If you understand the importance of credit, you may be frustrated by loved ones who disregard it. After all, good credit is crucial for more than loans, and an accurate credit report is paramount to having a good credit score. Here’s what you should do if your mom — or any other loved one — hasn’t checked her credit report and doesn’t plan to anytime soon.
Step 1: Explain to her why she should care about good credit
Many people believe that good credit is only useful if you plan to take out a loan or apply for a credit card. Because of this, the anti-debt crowd may be credit-averse. But you need good credit for a variety of different things, including:
Borrowing at good terms: For all credit accounts besides federal student loans, you’ll need to have great credit to get approved at the best terms. This includes credit cards, personal loans, business loans, car loans and mortgages.
Getting a job: Around 50% of employers check your credit report to ensure you’re financially stable and responsible.
Signing up for a cell phone or other utilities without a deposit: Getting a new cellular phone — something nearly everyone will do at some point — will likely require a basic credit check.
Renting an apartment: Landlords want to see that you have a history of paying bills on time, so most will require a credit check. This means renters and owners alike need good credit!
Getting a good rate on car insurance: Bad credit can jack up your car insurance rates, because drivers with poor credit tend to be risky behind the wheel.
The majority of people will need to get approved for at least one, if not several, of the above items at some point in their lives. But maybe your mom is under the impression that her partner’s credit will suffice. It’s time to break that myth.
Step 2: Explain that credit is one thing that isn’t combined with “I do”
Married couples share a lot — a home, a tax return, maybe a bank account — but your credit is your own. And both spouses should have good credit, just in case. Death and divorce are unfortunate, but possible, occurrences. The last thing your mom needs to deal with after one of these traumatic events is being unable to utilize good credit when necessary.
Step 3: Explain how easy it is to check your credit report
Every adult has her blind spot — or something adult-like she doesn’t understand how to do. For this Nerd, it’s ironing. For your mom, this may be checking her credit report. Thankfully, getting mom on the right track is easier than it sounds. All she has to do is visit annualcreditreport.com and request all three reports. After answering some identity verification questions, she’ll be able to view and print her reports.
Next, she has to check them for errors. To make this easier, here’s a NerdWallet article on how to read a credit report and what to look for. If everything is correct, she’s done! If anything is amiss, she can dispute it by following these five steps to fixing credit report errors. Disputing a report takes a bit of effort, but it will be worth it.
Your mom should continue to check her credit report each year to ensure there aren’t any discrepancies. Any inaccuracies can hurt her credit score, and she needs good credit for everything listed above in Step 1.
Bottom line: Your mom may have never checked her credit report because she thinks it’s unimportant or difficult. Explain to her 1) why she should care about good credit, 2) that she needs her own credit and can’t rely on her partner’s, and 3) how easy it really is to pull her credit reports.
Mother and daughter image via Shutterstock