Yesterday I took part in a TweetChat called #CreditChat along with Experian, one of the national credit reporting agencies, and Mint.com. About a quarter of a million Twitter accounts were reached by our hour long session.
We covered topics ranging from credit scores to credit reports to building credit to how to get errors off your credit reports. Fun was had by all…or at least I thought as much.
Whenever I do one of these fairly high profile events I try to be “Fair and Balanced”, to use the FOX News moniker. I don’t ever take a position that the credit industry is perfect and I never take the position that the credit industry is broken…because neither is true. I am not a consumer advocate and I am not an industry shill. In fact, I am paid the sum total of $0 by creditors and credit reporting agencies so I have no financial pressure to agree with them on any topic. And, I don’t have a consumer “product” other than a few books I’ve written.
To date I’ve made less than $1,000 from my book sales (that’s $47 for every year I’ve been in the credit industry) and no consumer has ever EVER paid me a dime for anything. I’m an umpire calling balls and strikes…I don’t care who wins the game.
Still, after the event yesterday I was not surprised that I started to see messages from people suggesting that I’m one-sided or that the industry is terrible or that creditors are evil or that credit scores force you into debt…none of which is actually true. I’ve become familiar with these positions as several high profile, well paid, and extremely wealthy self proclaimed “experts” love to spread them. I don’t need to name them because if you can’t figure out who they are then you’re not paying attention.
They’ve got televisions shows on major networks. They’ve got buses with their names and pictures emblazoned on the side. They’ve written dozens of books, spoken at countless events, and have made countless millions of dollars at the same time! And, some of them have even filed bankruptcy.
The one thing that they all have in common is that none of them have worked one day in what I refer to as “today’s credit environment.” None of them have ever built a credit scoring model. None of them have ever really been educated on how credit reports are compiled. None of them really understand risk based lending. But, they do look good on TV and they’ve all got disciples spreading their word.
What frustrates me more than anything isn’t that these people make a great living selling products and demand huge speaker’s fees.
“What frustrates me more than anything isn’t that these people make a great living selling products and demand huge speaker’s fees.”
What bothers me is the fact that the people who fall for their “message” don’t appear to have done any independent research on the topics themselves and simply believe what they’ve heard or read simply because of who it was that delivered the message.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m capitalist numero uno! If you can figure out a legal way to make a buck, and a lot of them, then go for it! I, however, don’t want a legion of fans who buy products from me simply regurgitating my thoughts and opinions. That’s creepy! I want people to be armed with knowledge so that they can make their own decisions about things like credit reporting, credit scoring, credit cards, and debt. I LOVE it when people disagree with me and take me to task on certain topics…but only when they’re defending THEIR thoughts…not the thoughts of the author of some book.
Don’t be a helpless sheep following the herd. Do your due diligence and educate yourself on the topics surrounding consumer credit. Credit cards aren’t evil. Banks aren’t evil. Credit reporting agencies aren’t evil. Credit scores aren’t broken. In fact, I’d bet many of your 401k and IRA investments are somewhat dependent on banks and other financial services players. Some of you may actually work for a bank, or have family and friends that work for a bank or a credit bureau or a collection agency or a credit card issuer.
The opinions offered here are my own…but you probably already knew that.
Credit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, founder of www.creditexpertwitness.com and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognised credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. You can follow John on Twitter here.