You may be thousands of dollars in debt, but do you really understand how the credit system works? Take our pop quiz to find out.
If you’re like some Americans, you could be upward of $130,000 in debt.
Bloomberg reports that most of that money might be tied up in your mortgage, but there could be plenty of credit card debt in the mix, too. The news agency looked at Census Bureau data and found the average U.S. household owed $7,000 in unsecured debt, such as credit cards and student loans, in 2011. For households led by young adults (those younger than 35), the average unsecured debt jumped to $9,700.
With all that money due to creditors, we wondered how well Americans actually understand debt and credit. Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson headed to Times Square to find out. See if you can do as well as the woman on the street in the video below, and then keep reading for more information about each answer.
You want to help your son get a car, so you co-sign on the loan. Now, he’s stopped paying. That’s his problem, right?
Actually, it’s your problem, too.
Co-signing on a loan is the same as taking out the loan yourself. If your son, or whomever you were trying to help, stops paying, it can do a real number on your credit score. Even worse, a creditor can come after you for payment, and you could find yourself on the receiving end of collection calls or, worse, a garnishment order.
For more information, read our article on three reasons you shouldn’t co-sign a loan (as well as advice on how to protect yourself if you do), Stacy’s advice on co-signing leases and how to get out from under a co-signed loan (hint: it isn’t easy).
Mr. Right has the wrong credit score. If you marry him, your credit score will take a nose dive, too. True or false?
Married couples share many things, but a credit score is not one of them. His bad credit will not affect your score, just as your good credit won’t pull his up.
However, just because marriage won’t affect your credit score doesn’t mean it won’t affect your creditworthiness. Joint account applications will look at both spouses’ scores, and that could mean less favorable loan terms if one spouse has a poor credit history.
Here’s what FICO, that’s the company calculating the most commonly used credit scores, has to say on the subject:
Most mortgage lenders will check both of your FICO scores when evaluating your loan application. Even if your wife’s good score would qualify her for a loan with a good interest rate, your bad score may mean that, as a couple, you would only qualify for a loan at a worse interest rate. If your score is very bad, you may not qualify at all.
You can read more in our article on six common myths regarding marriage and credit.