What three words come to mind when you hear the term credit? Are they positive words that call out the positive aspects of credit and the freedom and independence it can provide? Or does something inside you begin to nervously squirm and the only words that come to mind call out the negative aspects of credit and the apprehension and fear it can provide? In one of the most beloved coming of age books ever written, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss brilliantly brings attention to a concept that is applicable at
“Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won…Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t… So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
As a child, or anyone for that matter, grows older, the reality of Dr. Seuss’ “Great Balancing Act” becomes more prevalent. Credit is one of the largest contributing factors to our personal balancing act, yet it fails to be a regular topic in our education system. It is something that if not taught at home at an early age or as a teenager, is often overlooked until it hits you in the face as an adult. When managed appropriately it is balanced and we have the freedom and ability to pursue our dreams. When mismanaged, it can slowly or rather rapidly become off center and we are held captive to the vehicle that could have led to security and happiness.
“When I think of credit, I think of it almost as a form of communication. I think of not only just trying to get a loan or get a car, but actually people trying to communicate themselves to society, how they can be trusted, and how their hard work can be recognized,” Mark Bailey said when asked about credit. As a Site Director and after working at Progrexion for seven years, Mark has some very powerful advice for today’s consumers. He said, “Hard work in general just isn’t enough anymore to communicate yourself to society. You could work hard every day but at the end of the day your credit report is a big part of your communication. It needs to be taken more seriously.” Credit is a necessary part of life for everyone, there is no escaping it; however, it can mean something so different to each person. Greg Ralphs, Assistant Director of Reporting and Analytics, and Sydnie Kocher, Graphic Designer, were asked what three words came to their mind when they heard the term credit. One of the three words chosen by Greg was “freedom” and one of the three words chosen by Sydnie was “debt.” These words can be placed on opposite ends of the credit spectrum. If credit is in a balanced position it can be seen as a vehicle for “freedom”; however, if we don’t keep our spending habits at bay, it becomes increasingly more difficult not to be consumed by “debt.” The term debt often carries with it negative connotations when discussed. Sydnie received her first credit card offer when she was 16 years old. Remembering a conversation she had with her mother at age 10, during which she was told not to get a credit card, even six years later she chose not to accept the offer because she was taught that with credit cards you would spend money and go into debt.
From the Q2 2015 Progrexion Playbook, we learned teenagers desire to know more about credit and how it will affect them as adults. They had heard the word spoken, knew that it was important, but some were unsure as to why. When should our children learn about credit? Who should be responsible to teach them? Kevin Moon, Vice President of Finance, feels that our “young people should learn at a young age the importance of credit starting as teenagers in junior high or high school.” When children reach high school age, they begin to start thinking about their futures: where are they going to go to school? Are they going to buy a car? Where will they live? An apartment, or a house?
Caitlin Moffitt, Breaking News Reporter, said she feels “credit education should start when you’re about sixteen and you’re looking to make a big purchase, generally a car, and you may have to apply for a loan.” As a society working together to be strong, “I don’t think that any one certain type of person should be teaching about credit…credit education should begin as early as possible; they [teachers and parents] should start introducing it and then just teach along the way,”
Sydnie said. Greg is currently teaching his 9 year-old about credit. “I feel credit education should be taught at a very young age…to me, as a parent, it is ultimately my responsibility to pass on information to my children and teach them about credit.” We don’t have to wait until a child is a teenager to start teaching them about credit. In fact, kids are more perceptive to the topic then we think. When asked at what age Kevin accepted his first credit card, without hesitation he answered 22. Asked what kind of feelings he had regard his first credit card, he said, “I’ve always felt like, ever since I was a kid, it would be important to pay something back that I borrowed. I think I learned that from my parents, and so that [getting a credit card] wasn’t an issue for me. If I put money on a credit card, I knew I had to pay it back.”
Does Credit Matter?
Keeping with our theme, we wanted to know if credit mattered and why it does or doesn’t. Those interviewed were asked the question, “Does credit matter?” The answers weren’t, “Credit matters so you can buy a mansion and be fed under a cabana,” “Credit matters so I can become an NBA basketball player,” “Credit matters so I can fly airplanes,” or something as simple as “Credit matters so I can buy a selfie stick.” The answers provided by our Progrexion team had a larger picture developing in their mind as they spoke. For Caitlin, “Credit matters because it influences your ability to live that ‘America Dream’ of owning a house, of owning a car, and having the freedom to do what you want.” The “American Dream” requires peace and the ability to enjoy what you have worked so hard for. Kevin provided a very enlightening answer, “I think credit matters because it allows flexibility, it allows people to be comfortable, to be happy, to feel free. At the same time there is real responsibility, individual responsibility around that. I’ve been able to benefit from having access to credit by getting a great education, I live in a comfortable home as a result of that, and my family is happy and comfortable.”
Using credit wisely is not only important for ourselves, it is also a way to demonstrate that you are successful and live within your means. Not only can you have your cake and eat it too, you don’t have to worry about how you are going to pay back the cook for the cake you just ate.
Mark ended his interview by saying, “To me, credit matters not just because people want to buy a car or a house, but because people work hard every day to fulfill roles that they have, whether it is being a father, or a husband, and ultimately credit is one of those ways of communicating that hard work to those around them.” Whatever your intentions and goals are and whether or not you have already achieve them or are working to achieve them, Sydnie said it best: “Credit is important because it is the gateway to opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise; and that’s why credit matters.”
*All survey and other statistical data courtesy of Survey Monkey’s “Credit Matters: Credit Education” survey results