Take a deep breath (Yes, reader that means you) take a deep breath. Now hold that breath . . . hold it . . . okay, let it go. Did you feel the air fill your lungs? Your chest expand? How often are we so busy bustling through the day that we don’t even really notice we are breathing? Would we notice if we all of a sudden stopped breathing? Undoubtedly. When speaking of the importance of credit, Curt Fullmer, Director of Workforce Management for Progrexion, Efolks, and CreditRepair.com said, “Honestly, credit to me is like air. You don’t ever think about it until you need it, and when you need it, there is nothing more important in the whole, wide world. And that’s credit, you don’t think about it until you’re trying to use it, or get something with it, and at that point it’s now blocking you from moving on in your life, so it becomes the most important thing in your life.”
What makes credit so important that it would be compared to air, the very element that is necessary for life? Ty Weston, VP of Operations and Strategy, provides a concrete, yet simple answer for this. “Credit is really the ticket to the modern world, modern economy. It used to be the handshake with the banker in your town of a thousand people; now it’s your credit report. From an opportunity standpoint if you don’t have good credit, you don’t understand it, you don’t know how to use credit to help your family in this modern world, this world can be a rough place.”
Now that it’s been established that credit is a vital part of our lives, what words come to mind when you hear the term? When asked, our interviewees gave their personal thoughts; some words included: Opportunity, Reliability, Freedom, Adult Report Card, Credibility, Money, and Reputation.
Going Back in Time
The reason a person chooses to have their credit pulled may be similar to another’s reason; however, each situation and outcome is uniquely different. For some, this experience is like a game of Russian roulette and for others it is like taking a walk in the park. This is especially true for the first time credit is pulled and the experience it leaves with us.
“The very first time I went in to get credit,” Curt said, “I had pretty smart parents, who when I was 16 years old were going to buy a new couch set and decided they were going to put me on there so that I could start building a credit report. When the company first pulled it, they said, ‘Oh, no problem. He’s got great credit because he’s paid back that other car he bought.’ I had never bought a car or anything, but someone had used my credit, but in an odd twist of fate had paid everything back faithfully and built my credit up. It was quite amazing. I was the victim of identity theft, but in a positive way.” Our personal credit journey begins before we even know what money is. In a recent survey, we asked respondents to tell us the age they were when they were first introduced to the term credit. Results showed that only 12.65% of respondents were introduced to the term credit at an age of 11 or younger; another 15.36% were introduced to the term credit between the ages of 12 and 14. Children are an easy target for identity theft. Because of his first credit pull, Curt, now a parent, said, “Personally, I have three children: 4, 6, 10 and I have frozen their credit lines for that very reason; they say it [identity theft] is very common for children (because children are definitely not checking their credit reports under the age of 18,) to be the victims of identity theft.”
For Candice Sherman, Sr. Director of Customer Loyalty, her motivation for pulling her credit report was to have a safety net as she started her entrance into the adult world. “It was either my senior year or freshman year of college. I had a bank account, but I needed an overdraft line of credit on my account in case I accidentally overdrafted. I had accidently overdrafted [before] and got some fees and so I thought ‘oh I want just a little bit of a line of credit.’ I was with Zions and so you go in and they give you a $200 line of credit and pull your credit, but I don’t think I had any. I had enough to get only a $200 line for an overdraft, and that was where I started building it.”
Also from the same survey previously mentioned, 27.70% of respondents pulled their credit for the first time in order to apply for a car loan. Ty shares the same reason with these respondents. “I remember the first time I went to go get credit, and I don’t think I looked at my report. I was trying to buy a used car and I was able to get the car, but I remember him coming back saying ‘hey ya know, your credit isn’t that great.’ So I don’t know if he was using that was a tactic, I don’t know what the deal was, but I just remember when it happened feeling kind of powerless. I didn’t know anything about it, I didn’t understand credit.
I was a young kid, so who knows, maybe it was bad because there wasn’t anything on there, but having somebody tell you your credit isn’t good, you take it a little personally, like ‘What? What’s the matter? What’s the matter with me? I got something flawed or something.’” When asked what their reaction was to having their credit pulled for the first time, a portion of respondents echoed Ty’s feelings. They answered: Confusion (12.22%), Frustration (13.22%), and Shock (4.99%).
