Picture this scenario (maybe it’s accurate for some of you reading this): You’re retired. You just paid off your mortgage and have no intentions of buying additional properties or moving to a new one. You have a fairly new car and don’t plan to purchase another one anytime soon, if ever. Additionally, you aren’t planning on making any big purchases that would warrant financing.
So, noting all of this, it’s OK to run late on bills from time to time or slip up financially, right? After all, at this stage in your life, your credit score doesn’t really matter nearly as much as it did when you needed it for mortgages and other financing, right?
Your credit score always matters, even if it seems like it should matter less like in the situation we detailed above.
The biggest reason why your credit score always matters – even at later stages in life – is because you never know if you’ll need to borrow again. For instance, you could be involved in a car accident and need to secure a new set of wheels. Maybe you need to make an emergency repair to your home. Or maybe you have to settle medical debt from a surgery or procedure that was only partially covered by your healthcare plan. If you let your credit score slip, you’ll likely be paying much more in interest rates if you’re even approved to borrow at all.
Aside from yourself, however, you may be asked to borrow to help out a family member. What if one of your children needs help getting approved for a new car and asks you to co-sign? Or what if your grandchild needs a co-signer for student loans? These are all good reasons to stay committed to keeping a good credit score. There are other reasons as well, such as the following:
- Applicant evaluation: Say, for instance, that you get to the point where it’s becoming too much to care for your home and you want to move to a senior housing community or assisted living center. Some facilities may check your credit score as part of the applicant evaluation process, so you could wind up missing out on the communities of your choice if your score is less than stellar. The same can be said for moving to an apartment or property run by a landlord. A credit check is usually a part of the applicant evaluation process, and too low of a score may send off warning signs.
- Cell phone contracts: Not only can you usually score a better deal on cell phones the better your credit score, but many providers usually check credit scores to gauge the risk of potential customers and whether or not they’re likely to honor the contract.
- Employment: Whether you want extra disposable income in retirement or you’re just bored and looking for something to do part-time, returning to the workforce may result in a credit check from a potential employer. Those with better scores are usually more likely to make the short list for new hires than those with lower scores.
Finally, it’s worth noting that maintaining a good credit score isn’t something that’s very difficult – especially for those in the latter stages of life that are likely better off financially. Simply paying bills on time is a big part of keeping your credit score in a healthy state. It’s also wise to keep credit utilization ratios – or debt-to-credit ratios – at or below 30 percent for the best possible credit score. This means that for someone with a credit card balance of $10,000, you’ll want to have a balance of no more than $3,000 for the highest score. Finally, make sure to take advantage of your one free credit report per year from the credit bureaus so you can inspect it for any credit-killing inaccuracies and quickly dispute them.
Bottom line: Don’t take your eye off your credit score and become lackadaisical. You never know when – or if – you’ll need to rely on it.