How to get your credit report totally FREE on AnnualCreditReport.com

 

You’ve pressed the reset button on the year and by now you’ve hopefully determined what your financial goals will be for this year..

If improving your credit score is one of those goals, knowing and understanding your credit report details are crucial to improving your credit score. My reason for starting My Fab Finance and embarking on my financial journey was to improve my credit. Think of the credit report as your roadmap for making that happen.

While I won’t discuss the various sections of a credit report in  this post, I will provide a tutorial so that you can access yours for free. There are several companies, including FreeCreditReport.com, who swindle consumers into paying for their report when your report is available absolutely FREE.

If you would like help understanding your credit report refer to the Credit Report Post. It’s long, but hella informative.

The following instructions are for accessing your Equifax report.

Lets get started!

1.Make sure you go to annualcreditreport.com. If the page doesn’t look like this (with the exception of the slider image) you are probably in the wrong place.

Step 1

Click on the red box at the bottom that says “Request your free credit reports”

2. On this next page all you have to do is click “Request your free credit reports” again
Step 2
3. This page is officially step one. Here, you will enter your personal information. Be sure to double check for accuracy. If you have not lived at your current location for more than a year, be prepared to enter your previous addresses as well. Once you’ve entered your information, proceed to the next page.

Step 3

 

4. On this page you can decide which credit bureau you’d like to retrieve your report from. As you know, there are three credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. I recommend pulling one from each site every few months. For example pull Equifax in January, Experian in June, and Transunion in November. While information can differ from one report to the other, for the most part they are the same. Pulling every few months will allow you to monitor new items, disputes, possible mistakes, and items that might have fallen off.

Make sure you keep a record of the date in which you accessed each credit report bureau’s website.

5. The next page will prompt you to verify the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. If all info is correct, you can proceed to the next page.

6. I call this the trick questions page. On this page you will be asked questions to verify your identity. Please be aware they do throw false information into the mix. Some or all answers could be “None Of The Above”. It is important to answer correctly. If you answer any of these questions incorrectly, you will not gain access to your online credit report. You will also have to go through the time consuming process of requesting it by mail.

Step 6

After you have provided your answers proceed to the next page.

7. This is the page with your credit file number. Be sure to notate your transaction code – which will be provided in the first sentence. From this page, you will click on the box that says view and print your report (the box next to the pink arrow).

 

Step 7

 

8. You will finally receive your credit report! Before you do anything, print and/or save your report as a PDF. (the box next to the pink arrow)

Step 8

Again as stated, if you need additional help navigating your report, please refer to our Understanding your Credit Report Post.

4 Strategies for Radically Successful FREE Fitness Results

Today’s guest post comes from motivational speaker and life coach, Stacey Flowers. After watching her transformation before my eyes via Instagram, I knew we had to get her here on My Fab Fico. If Stacey’s Gym-less transformation doesn’t motivate you I don’t know what will.

StaceyDay1

Right now many people are signing up for gym memberships in hopes of sculpting their dream body. But instead of mastering health and fitness, they end up with a financial contract and limited results.

People experience disappointment with a gym membership because a membership won’t give you the pictured results– but working out will.

For me, the proof is in the pudding and the pudding was achieving the pictured results without a gym membership. Hopefully these steps and my results can inspire you to achieve your fitness goals and save you a little money this year!

Four strategies for radically successful FREE fitness results:

4. Document your progress (even the small changes)!

staceyDay7

 

I started the squat challenge because my friends commented on how flat my butt was. I didn’t really care to pay that much attention, but my best friend and I took a few bikini photos and to my horror my butt looked like a grandma spoof Instagram picture.

Seeing that snapshot told me I had to do something and fast! So I searched for a solution, and found Jen Selter , a woman with a similar body build as my own and a workout routine for my rump.

By day 7, I was astounded that my bottom was actually beginning to take shape. But it’s only because I mastered strategy 3.

3. Follow the instructions

When it comes to working out for free and getting great results, you must follow the instructions to a T. You are not a trained professional so when you deviate even a little from the outlined plan you sabotage your results.

Most at home routines are designed to get progressively harder. So if you add heels (when the instructions don’t tell you too), your body won’t retain the results.

