I love a good hero.
When I was a little girl, I saw “Peter Pan.” I fell in love with Tinkerbell for all her spunk and fairy dust, she became my hero. I believed in fairies. I was convinced that if I wished hard enough and focused on happy thoughts, I could fly like Peter and Tink!
My BFF, Nanette Woffard, and I made fairy wings out of panty hose, wire hangers and glitter. We began to exercise our belief by jumping off her circular second story stairway, climbing a step higher each time. We were (five-year-old) girls interrupted when, about step number 8, her mom walked through the room with a load of laundry and discovered our exploits.
Mrs. Woffard encouraged our creativity, but grounded us from flight school. We wallowed our disppointment in homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk.
But I never forgot about my hero and how she could fly.
As a young adult, I met a hero who could fly—for reals (that’s millennial-speak for really and truly).
He flew jets and his wings were hard earned through Air Force pilot training.
We’ve had a fairy tale life so far and raised a passel of Kay kids who also learned to dream, believe and soar to greater opportunities than they thought possible. One of those kids even earned his own set of pilot wings last month. Flying, in life and in dreams, is something we’ve always encouraged.
But there’s nothing that will bring a dream crashing down faster than financial difficulties. That’s why we taught our millennial children how to manage credit and earn great credit scores.
When each of the Kay kids graduates from college, they have a good-to-excellent credit score at the age of only 22. It can be done, but the first step is to understand how credit and credit scores work.
Credit scores impact interest rates, insurance premiums, security deposits, employment and even security clearances. In our Heroes at Home Financial Events, we have various segments. I teach on spend plans and car buying. USAA sends JJ Montanero to speak on saving and investing. But we also have an entire segment on how to develop and maintain good credit in order to keep their security clearances so they can do their jobs.
Gerri Detweiller has been writing in the consumer credit space for years and as one of our speakers, she can attest that credit and debt are themes that bleed into all financial areas. A lot of what I’ve recently learned comes from Rod Griffen a financial educator from Experian, who teaches me the latest nuances in this sometimes complicated space.
What do you believe about credit and are those beliefs fact or fantasy? Here’s a quick quiz for you to gauge how much you know about today’s world of credit.
Answer the following as either FACT or FANTASY:
- If I have never had a credit card or debt, then I won’t have a good credit score.
- Carrying over a balance on my credit card helps me build good credit scores.
- My credit history is the area that has the greatest impact on my score.
- If I pay off my balances each month, then I don’t have to worry about Debt Usage or Utilization (the amount of debt to credit available).
- If I co-sign a loan for someone else, it will still be their debt and not mine.
- I have three credit scores.
- I can get a free copy of my credit report at Annual Credit Report for each of the three main credit reporting bureaus.
- My credit report and my credit score are both free and they are basically the same.
- It’s a smart credit move to repeatedly take advantage of introductory APR rates by opening new credit cards and transferring these balances to the lower APR. Then cancel the cards and you will still have a good score while taking advantage of the lower rates.
- If I only have credit cards and student loan debt, then it’s important for me to get a car or motorcycle loan for the expressed purpose of building diversification to help my credit score.
- Fact. No credit history means you haven’t started to positively build your credit score. This means you would have a low score on many of the scoring models.
FIX: Start out with a secured credit card where you can’t charge more than you have secured in the credit card account. You can review cards at Bankrate but read the fine print to know what you are getting. This will establish a history and help you start to develop good credit.
- Fantasy. Carrying over a balance only means you’re paying interest every month on the balance you carry—which isn’t a smart credit move. Maintaining a credit card balance doesn’t help to build your credit.
FIX: Pay your credit bills on time, carry lower balances and have credit cards for a longer period of time in order to build positive credit.
- Fact. Credit history accounts for 35% of your score and Debt Usage (Utilization) accounts for 30% of your score.
FIX: Concentrating on these two areas (Credit History and Debt Usage) are the most effective means of helping you build good credit.
