Some people retire their concerns over having a good credit score when they retire from the workforce. They assume that their credit scores no longer matter because they don’t expect to apply for new loans. A 2017 survey by the credit-reporting agency TransUnion found that only 16% of people in or nearing retirement still considered their credit scores to be a top financial priority.
But credit scores do matter to retirees. The lower your score, the higher your auto insurance premiums might climb. Also, a lower score might affect your ability to do other things such as pass a credit check if you move to a rental apartment or retirement facility…or obtain a credit card with an attractive rewards program…or borrow to pay unexpected large medical bills.
In addition to mistakes such as failing to pay bills, here are a few trouble spots that can undercut credit scores…
• Cosigning loans for adult children and grandchildren. Cosigners agree to be legally
responsible for someone else’s debt, and this arrangement often goes wrong—a 2016 survey found that 38% of cosigners were forced to make payments on loans that weren’t theirs, while 28% saw their credit scores fall.
What to do: If a relative asks you to cosign for a car loan, mortgage or rental-apartment lease and you want to help, offer to assist in a way that doesn’t put your savings—and your credit score—at risk. Help the relative find a more affordable used car…or let him/her stay in your home, rent-free, while he works to improve his own credit score.
• Closing credit card accounts to simplify finances. About one-third of people who are at or near retirement intend to reduce their credit card use, according to the TransUnion survey. But using credit cards less often and canceling some cards can result in lower credit scores. Why? Having fewer cards means that these people have less credit available to them, which tends to increase the percentage of available credit that they use, a major negative in credit scoring.
What to do: Keep your credit cards open even if you don’t need them. It’s reasonable to close cards you don’t need that charge an annual fee.
• Identity theft. People age 60 and up are favorite targets of identity thieves, which can devastate credit scores.
What to do: Place a credit freeze on your credit report with all three credit-reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is no longer a fee for doing this, and it greatly decreases the odds that an identity thief will be able to open accounts in your name.