Which brings me to strategy 2.

2. Be stronger than your strongest excuse AND get an accountability partner.

StaceyDay21

 

The truth is fitness and happiness don’t cost us as much monetarily as we think, but we use money as our primary excuse for not creating healthier happier lives.

You can overcome this excuse by finding accountability partners. You’ll need someone to vent your pain, compare notes and push you to keep going.

Which brings us to the final strategy for radically successful fitness results.

1.    Respect your body – it’s the only one you get!

I’ve received mixed reviews about my progress because people believe that since I started with a leaner frame my bootylicious results weren’t real.

My response: You don’t have to wait until you’re drastically unhealthy and unfit to upgrade things in your life. Sculpting a better bottom was about respecting my body. I am working out at home out of respect for my body, my bank account and my mental health.

I shared my results because to me healthy is happy.

Below is the 30 day squat challenge I participated in.

SquatChallenge

Stacey Flowers is an inspirational speaker known for teaching people the true meaning of happiness. Her mission is to infect the world with happiness by teaching others the tools for building a happy life despite the tough circumstances it can bring.

To find out more about Stacey and her work, be sure to checkout her website.

 

 

 

 

My New Years Eve Look for Under $20!

Happy New Years Loves!

This is the first post of the year and one of my resolutions was to blog more about ways Im remaining financially fabulous in my daily life. What better way to start that with my New Years look.

One common mistake that people make before major events and celebrations is the need to buy a new outfit for this event. When I’m tempted to do so, I always remind myself that most likely 75-95% of the people where I’m going don’t care if I’ve worn an outfit before. And if they do care, thats actually their problem, not mine.

It’s become important to invest in quality pieces as opposed to several pieces. Quality pieces may cost more, but they can stand up to repeated wears, saving me money in the long run.

So for last nights look. My good friend Belkis and I updated a dress I had in my wardrobe that was purchased as a gift for me by my boyfriend. The dress also slipped down on the shoulder more than I liked.

We attached gold chain to the back to take the dress from basic to fab.

I purchased the chain from a local trim store for $9. We measured the back of the dress and decided where I wanted the chains to hang. I then securely hand sewed them on. Below is the before and after.

Dress DIY Before and After

 

For my hair I took it to Youtube. Being that my hair is natural (free of chemicals) , situating it can be quite a feat at times. I was inspired by my instafriend @NappturallyChicJerie. All it took was a $2 pack of braiding hair  and bobbypins to create a glamorous look for the evening in FIVE MINUTES!

Hair CloseUP

 

MYLadies NYE

Here is Jere’s Tutorial.

For my makeup I took a few pointers from my friend Naja Matthews , utilizing her recommended products which I already have included in my make-up collection. For a little more va va voom I purchased lashes from the local beauty Supply store for $2.50.

I hope you enjoyed bringing in the New Year as much as I did. Lets all agree to make this year the best it can be.

Can’t wait to speak to you on tonight’s Twitter Chat!!!!!!

NYE Celebration

Health on a Budget- Yoga At Home

About 3-4 months ago I became obsessed with Yoga.

While Yoga has numerous health benefits, I became interested because I am extremely inflexible and wanted to increase my flexibility. I also wanted to challenge myself. I admire the straight and agility of my instafriends who are able to loop and intertwine their bodies into intricate Yoga pose and I wanted to push myself.

One thing I know about myself is that I become fascinated with things and have a tendency to abandon them just as quickly. Rather then going out an dropping money on Yoga classes I wanted to make sure I liked it and that it was something I could stick with. As well as I wanted to get my weight up before I walked into a Yoga studio looking crazy and weak. I wanted to at least make sure my downward dog was on point.

I began doing at home Yoga by watching videos and fell in love. At the beginning of my practice with a difficult job. I found that Yoga reduced my anxiety and stress levels. I was consistently in a  better mood and my body felt amazing. And lets not even speak about Yoga before bed. Try it. Best Sleep of your life!

