Poor credit history can permeate nearly every aspect of day-to-day life. A credit score is a summary of your borrowing and spending habits, and if this number declines, the consequences can be devastating.
For anyone with a credit score below 620 the implications are severe, affecting your ability to borrow, your education, your job prospects, where you can live, what you will drive — and even your relationships.
If your credit score is above 620, then you can enjoy the benefits of good credit, enabling you to receive low interest rates, loan approvals and strong standing in the eyes of lenders.
Many Americans find themselves with low credit scores, as years of financial difficulty and a casual attitude toward paying off debt finally take their toll. Credit scores suffer when you max out your credit card, forget to make payments, get in the habit of making late payments, default on loans or file for bankruptcy. And when your credit score changes, your life changes.
Ability to Borrow
As your credit score decreases, so does your ability to receive loans and credit cards. The risk you pose to potential lenders is so great that either you will be denied approval or be given high interest rates. Also, you could face high interest rates on the credit accounts you already have.
These repercussions could keep you from taking on more debt, and that’s a good thing. The limits on your credit can serve as a safeguard against future irresponsible decisions.
At the same time, you will have to plan in advance for things like car repairs or medical expenses – because that credit card won’t be there to bail you out in emergencies.
Employment and Education
A low credit score can prevent you from getting your next job — a better job that could have allowed you to get out of debt. Employers are doing credit checks more often these days, making hiring decisions based on financial history.
In a time when the job market is already competitive, you cannot afford to ignore your credit problems.
If you are a non-traditional student, seeking to return to school, it may be harder than you imagine. Students who have loans that are not up to date cannot get approved for another loan until the past loans are made current.
Houses and Vehicles
Not only could your next job be out of reach, but you may be stuck when it comes to housing and a car, as well. If you are looking to buy a home, you may not be able to get a mortgage based on your credit score. Sometimes apartments won’t rent to people with low scores, either. So whether buying or renting is the next step, credit is important.
Auto loans can be difficult to get and usually come at a high price if you have poor credit. Even dealer’s fees may be higher. If you do get a vehicle, car insurance can come at a higher cost based on credit score.
As stress builds from credit card debt and calls from debt collectors, it begins to take a toll on emotions and disrupt relationships, creating tension and distance among family members and friends.
Couples especially suffer the burden of money stress, and marriages sometimes crumble under the strain. When financial choices from the past are suddenly preventing couples from the next big step in life — getting married, getting another vehicle or looking for a home — frustration and anger can replace trust that took years to build.
Whether you want to get a new job, find a different place to live or start a relationship, having bad credit can keep you from getting the most out of life. Because of the severity of these consequences, you need to have a plan. Set a budget so you can get out of debt and save for the future. Or consider getting some help managing your finances and repairing your credit.
Now is the time to take control.
Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.