Credit Score 2016 Survey: How We Really Feel by John S Kiernan – WalletHub

The free-credit-score website WalletHub today released its 2016 Credit Score Sentiment Survey, which revealed that 34% of consumers think their credit scores and reports are public information! We clearly need all the help we can get financially, which brings us to today’s other big news: the launch of the WalletHub app for iPhone. We’re hopeful that WalletHub’s award-winning services can provide consumers with peace of mind and savings wherever they go.

After all, anyone can find value in the first and only app to offer free credit scores and full credit reports that are updated on a daily basis, not to mention customized credit-improvement tips, personalized savings alerts and 24/7 credit monitoring.

You can find more juicy takeaways from our survey, followed by additional info about the app, below.

  • 34% of people wouldn’t date someone with bad credit, while 49% wouldn’t marry someone with such a rating.
  • 32% of people would get a tattoo that reads “I Love Credit Scores” in return for excellent credit for life, while 11% would clean Chipotle’s toilets for 3 years and nearly 2% would even join ISIS for 3 months.
  • 71% of people would take bad credit over bad sex.
  • People would rather go bald, be overweight or prefer to have bad eyesight than have bad credit.

Credit Score 2016 Survey: How We Really Feel

Everyone knows that credit scores are important…to a point. Some of us value these three-digit representations of financial responsibility far more than others, due in large part to the combination of our varying financial literacy levels and inconsistent monetary pressures.

But to what extent do our knowledge of and opinions about credit vary, and along what demographical lines do they do so?

In the hope of answering those question and thus learning more about the relationship between consumers and credit scores, WalletHub conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,000 individuals, asking questions such as what organizations have the right to check an individual’s credit score, how much people would pay for an excellent score and even whether folks would date and marry someone with bad credit. You can find the results displayed in the infographic below, followed by a panel discussion about the findings with leading credit experts.

Credit Score 2016 Survey: How We Really Feel - WalletHub

Ask the Experts: Dissecting The Survey Results

To gain an even deeper understanding of the broader implications of our survey results, we asked a panel of leading credit-industry and consumer-studies experts to weigh in. You can find the experts’ bios and responses to the following questions below:

  1. What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?
  2. Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?
  3. Why is money our leading societal stressor?
  4. Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

David A. Friedman

Associate Professor of Law at Willamette University, College of Law

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

Many people lack an understanding about consumer credit and the role of credit agencies. It wouldn’t have shocked me if that number was higher. People might know how quickly bad credit can affect them, so they might assume that it’s freely accessible by powerful third parties, like banks and insurers. There’s also a lot of publicity about individuals being able to access their credit scores and reports for free (once per year). Knowledge of this right is a good thing, but I wonder if people conflate that right with the notion that access to your report is open to all.

Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?

We all know people should marry for love, but fundamentally, some people with good credit don’t want to share the burden of other people’s bad credit. More important, if you find out late in the game that your partner manages credit poorly, it may reveal unknown underlying traits about behavior, or secret-keeping. Before getting married, people should be open about their history, whether about bad marriages or bad credit. Of course, half the population, according to this survey, remain romantics — or have credit problems themselves.

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

Money is security and freedom. Foremost, it secures us food, shelter, and transportation — and keeps our families safe. Money enables us to retire. If you worry about money, you are stressed out about the fundamental things in life. Often, stress about money emanates from insecurity at work, so there’s a stress spillover.

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

It’s not easy, but losing weight is a transparent process in your control. Eat less, exercise more — it’s up to you, most of the time, unless there are other medical issues. Likewise, bad eyesight can be mitigated and controlled and is not mysterious. Credit scores are the product of mysterious formulas and seem more out of our control than the former two problems, so there’s a great need to demystify creditworthiness.

Santhi Hejeebu

Associate Professor of Economics and Business at Cornell College

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

I’m pleased that two-thirds of respondents still have enough information literacy to know what’s protected and what’s not. Yet when consumers hear the never-ending news about data breaches and identity theft, they feel vulnerable. The survey results reflect their perception that information is not secure.

Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?

Couples are slower to marry than ever before and they know that financial problems are a key driver of divorce. Why marry a person when long-term, live-in relationships are socially acceptable and free of the negative spillover from one partner’s bad credit?

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

Money is a social stressor because for the vast majority of households, future income streams seem unlikely to grow. On the consumption side, major expenditures – car, college, home, and retirement – truly seem to be beyond reach. This reflects the typical consumer’s lived experience of money and, very sadly, his main source of financial knowledge.

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

Excess weight and hair loss won’t stop you from fishing or joining a bridge club. You can still enjoy time and companionship with your friends. Bad credit increases the pressure to devote more of your limited time into income-generating activities. That’s painful.

David Reiss

Professor of Law and Research Director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

Given the complexity of the consumer finance industry, it is not surprising that many consumers operate in a fog of ignorance and misunderstanding about their rights and how the industry operates. Some people may be aware that many businesses can access their credit report and that many businesses contribute to their credit report, both without the clear consent of the consumer. This all leads to a sense that their financial profile is out of the consumer’s hands. And while that is not technically correct, there is a lot of truth to it. Decisions are being made about you — what interest rate will be offered to you, whether you will receive a loan, will a bank open a checking account that you applied for — and you only have a partial sense of the criteria upon which they are being made.

Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?

People understand that bad credit can have a big impact on life choices — can we buy a house or a car? That can influence decisions about the suitability of a spouse as much as other financial concerns, like the job the potential spouse has. Credit scores are also being used for decisions other than whether to extend credit to someone — for instance, by landlords deciding whether to rent an apartment. These expansive uses of credit scores foster a sense that credit scores act as a broader judgment of the potential spouse, like a gauge of moral worth.

