I have to warn you: I sometimes try to be lighthearted and fun in my blog posts, but I really feel that this very serious topic deserves a very serious tone. You’ll thank me for this later.
I write and speak about credit a lot and I frequently hear this excuse from people – “But Jeanne, I don’t have the time to check my credit. I’m too busy.” For this reason, credit card statements aren’t reviewed, credit reports go unchecked, and credit scores remain unknown.
I also hear a related objection: “I don’t have the spare cash laying around to invest in my credit, by buying a book or hiring a credit coach.”
OK, I get it. We’re busy. We’re all busy. There are a ton of things going on every single day (and even more commitments could creep into our schedule if we allowed them). And money is tight for non-essentials.
For that reason, we just don’t make time to look at our credit. Like dieting, fitness, budgeting and getting the oil changed in the car, these are things we know we should do, but simply have a hard time fitting in.
But do you know when you will have time to work on your credit? When disaster strikes and you need your credit.
- When debt collectors start calling, you’ll suddenly need hours to deal with them.
- When someone steals your identity, you’ll suddenly need hours to deal with the situation, plus potentially hundreds of dollars to resolve the problem.
- When you need a loan in a hurry and your credit score is unexpectedly low, you’ll need to carve out hours to deal with it.
Checking your credit can seem like a lot of work when you’re busy, and it can seem hard to know the benefits if you don’t have a pressing need for credit right now. But fast forward in your life a few weeks or months, and suddenly your credit is more important than ever and you have less time to make a bigger impact.
A Cautionary Tale
Someone contacted me recently with exactly this situation: “I heard you in a seminar a while ago and thought that the information you gave was nice to know, but I was too busy to check my credit. At that time it wasn’t a big deal to me because I didn’t want anything new or need more credit. Suddenly my car needed to be replaced and I found myself furiously scrambling to get my credit in order so that I could obtain a car loan. I ended up making a larger down payment and having a higher interest rate on the loan all because I didn’t pay attention to your ideas earlier.”
If you invest for retirement, you know the principles, and these apply to credit as well. The principle is: Invest a bit now and reap the rewards later. If you don’t, it will cost you so much more. The minutes you spend now on your credit, and the few dollars you spend now investing in information and resources, can save you hours, and hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars in the future if you wait.
If you do the minimum – checking your free annual credit reports (you get one a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies), and monitoring your credit scores (which you can also do for free each month using a tool like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card) – you’ll at least have an idea of where you stand and know what work you need to do to build or maintain your credit. From there, you can create a plan to work on your credit.
I realize I sound very serious – and it’s for a very good reason. I prefer that you try to squeeze in a few minutes each week now instead of finding yourself in a very difficult situation later.
More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:
- The Credit.com Credit Score Learning Center
- What’s a Good Credit Score?
- How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- What’s a Bad Credit Score?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life
Image: Cathy Yeulet