Over the past few month I’ve noticed increased strength and flexibility. Here’s my latest progress pic. This week I finally got into Crow pose:) (Excuse my tramp stamp. It was my first tattoo)

Crowpose

YouTube is an excellent resource for Yoga instructors. If you don’t like one find another. And if you really like one, you can subscribe to their channel and watch their other videos. I recommend it to each and every person I have the opportunity to speak to about fitness. My YouTube fitness isn’t limited to Yoga, I’ve also done kickboxing, dance fitness, and basic routines at home. It’s great for someone who isn’t quite ready to hit the gym yet or simply doesn’t have time to go to the gym on a regular basis. All it cost me was a Yoga mat which I got from Marshall’s for $8.99

Below are two of my favorite YouTube Channels for Yoga.

and

I’m huge on health and believe that health in itself is wealth. Have you turned to a gym alternative to keep your fitness regimen costs down? I’d love to hear about it as well as your progress.

Ready to Begin? First Steps to improving your Finances

 

You’re ready to get your finances in order, but where do you start?

I am asked this question on a weekly basis and I completely understand.

In a previous Twitter chat I stated, “Looking at your credit report for the first time is like walking into a room and all of your bad financial decisions are hanging out.” It can be absolutely overwhelming. It’s especially overwhelming if you are essentially starting from scratch.

There are many different plans of action one can take, which I think are relative to your situation. While retirement is extremely important; establishing good financial habits and a budget are even more important.

Step 1: The first step I recommend is securing employment or establishing a regular form of income. To accomplish your financial goals you will need…finances. Being underemployed is different from unemployed and can be an issue on its own but the important thing is to become employed so that you can take care of your necessities (rent, food, transportation, childcare, etc.).

oneweekbudget

Step 2: Establish a budget. I highly recommend my friendtor’s (Friend + Mentor) Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche’ book, The One Week Budget which can be purchased on Kindle for less than $1 here . I highly recommend this book and often refer to it myself.

Familiarize yourself with your credit report. Identify any debts owed and the amounts. This will be key in determining a “get out of debt plan”. Be patient. Remind yourself that getting out of debt often takes longer than it did to get into debt. It is possible. Try a site like Quizzle or my credit report tutorial to gain access to your credit report.

Step 3: Designate an amount you can afford, to build your emergency fund.  When I say what  you can afford, that doesn’t mean only putting aside $25 a month because you have $100 on the side for your fun fund.

Establishing an emergency fund is essential. I recall after graduating from college I was laid off from 2 jobs. One went bankrupt and the other one reorganized after coming out of bankruptcy. Job security is not what it was for our parents and grandparents. It is important for you to prepare for whatever may happen. The amount you put aside each month should take into account how much of your current income you will need to pay off your debts. For example, currently I put aside roughly $300 per month and hope to boost that to $500 per month by next year.

While you should be concerned with investing – unless your job has a matching program, which would essentially mean free money – focus on getting your savings together and your debt down.  During this process, I learned emergency funds are used before retirement account funds.

Once you grasp the basics, begin exploring your investment and retirement options.

Also remember, there are more people experiencing financial difficulty than those that do not. I know a lot more financial messes than successes. Find a finance buddy and hold each other accountable. It’s so much easier when you are working with someone else to accomplish your financial goals.

 

The Time a Debt Collector Made Me Cry

Once upon a time a debt collector made me cry. She shattered my world with her lack of consideration for my situation and up until a few years ago I resented her and wished nothing more for her than a miserable life of being known as the source of others misery.

It was 2007 and I had just moved back into my patents house after leaving the abusive relationship. I used all the money I had to drive home to Charlotte, North Carolina from San Antonio, Texas. I was rock bottom. I was estranged from my friends.  I had left Miami before graduation to support my then mentally unstable, steroid addicted boyfriend as he pursued his dream as a mixed martial arts fighter. I was enrolled in an online finance course so I could finally finish my BA but that finance class was a completely different beast from my Public Administration courses and I had a C, which threatened my undergraduate career.  So I was poor, pregnant, emotionally scarred and broken, facing the possibility of failing the class my degree hinged on, and falling deeper and deeper into debt.

