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We Need a New Barometer Besides Credit Scores

I'll admit it. I don't have a very good credit score. Most people develop bad credit from failing to pay credit card bills or make mortgage...

I'll admit it. I don't have a very good credit score. Most people develop bad credit from failing to pay credit card bills or make mortgage payments. My not-so-good credit comes from a different, more nefarious source: I don't like spending money I don't have.Until a few years ago, I refused to even get a credit card. A debit card, I reasoned, allowed me to participate in e-commerce and to enjoy the benefits of a cashless economy without putting me in hock. In fact, I was only forced to get a credit card because my local video store refused to accept a debit card as collateral. Sadly, it seems that without a credit card-without borrowing money-you aren't a real member of society.As I have come to various milestones in my adult life, it's become harder and harder to participate with my anti-credit attitude. Getting my first apartment was difficult-it was almost as if I didn't exist. And now that I've been forced to get a credit card, I keep the limit low so as to not allow me to go into debt for more money than I can pay with what is in my bank account. This doesn't help my credit either.In effect, I am being penalized for being as fiscally responsible as possible. And, in the wake of an enormous financial crisis brought on by people spending money that they did not have, that should not be something we encourage. We can and should be reforming Wall Street and adding new regulation, but true change would begin at the bottom and affect all Americans: a new way of calculating people's financial worthiness that gives credit to people who have never borrowed money.


This chart shows how credit scores are calculated.Sure, there are some necessary items-cars, houses-that must be bought on credit (though, if everyone refused to buy them at prices that required credit, trust me, the prices would start coming down. Perhaps you've shopped for a house in Detroit recently?), so ability to pay back a loan is something that we need to calculate. But shouldn't cash on hand and income be much better barometers of that ability than the fact that you have, in the past, been forced to borrow money for other things you couldn't afford-even if you were able to pay that money back? To put it another way, a person with no credit should be a person with perfect credit.So, for what it's worth, I'd like to call for a change in the way credit scores are calculated and how much they are relied upon. The idea that being a fully functioning member of society requires you to live a life of borrowed cash is utterly wrongheaded and doesn't enforce the kind of values we need to turn this economy around and make sure this doesn't happen again.
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