Credit: what is it and why should you care?

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Educating yourself on the basics of what credit is and how it affects you is key to making wise economic decisions.

The world of credit can be a tricky one, but if you understand how to make it work in your favor and avoid the pitfalls, credit can be a helpful tool when it comes time to buy your own car, rent an apartment, or buy a home.

For the record, those things (buying a car, renting an apartment, etc.) can be done without credit, but having good credit can really make the process much easier.   This is especially true when making large purchases.

What is credit?

Credit is the ability to receive goods or services before you actually pay for them.  Basically, it is an agreement between you and the seller that you will pay at a later date.

Credit can also refer to your track record of paying what you promised when you promised.  You can think of it as your reputation in the financial world.

Is credit important?

The short answer is, yes.  But there’s more to it than that.

Having good credit is more important that having credit. You see, having no credit can make life complicated, but having bad credit can make it downright miserable.

Mr. Elkins, Financial Aid Director at TBC, is quick to emphasize, “Building good credit from scratch is a comparatively simple task and can be accomplished in less than a year in most cases.  Bad credit, however, is much more difficult to correct and can take years (as in 7-10 years) to overcome depending on the severity of the situation.”

That being said, credit can be beneficial.  Good credit will make the process of large purchases, leasing, and renting, much easier.  It can also affect (lower) your insurance rates and down payments.

Why?  Because the seller can look up your credit report and see if you are responsible with your money.  Do you pay your bills on time?  Are you grossly in debt?  Do you manage your credit card payments responsibly?  All this information will give the seller/bank/landlord clues as to whether or not you can be trusted to come through on your promise to pay.  If they find no credit record at all (or worse – bad credit), that could cause them to re-think their decision.  (Just remember: Having good credit is more important that having credit.)

It’s worth mentioning: “credit” can include credit cards, but credit cards are not the only way to build credit nor are they the only thing taken into consideration when determining if you have good or bad credit.

So… now what?

Now, you have research to do and a decision to make.

There are people who are 100% against using credit of any kind.  This is because using credit in the wrong way is very easy to do and the results can be at best problematic and at worst devastating.  So, when family members, mentors, or friends warn you against getting a credit card, they are doing so with the best of intentions.  The truth is, there are strong arguments both for and against credit… for example, here are some arguments for it: https://creditcards.usnews.com/articles/5-reasons-you-need-a-credit-score…and here are some against it.  https://www.thebalance.com/reasons-debt-is-bad-960048

It requires responsibility and diligence to handle credit and/or a credit card wisely.  Listen to those who are close to you – they know your strengths and weaknesses.  Be willing to see their point of view.

And yes, we’re going to say it one more time: having good credit is more important than having credit.  Seriously.  

 

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