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Achieving a Good Credit Score May be Harder for Women

Achieving a Good Credit Score May be Harder for Women

It’s hard to believe today that there was a time when women could not apply for credit on their own. Believe it or not, their husbands needed to sign the credit card application before a woman would be issued a credit card! It wasn’t until 1974 that women were able to take charge of their own financial affairs. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 gave women the right to apply for credit independent of their spouse’s approval.

Even though women are now empowered to handle their finances, inequities still exist between men and women regarding three areas of financial parity: employment, retirement savings, and credit stability.

Employment Issues

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) issued a report in the fall of 2016, which shows American women still earn less than men. The difference is drastic: women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Women’s lesser status as bread winners doesn’t stop at pay inequity. Their role as primary caregivers of both children and aged parents is looked at as a disqualifying factor when it comes to handing out promotions.

AAUW’s report revealed employers are not as prone to giving women leadership roles. The employer’s assumption is women aren’t capable of handling senior positions of authority due to childrearing and elderly dependent care responsibilities. According to Career Services Manager, Lisa Andrews, PhD, “Women are definitely called upon to be more flexible…it can create all kinds of difficulties in the workplace.”

So working women find it tough to find harmony between home and work responsibilities. Women run the risk of being denied a job promotion. On the other hand, men with families go on to get fatter paychecks and climb the corporate ladder faster.

Retirement Planning

The difference for women generally gets worse with age. In general, the pay difference increases as women climb the ranks to mid- and upper-level management. This leads to a bigger difference in financial security for older women versus men.

Consumer advocate, Eleanor Blayney of Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards relates to this. “The probability is extremely high for women [that] they will be single in their retirement years.” Because financial planning is an area is which women have been undereducated, this cripples their resolve to put away funds for retirement.

Society didn’t trust baby boomer women and their mothers to be able to comprehend investment strategies. Women may have handled the bill paying, but beyond that, it wasn’t expected of them to have knowledge of financial instruments. Understanding CDs, mutual funds, IRAs, money market accounts, or other various tools of investment were above their understanding, supposedly. This necessary skill would have helped them to save for the long years of retirement.

For the modern woman, their outlook is better, but with the pay gap and investment strategies geared towards men, retirement planning may still be difficult. Women on general do have a different salary peak and longevity. Ellevest is an robo investment advisor geared towards women, taking these differences into account.

What Steps Can You Take to Gain Financial Stability?

  1. Apply for jobs at companies with an equal opportunity employment policy. The Financial Services Gender Equality Index is a list of financial firms that have committed to advancing the careers of women employees. The National Association for Female Executives also has a list of companies that seek to hire women for upper-level management jobs. They also list companies that offer flex-time work schedules and the opportunity for advancement.
  2. Make educating yourself about investing a top priority. Learning how to invest is challenging but necessary if women want to control their financial lives. Certified financial planners (CFP) are in the business of educating you, having your best interests front and center. They are obligated to do so under their CFP certification.
  3. Build a credit history apart from your partner’s, establishing accounts in your name only.
  4. Build and maintain an a-one payment history. Never pay late or skip a payment. It will damage your credit score significantly; 35% of it is based on your payment history alone.
  5. Limit the amount of debt you carry. Financial professionals suggest you maintain recurring credit balances at 30% of your credit limit. And if you can swing it lower than 10%. To give an example of how this works, let’s say your credit limit is $8,000. At 30% that would come out to $2,400; at 10% $800. The best way to control your spending is to pay off your credit card balances each month, saving on the interest charges as well.

Parting thoughts

Unfortunately, women still suffer from gender bias when it comes to pay equity, child and family leave. These lead to obstacles for career advancement. However, they can begin the journey toward financial security. For instance, peruse the lists provided by The Financial Services Gender Equality Index and The National Association for Female Executives. Begin catching up with men in earning equal pay, invest intelligently, and learn the credit game.

Misleading free credit scores

Are Free Credit Scores Misleading?

Are Free Credit Scores Misleading?

For several years, many websites have offered free credit scores. Understandably, credit scores have a significant impact on consumers’ spending choices, possibilities, and habits. A credit score is a calculated number that is based on the information found in a credit report. Lenders use this information to determine if an individual’s likelihood of repaying a loan. Because consumers have multiple places to get their credit score, it begs the question: are free credit scores misleading?

In January, credit bureaus were forced to pay millions of dollars in fines due to their poor marketing. They failed to effectively explain the types of credit scores they offer. Ultimately, consumers created and implemented financial plans based on a credit score that were not used by lenders. Each credit bureau vowed to be more specific in the future, but until then, it is up to the consumer to educate themselves on the types of scores they receive.