While Iw as living in Texas my mom would always fuss about debt collectors calling her house (up until three years ago my life was unstable so my parents address and phone number was my permanent house). About a week after being home a debt collector called and my mom was more than happy to hand me the phone. For the first 6 minutes I tried to reason with the woman but when that wasn’t working I got personal.

crying on phone

For some reason I thought she’d understand and back off. I told her “I’m unemployed, in college, and pregnant”. She responded, “it’s not my fault you were dumb, this debt needs to be paid and you need to uphold your financial obligations.”

I cracked. Even the debt collector realized how dumb I was. My mom came running into the room to find me yelling and crying at the same damn time. She took the phone, cursed the girl out and furiously hung up. I stopped speaking to debt collectors that day and continued to sweep my debt under the rug.

Debt is frightening. It can be depressing and overwhelming. Since those days I’ve grown incredibly and learned how to deal with my debt do I don’t have to deal with debt collectors anymore, however for many it’s an ongoing reality. I began to arm myself against them by learning about my rights as a consumer and that debt collector harassment is prohibited. Becoming an informed consumer, has been one of the best decisions I made for myself and it is a core reason of why I started MyFabFico. Many people don’t know their rights when it comes to debt and collectors often manipulate people into making decisions that make things worse by praying on fear and shame.

Check in later this week. I will be providing valuable resources about what consumer rights  against debt collectors.

Beauty on a Budget- Solutions for Oily Skin

I have oily skin.

Like terribly oily. Like soak through 3 blotter papers oily. And sometimes temperamental although the lemon water is turning that around. It’s one of the many things I inherited from my fantastic mother (who doesn’t look a day over 40 despite being in her early 50s). I’ve spent loads of money on procedures, mattifying products, powders, cleansers, regimens, you name it! I pretty much have tried everything to keep the oil at bay. I even worked for Estee Lauder for 6 years and couldn’t seem to find my miracle solution.

For some this may seem like a silly post but for other it will be extremely helpful. Lord knows I know the angst of trying to remain within your budget while planning for a major event, but resisting the urge to run to your nearest cosmetic counter and drop everything but your first born on whatever miracle solution they can concoct to keep you looking “fresh” and shine free.

After much research and youtube stalking I have found my regimen. I’ve tested it for about a month now an I must say, my skin appears less oily for a lot longer, sometimes the entire day, and I haven’t had any ridiculously shaming breakout. As a matter of fact my skin is really clear.

 

What are these products you ask?

milkofmag

Good ol Milk of Magnesia and Revlon Foundation. These two products have worked wonders in my life.

Yes the stuff that helps you with your stomach issues (the original which is unflavored).

I was looking for an alternative foundation that offers good coverage because I can’t wear MAC foundation for the life of me. Well I can wear it but within 1 hour of wearing it my skin looks like that of a 15 year old boy.

I had heard of Milk of Magnesia for oily skin before but thought it was just weird. It still is weird. Whats even weirder is someone figure out what it does for oily skin. Nonetheless, I finally decided to give both a try after checking out Lover 4 Fashion’s youtube video and I am so glad I did. Revlon Colorstay is about $5-7 cheaper than MAC Foundations and in my opinion covers just as well. The color I use is Mahogany and I must warn you, I had to go to 3 Targets before I found one that had it in stock.  I apply my foundation and Milk of Magnesia with a $3 E.L.F Foundation Brush.

I don’t wear foundation everyday, I pretty much incorporate these items into my regimen when Im going to special events, or will have to go to an event after work.

deskselfieOther items in my regiment include Bobby Brown Skin Foundation Powder, which I’ve been wearing for about a year now. It is my everyday product.

I wash my face exclusively with N-Diya Spa’s Honey and Tea Tree Cleanser and I tone with Lush Cosmetic’s Tea Tree Water. And I drink Lemon Water ALL-DAY, EVERY-DAY.

Have you ever tried Milk of Magnesia or any other non-conventional products in your beauty routine? What ways are you achieving a fierce and fabulous face for less?

Saving money during visits from Family & Friends

It’s a well known fact that budgeting is not my strong suite. Building credit and using it to your advantage is where I am a superstar. But budgeting. Im still learning to excel at that. While I have minor  budgeting victories on a day to day basis such as choosing to take the subway instead of a cab or opting not to upgrade my phone to that extremely beautiful Gold iPhone, budgeting is an ongoing issue for me.