- Fantasy. Even if you pay off your balances every month, you could take a hit in the Debt Usage area if you charge more than 30% of the available credit at the time that the snapshot of your account is taken. So if you have 10K available on the credit card and you’ve charged 9K in order to get points, you’ll have a 90% utilization record if this account is recorded before you pay the balance when the bill is due.
FIX: If you charge items to get points and your utilization is high, then transfer a payment BEFORE the bill is due. You’ll still get your points, but you get ahead of the Debt Usage scenario.
- Fantasy. Once you co-sign, then you are responsible for the debt if the other person doesn’t pay. If they pay, it’s not problem, but if they don’t, you will. You’ll have to pay off that motorcycle, the remainder of the lease or the credit card, should that person default.
FIX: Don’t co-sign on a loan. We’ve lost friendships and relationships with family members when they tried to take us hostage by trying to force us to co-sign. If the lender determines they won’t take a risk on them without a co-signer, then why would you take the risk?
- Fantasy. Rod Griffin from Experian, our Heroes at Home credit educator says he could probably pull 80+ scores on any of his audience members. There are three main credit reporting bureaus, but many credit scoring models.
FIX: To know if you have a good credit score, pay attention to the scoring model. On some scales 750 is a good score and on other scales, it could be average.
- Fact. You can and should get your free copy of your credit history from each of the three main reporting bureaus listed at Annual Credit Report. But be careful, you have to opt out of paying for scores, monitoring or other services.
FIX: When you order your free score at this site, don’t ever give your credit card info or you could inadvertently be signing up for a product or service you don’t want. However, you do need to be prepared to give your social security number at this secured site.
- Fantasy. A credit history is different from a credit score. The history gives a list of all the various credit accounts/debt you’ve have in your lifetime. The credit score is a number that determines your credit worthiness to lenders. The credit history is free at Annual Credit Report.
FIX: Free credit scores are available at Credit.com and CreditKarma.com. But make sure you are getting the free service and not accidentally signing up for a paid service. You can also check your credit card bill to see if your company provides a free copy of your score. If you are military, get a free score at your Family Readiness Center.
- Fantasy. This is a good way to deteriorate your credit score. Lenders can see you are transferring balances and taking advantage of a new card’s APR offer. It can even look like you are floating the note or trying to pay Peter by robbing Paul. When you open and close multiple accounts, you shorten the overall length of your credit history and can ruin your score.
FIX: Pay attention to your credit history and remember that every new card you open shortens the overall credit history length of all your accounts combined. Open new credit accounts sparingly and don’t credit card jump to try and save money.
- Fantasy. While it is true that different kinds of loans build diversification in your credit profile, diversification only accounts for 10% of your score. So the idea that you SHOULD go out and buy a car or motorcycle (and finance it) in order to get a better credit score is pretty ludicrous.
FIX: Buy a car or motorcycle because you need one and you can afford it. Make sure you budget to be able to pay the note, insurance and other vehicle ownership expenses.
Superstar – You know a lot about credit, so you are probably: 1) in the financial industry or 2) really well informed and good with money or 3) you cheated. If you didn’t cheat, you might even qualify to be one of our superstar speakers at Heroes At Home because you certainly know enough to teach this topic!
Excellent – You may be kicking yourself or crying “trick question” because you got almost all the right answers. Nonetheless, even experts can learn a few things about the ever-changing world of credit. Be sure you are giving your mentees up to date advice and pay attention to the nuances of building excellent credit.
Good – You have a good working knowledge of credit, but you’re no expert. You’ve believed a few fantasies instead of the facts in some of these areas. Pay attention to the questions you missed and make it a point to readjust your thinking so that you can build even better credit.
5 or less Correct
MEH – You know just enough to be dangerous and you are at the greatest risk of crashing and burning when it comes to credit mistakes. Study the wrong answers and make sure you understand how credit works before you open new lines of credit, cosign a loan or try to get a loan for a new vehicle.