My child loves to watch silly tv programs (like Teen Titans Go, I try to nudge him more towards Peppa Pig and Peter Rabbit, but it is usually Teen Titans Go or something with Transformers), and during such a program one day, I guess a Credit Karma commercial came on. They were offering the Credit Karma app for FREE, so of course he came into the kitchen (where I feel like I live sometimes, true story) and told me about this awesome game I could get on the iPad called Credit Karma. He had no idea how truly boring he would think that was, and how horrible I would have thought it was a few years ago, when I was kind of stumbling around, spending instead of saving, clueless as to what my credit score even was.
I had purchased a home before, as well as a couple of vehicles, and of course had credit cards (boo, hiss), so I was well aware was credit was. But until I entered into my spiral into financial responsibility, I honestly never checked my score, or thought about the value of my score.
In 2015, one of my credit card companies started offering free credit score tracking. You simply log in, and monitor what on earth is going on with your financial life every month. Sounds painless enough, right? Wrong. Let’s remember that 2015 was year that I decided to actually behave like a grown person and take financial responsibility for my life. 2015 was also the year when I came face to face with my dismal credit score.
It turns out that your credit score drives more in your life than you think. According to Randy Cross, Chief Lending Officer and Senior VP at Merchants and Planters Bank (husband to one of my bffs, father of one Cooper Cross, a regular in Cole’s funny little boy life) “Credit Scores have become the benchmark for evaluating a consumer’s financial performance. While there are numerous factors within a credit report that are culminated into a score, the report itself is a good indicator as to whether or not a consumer has the ability or the willingness to pay”. Ouch. In non-banker’s terms, that means that to most banks, credit card companies, car insurance providers, sometimes employers, and landlords, your credit score tells them whether or not you would be a good employee, a good renter, or a good steward of the money they are probably not going to loan you.
Lots of factors go into figuring a credit score, like the length of time you have had credit (so if you were prey to those people waiting in your college post office lobby with credit card applications, and you opened a card then, your length of credit history is a good thing), your debt to available credit ratio, the amount of times you have paid your bills on time (yes, they noticed), total accounts, credit inquiries (how many random applications have you filled out), and of course any bad debt you have floating around (judgments against you, collections, etc). A bad credit score means that you will pay a much higher interest rate, essentially paying more for really almost everything.
Now, you must be informed in order to make a plan for your financial future. Your credit card company may offer the same free tracking tool that mine does, where you get a free update every month. I did actually create an account on credit karma.com, and found a couple of wacko things on my report that should not have been there, which is another reason you need to check your credit frequently.
I am all about avoidance too, and do not have this whole thing figured out, at all, but facing your financial issues dead on and creating a plan is the only way to change the situation you are in right now. There are so many free options available to you to stay on top of this, and your future self will thank you for starting now.