You know what magnifies that?!

Out of town visitors and birthdays. This weekend I had the pleasure of both.

One of the best things about living in a city as remarkable and legendary as New York City is that you don’t have to go visit many people because everyone is dying to come to NYC. This weekend I hosted my very close friend from high school whom I call my brother. He decided to spend his birthday weekend with me and I was absolutely honored. So of course I had to make sure he had a blast.

saving money, saving money strategy, saving money tricks, shameless money saving tricks, tricks to save money, Picking Marquise up form JFK

Picking Marquise up from JFK

 

I didn’t spend as much on items as I thought I would but I did splurge on the additional birthday celebrations and birthday shots at restaurants. I exceeded my weekly eat out budget by about $75 and had to tell everyone at establishments that it was his birthday. NOTE: You might want to ask if the birthday celebration is complimentary. People will smile and say OKAY, then all of a sudden you find a $15 charge on the bill that wasn’t discussed.

Here are ways that you can save money when loved ones are in town.

1) Find Free/Cheap Attractions. Your city is bound to have free attractions. Think about it, it may not be exciting to you, but for someone who has never experienced it, it could be awesome. we opted to go to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Which is totally free every single day. It was really informative and thoroughly enjoyed the current exhibits.

2) Flex your culinary prowess. To cut back on costs we cooked all of our home meals on Saturday. The day started with me preparing a huge breakfast and concluded with a wonderful dinner prepared by my boyfriend. While out we spent $2.99 on smoothies to hold us over.

3) Just walk. The temptation to fill the visit with exciting activities will be there, but some of the best moments will come from just walking through scenic areas of your city and talking. Chatting about life, catching up, and enjoying being in each others company will provide more enjoyment thank you can imagine. Plus you never know what you will stumble upon. We happened to stumble upon a shop that was going out of business and an owner who shut the doors and held a private 15 min party just for us. One of the highlights of my weekend.

saving money, saving money strategy, saving money tricks, shameless money saving tricks, tricks to save money, Storeclosing

My friends getting down at our random private party.

3) Plan Wisely. I think you should dine out at least once while hosting a visitor from out of town. Take advantage of Travelzoo Local deals and Groupons. While visiting my sister in DC she scored an unlimited brunch for 4 Groupon for $60! That equaled out to $15 for each of us. You can also score show tickets, attractions tickets, etc by keeping your eyes for deals before their visit.

saving money, saving money strategy, saving money tricks, shameless money saving tricks, tricks to save money, We dined at the famous LIPs NYC Drag Bar and enjoyed a show, unlimited Mimosas, and our meal for $25.

We dined at the famous LIPs NYC Drag Bar and enjoyed a show, unlimited Mimosas, and our meal for $25.

Down the line I will will probably create an extended list but these are a few notes that came to mind while my brothers visit was fresh (he left about 4 hours ago).

So tell me my fabulous friends, what are some of the ways you cut cost  when hosting friends and family in your city?

Domestic and Economic Abuse- My Personal Story

Today is the first day of Domestic Violence awareness month. I have decided to open up to my readers and essentially the world and touch on my history with domestic violence and economic abuse. I am sharing my story because of the silence that exists about this matter in our community. Women are suffering and surviving in silence, ashamed of their past. We tell ourselves we are weak if we’ve been in an abusive relationship. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

For a long time, I was extremely hard on myself, because unlike what I considered a typical survivor, I came from a middle class two-parent home.  My parents were committed to being great parents with the goal of rearing two strong, intelligent women and that’s exactly what my childhood entailed. I was a proud, confident military child with the ability to make new friends and was that kid everyone parents didn’t mind having around in hopes my manners would rub off on their kids. In the absence of excuses, I considered what happened to me to be my fault.

This was the Tonya he met

This was the Tonya he met

After graduating from High School and attending an HBCU in North Carolina for two years I decided it was time to spread my wings and move to Miami, Florida. My first year in Miami was amazing. I was flourishing in school, had become the only undergraduate research assistant at my job (a position usually held for graduate students) and my financial situation was impressive due to a mother who refused to let her daughter to have bad credit.

