get the best interest rates you need a score of 760. The next best rates go to people with scores of 700 to 759. People between 650 and 699 can still get credit but they will pay significantly more for it in higher interest rates. Under 650 you probably will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to get credit.

How long will it take to get a clean credit record? Most of the negatives on your credit report will drop off after seven years, but you don't have to wait that long to see an improvement in your score. If you have a clean record of payments on time for three years and you don't apply for more than one or two new cards at that time your score should go above 650. If you want to get that score above 700, you'll need to get your debt levels closer to 10 to 20 percent. Even if you're good, you probably won't reach 700 for at least four years.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score" and "The 250 Questions You Should Ask to Avoid Foreclosure."

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