A credit score is one of the most fundamental elements of personal finance, so here’s a quick test of your knowledge on that subject.
Simply decide whether each of the following statements is true or false:
- If you pay down the balance on your credit card debt, your credit score will immediately improve.
- Your credit score improves if you carry a balance on your credit cards.
- Your level of education can affect your credit score. For example, someone with a college degree automatically has a higher score than someone with a high school diploma.
- Checking your credit score can cause it to go down.
All four statements are false.
Yet many people think they’re true. In a poll by BMO Harris Bank:
- 64% thought a credit score improves upon paying down a card balance.
- 30% believed that carrying a card balance improves your score.
- 23% thought education level affected the score.
- 27% thought that checking your score decreases it.
As for neglecting to check your credit score out of fear that doing so will bring it down, that’s just the opposite of what you should do. Actually, you should check your score at least once a year, even more often if hackers steal information from retail stores or other vendors you patronize — such as Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and Goodwill. You can obtain your credit report free of charge once a year; visit annualcreditreport.com for details.
Survey findings like these never cease to amaze me. They demonstrate yet again the dismal state of financial education in our society. A survey by moneyrates.com showed that 43% of men and 29% of women report having little to no formal financial education.
Have you ever taken a class in personal finance? Probably not. Ditto for teenagers, because only 16 states require that high school students attend a personal finance class — and half of those states don’t require tests for those classes.
Sad but true.