Imagine getting denied for a job because you don’t have good credit. Imagine having no degree but defaulting on your student loans, having your wages garnisheed, repossessions, payday loans, bad checking accounts—what a nightmare! One millennial found out that you have to fix your “shady” FICO score to fix your credit. Juan Anderson ended up filing not one but three bankruptcies before the ripe old age of 30.
Anderson wasn’t a bad person—he was simply uninformed. His story is a perfect illustration of the Bible verse “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Completely green, he was the perfect target for the American credit industry to take full advantage of and profit from.
Anderson has since learned how to manage credit responsibly, and he’s written two quick books, he calls them, about his experience that show how you can avoid the trap that ensnared him.
He makes a remarkable statement in one of his books, How I Fixed My Shady FICO: “An 800+ FICO score has more buying power than $100,000.” Shady FICO the College Years, his second book, is a little thicker, has less colorful language, and step-by-step instructions. If you can only buy one, buy the latter.
Here’s some of Anderson’s great advice:
- Shady credit, or poor credit, is a score that’s less than 720, the median score you want to have among the three credit reporting bureaus. Don’t know your score? Get your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com, the only free source of credit reports.
- Already have credit cards? Keep all balances below 5%, and pay them off every month. Never carry a balance.
- To really raise your score, piggyback on someone else’s excellent credit—like Mom or Dad’s—if they can trust you. Other ways include using a secured credit card.
- Anderson suggests a maximum of two to four credit cards: a Visa, Mastercard, and two store cards. I think that’s too much credit for someone finishing college, but the point is to manage your credit responsibly, not the number of cards.
- Anderson says your monthly bills should not exceed 45% of your monthly income, and that 15% to 20% should go directly to a savings account. Another 10% to 15% goes to you to spend or use as you like. He doesn’t discuss tithing or investing, so consult other books for that information.
- Read his section on buying a used car—always take a mechanic with you, and ask for maintenance paperwork. Start the car yourself—it shouldn’t already be running when you arrive. Lots of good tips here!
There’s lots more—like avoid student loan refund checks. You will have to pay that money back. And if you’re being contacted by a collection agency, it should be by mail. Anderson writes, “First, do not admit to anything over the phone. Make them send it in the mail. This needs to be done within 30 days of your finding out about the debt.”
He continues, “By law, you don’t have to speak to them over the phone and can request that they do not call you if you submit your request in writing.”
He goes on to say that all dealings with collection agencies should be done in writing, and that the agency must prove that you actually owe the debt. Never pay anything unless you’re sure you owe it.
Anderson now has bachelor’s and master’s degrees and enjoys a credit score of 745. To learn more, visit his website.