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Why older Americas should care about their credit

Q. My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife insists that we need to rebuild our credit.  Can you explain why we should worry about rebuilding our credit at our age?

A. . It may not seem so right now, but a healthy credit report will remain important for the rest of your life. In fact, I believe that adults of all ages should work to maintain—and even improve—their credit. Regardless of your age or your past experiences, your credit matters. One way or another, poor credit will end up costing you money. 

Life changes, sometimes suddenly and unpredictably. No matter how old you are, your life three or five years from now will be different than it is for you today. You may think you will never need to borrow money again, but end up finding out that it will cost more to fix your car than it would to replace it. As a result, you may find yourself in the market for a different car.

Perhaps you will find a slow water leak in your home that has made more damage than you thought. To fix it correctly, it will cost a significant amount of money, money that you do not have. In this case, you may need to seek a home improvement loan. Or perhaps your current home requires too much upkeep, or you wish to downsize and move into an apartment. Most management companies will check your credit.

Even though you’re feeling credit shy right now, you can’t possibly predict all of your future needs.  For instance, you may need to travel for medical treatment.  Or maybe you simply want to travel to visit friends or relatives. In either case, having access to credit can make traveling safer and more convenient. 

Regardless of the type of credit you’ll need in the months and years to come, you will pay a premium, known as interest, to borrow money. The interest rate you pay will significantly impact the cost of your purchase. 

Even if you don’t specifically wish to borrow money, there are still other compelling reasons to care about your credit. What if you or your wife want or need new job, and your prospective employer makes your credit a condition of employment?

Car Insurance companies also use credit scores to determine your insurance rates.  In fact, a recent study by Consumer Reports found that people with good credit scores paid $68 to $526 more per year, compared to those drivers with the best credit scores.  The same study found that a poor credit score could add a whopping $1,301 to a driver’s premium costs.

I wish it were possible, but none of us have a crystal ball.  Even if you don’t plan to borrow money or use credit cards, life may change for you, and you may find yourself in a different situation. It is better to work on improving your credit now so you can get the best rates later when—and if—you need them.

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills, a United Way member agency. For more information, email credit@cccsbh.com.


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