You never believe that it will happen to you. After watching scores and scores of Lifetime movies, yelling at the screen, it happened to me at the age od 22. He was a professional fighter and initially very charming. In retrospect he had issues written all over him, but at the time he was something different from what I usually dated and that excited me. The violence wasn’t immediate it slowly intensified. The first violent incident was him punching out my car windows with his fist. I broke up with him initially, but after a week of I’m sorry texts and voicemails accompanied with long apologetic emails I took him back. He hated Miami, so we deiced to move to his home of Cincinnati, Ohio together, where I would do my internship with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once we were on his home turf things became worse. It was a series of terrible firsts. I will not go into all of the violent incidents, but it was the first time in my life I had my breath taken away from a punch to the stomach, it was the first time I ever had a loaded gun pulled on me, it was the first time I was choked until I was nearly unconscious, and the first time I received stitches (a result from a blow to my head which resulted in a permanent scar in my right brow). He began isolating me from my friends and family. My mother was barely speaking to me because she hated that I was throwing away my life to be with him. Everything in my life became affected. I was calling in more sick days than my usual and my grades slipped from a 3.85 average to a 3.3. In retrospect I believe I stayed because I believed in his ability to be a better person. I wanted to help him out of his darkness, but instead he was pulling me into his.

Along with physical abuse came economic abuse. We moved to San Antonio after my internship was up so that he could train at a Mixed Martial Arts facility located there. He basically refused to work. So the bills ended up falling on me. Being someone who believes in integrity and paying what I owe, I worked my ass off to keep us afloat. I took a job selling cars because the opportunity to make money was much better than other options in San Antonio. My entire income went to housing, groceries, and activities that he approved of. All of my money was spent staying afloat and I didn’t have excess to put away for my escape. He also began stealing money from me. He used my Best Buy account to concoct an e-bay scheme, which also included using my E-bay account because his was already in poor standing. (Sorry ebay). Almost 7 years later I am still sorting through the eBay mess and just paid off the Best Buy debt a year ago.

I found out I was pregnant around the time I found out he had a drug problem. He was using steroids and other drugs. These two factors are what finally pushed me to leave. I confronted him about his addiction and told him he needed to go home for treatment and that I’d go home to my parents and prepare for graduation and the baby. With 6 months left on a  lease I ended up having to break it. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve done more to document the abuse so that I could receive more legal help in reconciling my financial situation.

I called my parents and told them I was leaving him and ask if I could come home. Two days later I was on my way out. Driving from San Antonio to North Carolina I was numb. The gravity of what I experienced hadn’t set. It wasn’t until a call with a debt collector 3 days later that I broke. (Which we be covered in a future post). Once I was home and away from his influence I began to pieces myself back together. I changed my phone number and began to rebuild my life.  I rekindled old friendships and started living for me again. I did decide to terminate the pregnancy for personal, health, and finance related issues. Three months after leaving him I graduated with my BA. As I prepared for them to call my name the tears started pouring, not only because I was happy that college was finally over, but because I was proud of myself, for persevering through that situation and for not allowing him to take my education from me.

cap

Graduation Day

I may not look like what I’ve been through, but today I am a survivor.  When I look back on that part of my life I am astonished that I was me. It can honestly happen to the strongest of women. I realize that I am blessed. The statistics are startling:

  • One in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.
  • Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
  • Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

It breaks my heart to see young women being socialized to think that love is a struggle. That over protection equals love and that pain is better than being alone. I have spent the past 3 years of my life speaking to young adults about teen dating violence and helping women who were rebuilding their lives after fleeing form DV related situations.

To any of my readers if you ever need to talk, I am here. I am a living testament that you can overcome. I’m in a loving and fulfilling relationship with a man who loves me the way my father dreamed I’d be loved. I’ m almost complete with my Masters Degree in Urban Policy and I’m finally traveling the world. I told a friend yesterday that hands down, 2013 has been the best year of my life, and I know with out a fact that it would not have even been a possibility had I not decided to leave.

For more information on Domestic Violence, whether you are a victim or want to help, visit www.thehotline.org

Me in 2013

Me in 2013

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~ Khalil Gibran

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Created by nationally recognized millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, My Fab Finance is a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do more of what they love.
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