Building a credit history takes time. Establishing a credit history early in life can help ensure you have access to affordable credit when you need it. The problem is that people tend to learn about credit and finances through trial and error. This is unfortunate because recovering from financial mistakes takes time, too. In fact, it could take years to rebound from one financial misstep.
This trend is especially common for young adults who are just beginning to get their financial feet wet, and it’s one of the many reasons credit education and improving the financial health of consumers of all ages is core to our mission at Experian.
As Director of Consumer Education and Advocacy, I get the opportunity to talk to a variety of students and young adults across the country on a regular basis. Millennials and Gen Z are often labeled slackers, but I don’t believe that for an instant. They experienced the financial crisis firsthand in their early years, and they really don’t want to repeat what their parents went through.
Can you blame them, really?
One thing we know for certain about young adults is they are very interested in learning as much as they can about money, finance and credit, and it’s our goal to be an educational resource to them.
As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. We have a chance to give younger generations the information and tools to know more than previous generations did at their ages. Here are some of my favorite tried and true tips to help set young adults up for credit success:
- Start small and grow slowly. A secured account with a small credit limit can establish your credit history and help you start saving at the same time. Good credit and strong savings habits go hand-in-hand. You don’t need a credit card with a high limit to have good credit.
- Use the credit you have wisely. Good credit scores are not about having a lot of credit, but rather about how you use the credit you have available. Make a small purchase each month and pay it in full. That will show you can use credit well without taking on debt.
- Use your cell phone to improve your credit. With Experian Boost, you can add positive telecom and utility payments to your credit history and possibly boost your credit score. In the past, failing to pay your utility or cell phone bills could hurt your credit, but paying on time didn’t help. With Experian Boost, that’s changed.
- Use technology to make managing your credit automatic. Millennials and Gen Zers are the most technologically savvy generations in our history. Use technology, such as online banking apps and credit management tools like the Experian app, to automate savings and payments, to alert you to potential fraud and to track your progress as you build your credit history.
We know helping people better understand and access credit is a team effort, and we work closely with our advocacy networks to increase our impact.
We recently joined the American Bankers Association to provide young adults with financial education. Leading up to Get Smart About Credit Day, we hosted a Facebook Live with Jeni Pastier, Director of Financial Education Programs for the American Bankers Association to address credit topics young adults typically don’t understand or know about at all.