Many of the most popular New Year’s resolutions involve health and finances. They require similar approaches, like patience, discipline and self-control, and even their measurements are alike. Here are a few ways your credit score is like your weight.
1. It’s Important to Your Health
Your weight isn’t the only indicator of your overall health, but it’s a good benchmark. Similarly, your credit score doesn’t give a complete picture of your financial status — that’s why lenders ask about other things, like your income and ability to repay a loan, when considering you for credit. It’s not everything, but you certainly shouldn’t ignore your score, because it contains a wealth of information about your financial health.
2. It Can Signal Other Problems
Suddenly gaining or losing 15 pounds isn’t something to ignore. In the best case scenario, the change merely reflects a change in your eating or exercise habits — for better or worse — and you can use that information to adjust your behavior accordingly. Extreme weight fluctuations may indicate something more serious, so if you can’t think of an explanation for them, you might need some help figuring out what’s going on, before more damage occurs.
It’s the same with credit score points. If you vastly change your credit card use from month to month, it won’t be too surprising to see your score change 20 points or so, but if you haven’t been doing anything different, the score change could point to a big problem. For example, credit card fraud and identity theft often result in severe drops in credit score, but if you’re not checking your credit score, the unauthorized activity may go on, continuing to cause damage until someone catches it.
3. It Can Save You Money
Health problems are expensive, and it’s no secret a lot of health issues are related to weight. Obesity puts you at risk for costly health issues like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers, among other things, not to mention the higher insurance premiums you may pay because of your health history.
Credit scores have a similar impact on your finances. A few dozen credit score points may mean you pay hundreds of thousands more dollars in interest over your lifetime, because your score will affect what interest rates you qualify for when applying for loans. You can get a good idea of how much your credit score is costing you with this lifetime cost of debt calculator, which lets you see how much you can save by improving your credit.
Bad credit will affect you beyond interest rates. Some states charge higher auto insurance premiums for drivers with bad credit, and you may have trouble finding work or housing with poor credit, as well. Even if you find someone willing to rent to you or supply you utilities, they may require higher deposits upfront, to minimize their risk exposure when taking you on as a customer.
4. Numbers Aren’t Everything
While your credit score and weight are important to your financial and physical health, sometimes losing a few points (or gaining a few pounds) can be a really good thing.
Think of it this way: When you’re lifting weights, you’re bound to pack on a few pounds of muscle. That’s a good thing, because strength is a crucial component of your overall health, and it may help you get in better shape and ultimately lose weight in fat. There will always be ups and downs on a journey toward bettering yourself.
When you apply for a new credit card or a loan, you may notice your credit score drop a few points. That’s because hard inquiries (when a potential creditor requests your credit report in order to make a lending decision) have a slightly negative effect on your credit. In the long run, that new loan or credit card will probably help your credit: Adding a credit card without increasing your spending will lower your credit utilization ratio, and adding a trade line to your credit report may help your account mix, both of which will likely boost your score in the long run.
5. You Should Check It Regularly
Without regularly weighing yourself or checking your credit score, you won’t be able to take away much meaning from the numbers. Because they fluctuate regularly, you need to build an understanding of where you usually fall, otherwise you won’t be able to tell if that high number is a fluke. You can weigh yourself as often as you like and get a feel for your average; credit scores work in a similar way. You can get two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com, and by checking them every 30 days, you’ll be able to tie your behaviors to your progress and make adjustments to your financial habits as necessary.
6. You Shouldn’t Obsess Over It
You should closely monitor your weight and credit score, but it’s easy to let a healthy habit devolve into an unhealthy obsession. Even if you reach that ideal weight or score, keep in mind so-called perfection is fleeting. Focus on the big picture: Work to keep your weight within a healthy range by sticking to good eating and exercise habits, and try to maintain a good credit score by practicing the fundamentals of good credit, like paying bills on time, keeping your debt levels low and applying for new credit sparingly. Obsessing over a few numbers may lead you to make impulsive decisions that harm the balanced health and finances you should be prioritizing.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- What’s a Good Credit Score?
- How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life