While plenty of other financial aspects of our lives may have been sent into a downward spiral since the recession hit in 2008, there is a bright spot in all that job loss and economic gloom: On average, our credit scores have stayed steady. But what exactly does that mean?
SmartMoney cites recent data which shows that the average FICO score of 690 in April is in line with last year’s average scores as well as those in 2007. FICO scores are one of the most important numbers lenders look at to determine a borrower’s credit-worthiness before handing out any money.
But there are two explanations for how this could have happened, say experts — either FICO has something wrong with its formula or that score just doesn’t mean much anymore.
FICO says it’s not to blame. With around 200 million U.S. consumers with a FICO score, a huge amount of them would have to be affected in order for the average to shift noticeably, says a spokesman for myFICO.com.
He says it’s better to focus on the distribution of the score, rather than the average — more consumers have moved away from the middle average in both directions. Things have either gotten much better or much worse, as the spokesman puts it, there are “two opposing forces at play.”
Other credit pros don’t really get it. How could so many homes have gone into foreclosure, and so many people have filed for personal bankruptcy, without sending FICO scores crashing down?
Having an average FICO score might not be all well and good either, as lenders are hiking up the minimum score needed to qualify for low interest rates. One expert says the most affordable mortgages are given to borrowers who have at least a 740 FICO score, an increase from 680 in 2007.
Increasing your score can be hard if you’ve missed payments in the past or exhibited other negative behavior. Continuing to pay down debt will always do you good, as that segment accounts for 30% of your FICO score.
Recession’s Surprise Impact on Credit Scores [SmartMoney]