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

We live in a society that has become more divided between haves and have-nots over the last few generations. The gap shows up in the big difference between the number of people at the top (a small percentage) and the bottom (a large percentage) of the distribution of income and wealth. It also shows up in the difference in the amount of money that puts you at the top and bottom — the rich have gotten richer and the poor still have very little in terms of wealth and income. Money gets seen as being able to determine destiny and thus it stresses people out, particularly because the American safety net is not as tightly woven as those of other developed countries.

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

Henry Kissinger has said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and Marilyn Monroe (in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”) has sung that “A kiss may be grand/But it won’t pay the rental.” Money is power, and in the age of Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted,” being able to pay the rental is a pretty attractive quality.

Andrew J. Morgret

Associate Professor of Accounting at Christian Brothers University School of Business

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

I would probably be a member of that group. Seems that everyone, but me can get my credit score without too much trouble.

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

The belief that money is power, or, possibly, vice versa.

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

I have had all three from time to time. A strict diet cures being overweight; waiting on cataract to be unsolvable by refraction so I can have surgery; but you have to really do a bit of strategy and then some to get out of a bad credit rut. It can be done, though.

Manfred Keil

Associate Professor of Economics at Claremont McKenna College, Robert Day School of Economics and Finance

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

The general public strongly distrusts the financial system in general these days, as the success of Trump and Sanders has indicated. This extends to credit rating agencies in general, and personal information regarding credit scores/reports. Moreover, hackers have frequently gained information from large companies and the government regarding confidential information of individuals. Finally, many individuals have been subjected to charges on their credit cards not authorized by themselves. If nothing else, I would have assumed that it was more than 33% who carry such beliefs.

Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?

Bad credit is typically an indicator that an individual cannot manage their life, meaning it goes beyond finances. Having bad credit, on average, indicates mismanagement and misjudgment, perhaps as a result of poor planning. Unfortunately this does not cover all cases. I personally would want to know more about how an individual ended up in the situation before passing judgement.

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

Because of the Great Recession. This has resulted in a mistrust of the financial sector in the U.S. and worldwide. Furthermore, the fact that Wall Street was bailed out while unemployment has soared and even now employment to population ratios have not returned to pre-recession levels, has created negative feelings towards the financial industry. Finally, income inequality has generated a feeling of unfairness and indeed is threatening the pillars of our society (democracy).

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

I am somewhat surprised to hear that about bad eyesight and going bald. These are phenomena that are typically brought on by genes and not caused by sub-optimal behavior. Being overweight is different, since it suggests poor planning and management, and the outcome is visible for everyone. Hence it does not come as a surprise that overweight individuals are discriminated against in the labor market.

Bad credit is similar to being overweight. It suggests poor planning, even though there may be individual cases where bad credit may have been the result of bad luck. Being laid off as a result of the financial crisis comes to mind. Still, it carries a stigma in our society because it is a more general indicator about people’s behavior.

Ronald S. Miolla

Associate Professor of Finance at Concordia University, School of Management

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

It is important to understand that the credit score will affect borrowing rates, and is often used to measure responsibility for job applicants and car insurance rates. I am pleased that two thirds of respondents know that their credit score is not public information.

Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?

Since 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit, this signals that many individuals use the credit score as a reflection of financial responsibility and possibly also see it as an indicator of a person’s level of self-control.

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

I don’t like the use of the term money. It is a very general term, which is easy to misinterpret. I see the term money usually used as a unit of measure, like inches or pounds. As it relates to being a stressor, money is most likely referring to the access to output like food, transportation and housing. If an individual does not have access to a base amount of output, then some stress is appropriate and will hopefully motivate them to work more to get more access to outputs.

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

Well, bad credit is a situation that can be fixed. I think good health is more important. Bad credit is usually caused by overuse of prior credit. Most people would be better served financially and emotionally if they used borrowed funds less. They would feel more control and pay less (or no) interest, if they saved for purchases and paid in cash rather than with borrowed funds. This would reduce stress as required future payments would be eliminated. I like to tell people that borrowing today is like volunteering for a pay-cut later.

Jacob P. Sybrowsky

Associate Dean in the Woodbury School of Business at Utah Valley University

What is your reaction to one-third of survey respondents believing that anyone can access their credit score/report, as if it is public information?

Honestly, I’m quite shocked that it is that high. There is certainly a need for more education with regard to how credit scores are generated, how information is gathered, how they are used and the impact that they have on financial well-being. It is understandable though as we hear about credit scores in the media constantly and most households get mail on a near daily basis that references their credit.

Why do you think 49% of people would not marry someone with bad credit?

It’s an interesting perception. I would assume there is an underlying assumption that those with bad credit are disorganized and/or have other less-desirable traits. While there is significant research connecting poor credit to a variety of poor decision making skills, I wouldn’t recommend ending a relationship with someone based on credit alone.

Why is money our leading societal stressor?

We live in a very consumer based society. There is significant focus on getting ahead and making more. Money is seen as a source of power by some and a source of anxiety for others. We’re bombarded with claims that we can make more money or ways that we can keep more for times of greater need. I believe the best way to combat the stress is with a sound financial plan. A good financial plan will help individuals and families understand where they actually stand and where they would like to go. It will also outline a pathway to accomplish their ultimate objectives.

Why do you think people would prefer to be overweight, to have bad eyesight and to be going bald than to have bad credit?

Clearly, there is significant stress surrounding the impact of credit in our lives. The good news is that you can have it all; you can be well within your target BMI, have great eyesight, a full-head of hair and exceptional credit. The key is understanding what goes into a credit score and how to manage it and build it over time. Correct knowledge will decrease the stress that individuals and families feel.