This post in Collaboration with Debbie Fletcher
‘I’m not a number, I’m a free man’ so goes the classic line of the iconic 1960s BBC television series The Prisoner. Yet, in many respects that’s not true. These days you are defined – at least financially – by a number and it’s your credit score (especially if it’s a poor credit score).
This figure – barely understood by most people outside of the world of finance – can have a massive impact on your life, maybe even without you knowing what it is.
It’s important not to dismiss this as just another bit of jargon (there’s plenty of it in the world of finance after all). If you need convincing, they why not consider the issues that you might face as a result of a poor credit score?
Access to money
The most obvious issue facing you if you have a poor credit score comes with your ability to be able to afford big ticket purchases. Whether it’s a house, a car, a holiday or an emergency repair – life has a bit of throwing up key purchases that cannot be paid for upfront.
We are now a nation of borrowers as a result – but our ability to borrow can be severely hampered by a bad credit score.
The ‘score’ itself refers to a calculation given by a credit scoring agency (there are three in the UK and three in the US). It’s effectively a measure of your borrowing ability and you’ll be marked down for missed payments or debts that you have been unable to pay off.
The number will determine whether a lender will give you money in the first place. They want assurance that you are likely to pay them back and this is the way in which they’ll get their assurance. It might also dictate how much you can borrow and the interest rate you will be charged.
So, put simply, a bad credit rating will mean that you can get less money, will be charged more for the privilege of borrowing that money or even that you are just turned down in the first place. That means that house, car, holiday or home repair could be an awful lot more of a problem for you.
It isn’t all about the money that you borrow, however. Your score could also impact upon your ability to earn too. Employers are able to run a credit check on the people who apply to them for a job. This check is about ensuring the candidate has a sound record and can be trusted – but you could feel like this is a crude way to do this, as you might not have chance to offer any explanation by way of context.
Does one missed loan payment five years ago or a dispute with an old mobile phone contract deserve to define you in the eyes of employers? Whether you think this is fair or not, it might well be the case.
Then, of course, there’s the emotional aspect to all of this. A bad credit score might hang over you. There are steps you can take to improve your credit rating, but this might well take time and mean that big life choices have to be put on hold for a while. Do you really want to be forced to delay moving into your first home with a partner for a few years while you sort out your credit rating?
During those years you might feel under a great deal of stress and strain and some people might well feel embarrassed about what they consider to be a ‘black mark’ against them. We might be a nation of borrowers, but we’re not a nation that is terribly good at talking about borrowing and money. Indeed, our personal finances are still seen as something of a taboo by many people and that can cause people to bottle up their concerns or bury their head in the sand when they encounter trouble.
A poor credit score can, therefore, stop you buying the things you need, harm your chances of getting a good job and impact upon your mental health. When you put it like that, the importance of a good credit score becomes pretty clear.