Weekly business rail, with credit-managing tips, a look at the richest fictional characters and more.

Tip of the Week

The majority of Americans have not ranked paying down debt as their top New Year's resolution. But given the current economic landscape, many consumers should focus more on improving their credit standing in 2009 than ever before. Here are five easy ways to make a credit resolution stick:

- Always pay your bills on time. While it may sound like a no-brainer, making payments on time is essential whether consumers are trying to boost or maintain their credit score. Yet a 2007 survey by TrueCredit revealed that one in four respondents had missed making one or more on-time bill payments.

- Don't overspend. Keep debt below 35 percent of your limits. Although it can be tempting and easy to overspend, it's important for consumers to keep their credit card balances low and not to max them out.

- Keep tabs on your credit report. In order to maintain a "healthy" credit score and to position yourself best with creditors, it's important for consumers to monitor their report regularly to provide an up-to-date view on credit card activity and debt. It also enables consumers to identity possible signs of fraudulent activity.

- Monitor leases and loans closely where you are the co-signer. When consumers open a joint account or co-sign a loan, they are taking on legal responsibility for the account. Any activity on these shared accounts, good or bad, will be reflected in both credit reports.

- Long-standing credit card accounts can help your credit score. Consumers should be cautious when thinking about closing credit card accounts where they have been making punctual payments over a long period of time. In addition to lowering your available credit, canceling old credit accounts can also ultimately lower your credit score by making your credit history appear shorter.


The List

Each year, Forbes lists its Richest Fictional Characters list. Here are this year’s top 15 richest. For an in-depth look at how Forbes made this list, go to Forbes.com.

1. Uncle Sam
2. Scrooge McDuck
3. Richie Rich
4. Gordon Gekko
5. Jabba The Hutt
6. Ebeneezer Scrooge
7. Tony Stark
8. Thurston Howell III
9. Bruce Wayne
10. Adrian Veidt
11. Jed Clampett
12. Artemis Fowl II
13. C. Montgomery Burns
14. Lara Croft
15. Mr. Monopoly

Number to Know

586,000: The number of jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 20, the highest claims have been since November 1982.

Quote of Note

"It's beyond the worst fears of retailers."

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, in a quote to The Associated Press about holiday sales. Retailers are not expecting good numbers.

GateHouse News Service