For me, getting old led to retirement, and retirement meant saying goodbyes. Some were sad goodbyes. Others not so much. Three of my favorite goodbyes were to credit reporting agencies.
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax
Hasta la vista, assholes.
I need you no longer. My house is paid for. My car is paid for, and the next time I move it will be to long-term care. I will not be starting a business, needing a loan, or doing anything that requires your permission. My current bank loves me and provides me with two credit cards, which I use and pay off at the end of every month.
Go peddle your credit ratings somewhere else.
For a long time, when I was young, I didn’t use credit. Times were different. I paid cash, wrote checks, and did just fine. It was not a problem until it was.
While I wasn’t paying attention, credit and credit cards had become the driver’s licenses of economic life. To get into the game I needed credit and to get credit I had to pay interest to somebody.
To establish credit, I bought a car. I could have paid for the car in cash, but that wouldn’t have built credit. So instead of paying all at once, I found a co-borrower with credit, bought the car on time, made payments, including hefty interest, and after a year, paid it off. By going through this elaborate nonsense, and proving I could and would pay interest to a bank, I was in.
The credit reporting agencies gave me a conditional stamp of approval, and I set off to explore the economic waters.
Once I had a car and a credit rating, I bought a house. That was when I really learned about interest. For every thousand dollars I paid monthly to the mortgage company, ninety-five percent of it was interest. My father told me not to waste my money renting and paying a landlord, so I threw my money in the form of interest at a mortgage lender. Dad said that was smarter. It didn’t feel smarter.
Dad said the value of the house would appreciate, I would build equity, and then reap a financial reward when I sold the house. I bought three houses. That never happened.
I never liked paying interest. I don’t know anybody who does. It feels like giving away money and getting nothing for it. I have no religious or moral objections to interest. I enjoy collecting interest just fine. It feels like getting money for doing nothing.
The deal with the car happened years ago, and it was the first and only time I bought a car on credit. Since then, credit has become necessary for nearly every aspect of economic life. For my grandchildren, lack of credit makes housing either unavailable or very expensive. They can’t buy online. They pay a hefty premium for insurance and have trouble even opening a bank account. It’s sad.
Once I had credit I protected it. I cowered and groveled and paid tribute to the three hideous gorgons who patrolled the financial seas upon which I sailed. But I do so no longer.
Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are dead to me now.
For years, I kept tabs on my credit rating like I did my bank balance and my weight, but not anymore. I have locked each account to prevent fraudsters from opening new credit lines and never intend to unlock them. I still have a service that notifies me by email of changes in my credit rating. The emails come to me with a header telling me my credit score has changed. I don’t open them.
I could cancel the service that sends me those emails, but I take a perverse pleasure in seeing them and not opening them, thereby reminding myself that I no longer pay interest to anybody and no longer care about credit reports.
As I get older, fresh worries emerge. Health, mobility, cognitive decline. But at the same time, old worries disappear. Among the old ones that have gone away are credit ratings and credit reports.