April is National Financial Literacy Month. To mark the occasion, MarketWatch will publish a series of “Financial Fitness” articles to help readers improve their fiscal health, and offer advice on how to save, invest and spend their money wisely. Read more here.Dear Quentin, I am 74 years old and I take great pride in my FICO score. My late husband always instilled in me that your credit score is your best friend. I can walk into a car dealership with an 850 score and walk out with a new car.
Recently, my credit score fell by 150 points. When I questioned Experian as to why, I was told, “Your credit cards are very high each month.” I pay off my credit cards every month. I have only ever paid a late credit-card charge once, and that was the week my husband died, when I had a lot more on my mind than paying bills.
“‘I have only ever paid a late credit-card charge once, and that was the week my husband died.’”
Experian also asked me why some months my credit-card bills far outweigh my income. I explained that I pay all college expenses for my two grandchildren, and then got reimbursed by their 529 college-savings plan. Again, all bills are paid in full at the end of the month. I don’t think it is anyone’s business what my credit-card charges are each month, as long as I pay them off when due. These charges should have no impact on my FICO score. Am I being unreasonable in thinking this is none of Experian’s business? A Grandmother and WidowDear Grandmother, Credit scores are calculated to assess risk, and unfortunately for you, they are one-size-fits-all. There are millions of people out there who are overspending on their credit cards — I don’t mean you — so when your score is dinged, there are two things you can do: Try not to take it personally, and raise your credit limit to reduce your credit-utilization ratio. Your credit-utilization ratio is the ratio between your credit-card balance and your cr …
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