What is So Hard to Understand?
What is it that makes understanding a credit report so difficult? It is an essential part of personal and familial success, and yet it seems so difficult to understand. Rachel Poulos, a Paid Search Strategist, only has had a credit pull done on her credit report when applying for large purchases. We asked Rachel if understanding her report was difficult. With humor she replied, “I’ve only ever pulled soft credit pulls [on her own], but yeah, it was a little complicated.” Taking it a step further, and talking about what specifically made it complicated, she continued, “I would say the credit score. What is a good credit score? You’re not really told what’s a good credit score, especially if you want to get, well with my experience was with buying a house. I didn’t know what it was that I needed in order to get a house, a good loan.”
Candice, a 9 year veteran in the credit industry, told us, “I think the hardest part to understand is the score, the complexity of the score, and what could positively or negatively affect that score. Of course we know the five factors that affect it, but it’s really quite complicated, especially for most people that don’t know what those five factors are, and even from where I’m standing in the industry, ‘oh, okay, your payment history makes up this percentage, your credit mix makes up this percentage,’ but really there are just so many dynamics in it.” Vanessa Kerr, an Offline Media Strategist, when discussing the score said, “there’s just so many different elements that it’s hard to know everything,” Curt remarked “I’ve always be baffled by the fact that simply someone pulling my credit report lowers my score. That seems odd to me, so I think the score is the most mysterious part of the entire process.”
Does Credit Matter? The Collective Take
This year the concept “Credit Matters” has been looked at from various standpoints and from many differing views. Vanessa said, “I think credit matters to me because it definitely helps you achieve that American Dream of buying a house, and unless you have a ton of money and you want to pay for everything with cash, you need to have credit. It’s very important.”
For Rachel, “Credit matters because it can prevent you, or it can help you achieve your dream: your goal, your dream house, your dream car, or anything that you need; Maybe you need a car to get to work, anything necessary in life . . . I believe your credit tells creditors how you handle your money, and how they can trust you would pay them back.” Vanessa’s and Rachel’s answers of why credit matters appeals to the long standing belief proclaimed in our country’s Declaration of Independence that “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are available to all men and women without exception.
Does Credit Matter? The Personal Take
Just as each person has their individual reasons for pulling credit, monitoring credit, and perhaps even hiding from credit, the reason credit matters to each person is a unique story. When asked why credit mattered to him personally, Ty said, “My kids are getting older. I have an 18 year old daughter now, she’s heading off to college in the fall, and I look at my kids and I put myself back there in their position, and I realize how important it is for them to understand how this works as they go forward in their lives and what an impact it can have on them. It’s pretty personal for me right now as my daughter is going out in the world a little bit. To make sure that she understands how that works and what’s going on. So that part of it is really personal for me right now.”
Does Credit Matter? The Impact Take
Employees on a daily basis hear stories of how a person’s credit was destroyed and why they need it back. Often these calls are very difficult and the stories are heartbreaking. Ty told us, “Being a part of servicing our clients, in talking to clients, in taking phone calls, you understand and see what an impact this has on families, and so that’s where I’ve related it to my family. Credit can either be a great, wonderful thing that helps families achieve all their dreams of home ownership, or jobs, or whatever; or it can be a brutal thing for families that’s very difficult for them to overcome and causes a lot of heartache, problems, and even causes some families to separate. I would say that credit is a big factor in families not being able to stay together.” If you hang around an employee of Progrexion long enough, you begin to see that as time goes on, working for Progrexion isn’t just about having a job, it becomes so much more. This is a company that is one person at a time, on a personal level, changing lives. Candice shared why credit matters to her. She said, “Credit matters to me because this is what I love and this is what I do all day. It matters to me because I see it give opportunities to people, and I’ve been a part of interviews where it’s given opportunities to people and changed their lives. In that way it’s given me opportunities. I may not be the person that is going to leverage credit the most, or necessarily have a lot of credit problems, but I come to work thinking about credit, and think about how it is affecting the lives of our customers.”
*All survey and other statistical data courtesy of Survey Monkey’s “Credit Matters: Credit Education” survey results