6 Ways to Keep a Stellar Credit Score in Retirement

Many seniors probably don’t consider building and maintaining credit to be a top financial issue. After all, the home and car are paid off, and everything else is contained within a careful budget, right?

Not exactly. While that might have been the norm for retirees in the past, it is changing now.

In fact, during the period between 2003 and 2015, per capita debt at age 65 grew by 48%, with big increases in mortgage, auto loan and student loan debt, according to a report published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Since today’s seniors borrow more, keeping a good credit score is paramount. Following are a few golden rules for maintaining good credit in your golden years.

Have at least one credit card

Seniors managing well on Social Security and their retirement savings might be tempted to go cash-only. But that can be a bad idea, warns credit expert Curtis Arnold.

“If they stop using credit cold turkey, their credit score is likely to be adversely affected,” says Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com.

The trick is to use that credit card, but pay off the full balance each month. That way, you’re charging only what you can actually afford, and you won’t accumulate a larger balance from month to month, which can be detrimental to your credit score.

Beverly Harzog, a consumer advocate and the credit card expert for U.S. News & World Report, regularly hears from divorced or widowed senior women whose husbands handled the finances. Spouses who never signed for loans and never had credit cards in their names can be invisible to the big three credit bureaus. That means they might not have access to loans.

“You don’t build credit as a married couple. Everyone should have a credit card in their own name to build credit themselves,” says Harzog, author of “Confessions of a Credit Card Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made.”

Sometimes your status as an “authorized user” on a spouse’s card does get reported to the credit bureaus. Find out for sure by requesting a free copy of your credit report.

If you don’t have credit in your own name, apply for a card right away. Just make sure to choose a card that reports to the three main credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center to find the right credit card for you.

Separate your credit accounts if you are divorcing

What if both partners have decent credit scores when they decide to part ways later in life? Personal finance expert Liz Weston notes that “gray divorce” is becoming more common. In such cases, it’s essential to split credit accounts when you split with a spouse.

One of Weston’s readers checked his credit score and found that his soon-to-be-ex-wife had stopped paying on a joint account. He immediately paid it off, but the damage to his credit score was done.

“It’s so important to separate financial accounts when you’re separating from a spouse,” Weston says.

Guard your cards

Does a cleaning service or personal care attendant drop by your home regularly? Make sure you lock your credit cards away in a file cabinet or other safe place.

Also, do not leave a wallet or purse lying around in plain view. And don’t let a handyman roam around the house unattended.

Refuse to co-sign

Do not put your finances at risk by co-signing a loan or other form of borrowing. Perhaps it’s true that your grandson is having a hard time building credit as an unemployed 22-year-old. But he needs to figure things out for himself. In other words, welcome to adulthood, where things don’t always go the way you’d hoped.

Be vigilant for ID theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone at any age, but we are particularly vulnerable to scams of all types as we age. So, monitor your credit report for accuracy, lest scammers wreck your good name — and your credit score.

If you find a problem, the “Identity Theft” page on the Federal Trade Commission website offers step-by-step instructions on how to fix things. Also, check out “Free App Helps You Avoid — or Recover From — Identity Theft.”

Don’t overdo it

Spending almost to a card’s limit is a bad idea, even if you do pay it off each month. That’s because credit bureaus may see only the balance on the day it’s reported, as opposed to a zero balance month after month. Keep charges below 30% of your credit limit at any given time.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
9 Affordable Products That Could Save Your Life
9 Affordable Products That Could Save Your Life

Some of these products you may already own. Others you’ll want to order from Amazon ASAP.

15 Ways to Never Pay Full Price for Anything
15 Ways to Never Pay Full Price for Anything

A good deal can get you 50 percent off — and more. Here are 15 tips to get you there.

9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive
9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive

These products from Amazon add elegance to your home without the expense.

10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself
10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself

Making any of these key foods yourself will improve meals — and your budget.

12 Easy Ways To Make Make Money Online Without Leaving Home
12 Easy Ways To Make Make Money Online Without Leaving Home

If you’re hanging around the house a lot these days — and who isn’t? — use your time to make some extra cash.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them
15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

11 Disgusting Household Items You Should Toss Already
11 Disgusting Household Items You Should Toss Already

Never keep these items past their prime.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.