Credit card companies use free FICO scores to provide credit scores on cardholder’s statements. Other websites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame claim to offer free credit scores for those who sign up through the company’s website. At first glance, a person may think it is a legitimate way to get their credit score for free. However, many people do not realize that companies and bureaus can offer free credit scores if they are considered “educational scores.” These education scores are not used for decide whether a consumer qualifies for a service

It is important to note that there is not a single credit score for anyone. Each credit bureau creates an individual credit score based on the details from the credit report. So, what’s the difference between them, and which are some of the free credit scores misleading?

The Difference in Credit Scores

According to credit.com, a FICO score is a calculation based on “predictive analytics.” This means they use information obtained in a credit report to predict the consumer’s credit worthiness. While FICO itself is not a credit reporting agency, they pull details from Transunion, Equifax, or Experian to create a score.

Vantage Score is a model that was created by the three credit reporting bureaus. Designed to offer a competitive alternative for the FICO score, the score is used to give individuals an overall picture of their credit standing. It is ideal for those with little credit history. These reports are largely advertised at free or low-cost for consumers.

While many financial institutions and websites claim to offer free credit scores, it is important for consumers to understand that not all credit scores are the same. Several companies use various formulas to arrive at a final credit score. For example, Discover’s It Card uses FICO scores for its cardholders, while Credit Karma uses Vantage Score. Additionally, the three main credit bureaus use different computations and score ranges to give to lenders and individuals. Experian scores range from 330-830, Equifax scores are from 280-850, and Transunion scores range 300-850. This information is important because if the same person requests their credit score from each bureau, it is a strong possibility they will have a different score from each one. A score discrepancy of a mere 20 point could increase interest rates or result in a denial from a lender.

Perception Versus Reality

Consumers expect their credit score to reflect the information found in their credit report. However, since many companies can use varying criteria to determine a person’s credit score, details from the credit report are not evaluated the same. It is very common for the same person to have a FICO score that is significantly higher or lower than their Vantage Score.

There are countless amounts of people signing up for free credit scores under the assumption that all credit scores are the same. For the most part, all credit scores are computed based only on what the three credit bureaus report. The information is not weighed the same, causing different credit reporting companies to arrive at different numbers. For example, some educational scores may base their score on the last six months of credit activity, while a FICO score could be based on the last 2 years or more. Both credit reporting companies used the same credit reports for their scores, but the content of the reports were weighed differently. Many consumers do not know or understand this, and never see the credit report lenders see when they are applying for loans and credit.

Are Free Credit Reports Misleading?

Some credit monitoring companies work exceptionally hard to market their financial products to consumers. Television ads and sponsored web searches are glittered with promises from these businesses. Credit Karma is an example of a financial agency promising free credit reports and scores. However, it is not clearly advertised or explicitly stated that the credit score they provide is not the same as the score lenders use. Most lenders use FICO scores to evaluate a person’s credit. Like Credit Karma, many credit reporting companies do not disclose or clearly market their scores are different from FICO scores. Each year, banks can make millions of dollars due to “add-on” services. By offering a free credit score, they could persuade people to purchase other credit monitoring products. If it is not clearly communicated that the information and credit scores are not the same criteria used by lenders, it is misleading.

Which Type of Report Is Better?

Liz Weston, a Nerdwallet personal finance columnist suggests getting a FICO score if you’re going to pay for credit score. A FICO score is the best option if you are in the market for a huge purchase, such as a car or mortgage. Home mortgage companies still rely heavily upon FICO scores.

The Vantage Score is the most common score advertised in free credit score marketing. It’s ideal if a person wants an idea of how their credit is doing. Weston also points out that the FICO score and Vantage Score are different. However, the same behaviors, such as paying bills on time, can positively impact the score.

Obtaining a free score

Credit scores are different from credit reports. Obtain your credit score free of charge once per year from each credit bureau. Typically, FICO credit scores must be purchased. There are some circumstances in which a FICO credit score must be furnished without cost to the consumer. These situations include when:

  • A person is applying for a mortgage
  • A lender uses credit scores to determine pricing of a product, loan, or service
  • An individual is denied credit based on credit

If any of these situations occur, you should make a written request to ask which credit score is used.

Making financial decisions can be challenging, especially with myriads of products promising to have the most accurate information. When obtaining free credit scores, it is important to distinguish between a FICO score and newer alternative scores. Understanding the difference between scores could impact the next financial decision you make.