Getting Your Teen’s FICO Score Ready, Before They Head Off To College by Magali Courbage

I am an official brand ambassador for FICO. While I receive compensation for my participation as a brand ambassador, opinions are mine.

Personal finance is very “personal.” It’s always a breath of fresh air when we receive a nod that we’re on the right path when others are transparent in sharing their financial journeys. We’re excited to introduce you to this three-part series in collaboration with FICO. You’ll hear stories from FICO Score Open Access Team Members on how taking control of their financial health was not only beneficial to them personally but also for their family members.

Getting your teenager ready for college not only involves researching universities, applying and being accepted, it’s also about preparing them to be adults. Responsibilities such as establishing and managing their credit profile are now our reality as my daughter prepares for college in the fall. Since the beginning of her junior year, she has been exposed to college research, essays and applications. Now as a senior, she has been researching more schools, editing more essays, to finally hit the send button at 11:59pm on the last day each application is due. Sounds familiar? Well, be reassured, teaching them healthy credit behavior is probably a lot easier, and definitely as important. This is why we started showing her steps to establish credit at the same time as we started college research. Now, where to start? We started from what we knew and how we can relate these behaviors to teenager priorities:

Payment History represents 35% of your score. At this point, there isn’t much of Paying Your Debt On Time since she’s not 18 – thus unable to establish a credit account, however a checking account can help teach her to manage her money responsibly, such as “if I spend all my money on clothes, I will not be able to order my lunches for next month”.

Amount You Owe represents 30% of your score. We’re prepared to get her a student credit card on her 18thbirthday. This new responsibility will teach her about paying bills monthly and most importantly the concept of “If I use up all of my available credit, I won’t have any room for other expenses.”

Length of Credit History represents 15% of your score. As we await for her to have credit in her own name, we’ve added her as an authorized user on our own credit card account. Authorized users may use the account, but are not financially responsible for any payment (from the creditors perspective anyway! Scary). The good thing is that primary users may set a limit to the amount authorized users may spend each month (phew! Better). Once my bank has my daughter’s SSN, and they include her on their reporting, her first footprint in the credit world has been made – now we let time run its course.

New Credit represents 10% of your score. The student credit card (we mentioned above) and any other new credit account she applies for, will enter in this category, and too many new account inquiries may hurt her credit profile. She’ll just need to be aware and careful to only seek the credit she needs – and more importantly – can manage.

Types of Credit in Use represents 10% of your score. A student loan would enter in this category, but we’re waiting to see where she goes to college, what the financial options are, and if a student loan is the best fit. Over the course of her credit journey, it’s likely that installment loans (car, etc.) are in her future.

The earlier you use credit the sooner your payment history and length of credit history will start growing. A good credit score is not only important when getting ready for large purchases like a car or a house, it is also the reflection of responsible behavior that many organizations look at when evaluating you, such as insurers or employers.

We’ve planted the seeds for her use of credit. We’re also working to teach her responsible financial behavior and the hardest part? Waiting on the college responses!

The FICO Score Open Access is a program that helps educate consumers on FICO Scores and increases consumer access to FICO Score.

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The Finance Bar is a personal finance suite helping women and couples achieve financial wellness through financial therapy, education, and an innovative learning hub on wheels. Creator Marsha Barnes is Certified in Financial Therapy, Financial Social Work, and serves as an Official FICO Brand Ambassador, and was named GOBankingRates’ Best Money Expert in the Net-Worth Category.

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