Real Money, Real Experts

Demystifying Credit with Experian’s Rod Griffin

April 12, 2021 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 24
Real Money, Real Experts
Demystifying Credit with Experian’s Rod Griffin
Show Notes Transcript

What’s the difference between a credit report and a credit score?
Can COVID-19 have an impact on my score?
How often should I be checking my credit?
You've got credit scores and we have answers! On this week’s episode of Real Money, Real Experts. Co-hosts Rebecca Wiggins and Dr. Mary Bell Carlson dig deep into all things credit. With guest Rod Griffin, Senior Director of Consumer Education and Advocacy for Experian, they talk through what every consumer should know about credit and how to help counsel clients through issues.


Show Notes:

00:52 Rod Introduction
3:58 History of Experian and the Big Three (Credit Agencies)
7:50 Difference between US Credit Industry and the Credit Industry Abroad
10:38 Differences Between a Credit Score and a Credit Report
12:24 Good Credit Score and its Impact on your Financial Wellness
15:05 Common Myths about Credit
20:00 Checking your Credit Report
22:49 Using Experian Boost with your Clients
25:39 Identity Theft
29:43 Filing a Dispute 


Show Notes:

Credit Repair Kit for Dummies-5th edition : https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Credit+Repair+Kit+For+Dummies%2C+5th+Edition-p-9781119771067
Rod is donating any proceeds he receives to nonprofits that promote financial education and financial inclusion
History of Experian: https://www.experianplc.com/media/1323/8151-exp-experian-history-book_abridged_final.pdf
Free credit report through Experian:  https://www.experian.com/consumer-products/free-credit-report.html
Annual Credit Report.com: Get 1 free credit report each year from all 3 credit reporting agencies (weekly during the pandemic): https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
Experian Boost: https://www.experian.com/boost
File Fraud Report: https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html
Filing a dispute via Experian: https://www.experian.com/disputes/main.html'
Connect with Experian: Twitter or on Instagram
Connect with Rod: Twitter or on LinkedIn

 

Ways to connect with Experian via credit chats and education: www.experian.com/crediteducation

#CreditChat (ex.pn/creditchat)
#CreditChatLive (ex.pn/creditchatlive)

AFCPE Membership:
 https://www.afcpe.org/membership/
AFCPE Education and Training:
https://www.afcpe.org/education-and-training/





Intro:

Welcome to Real Money, Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® or AFCPE®. And I'm your cohost, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson. I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor®, or AFC®, and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that personal finance professionals care about: helping clients, building community and your professional growth. Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca. This is Mary.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Thanks for taking the time to join us today.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Today on the show we are talking with Rod Griffin. Rod is the Senior Director of Consumer Education and Advocacy for Experian, where he is responsible for Experian’s national consumer education programs and outreach. Rod is a well known spokesperson on consumer issues, (particularly on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft). One thing you may not know that he is also a co-author of the “Credit Repair Kit for Dummies – 5th edition” from Wylie Publishing. For more than two decades, he and his team have published Ask Experian, the industry’s first online consumer credit advice column. I’ve personally had the pleasure of working with Rod over the years through the Jump$tart Coalition Board, where he always brings wit and wisdom. We're se excited to talk with you - welcome!

Rod Griffin:

Rebecca. Thank you so much. It probably more wit than wisdom, but I hope I have some wisdom to share.

Rebecca Wiggins:

You have lots of that.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Rod, We'd love to hear more about your start in this industry. And tell us a little bit more about your story. What brought you to this field ?

Rod Griffin:

Yeah, it's kind of dumb luck, which, you know, if you're positioning yourself well, that happens. I was actually a reporter and newspaper person originally. And so my passion has always been to help inform and educate people. Went from newspapers to city, government in communications, municipal government in Texas. And my wife and I were looking at the one ads for our daughter one day, 24 years ago now, and saw this ad for a writer for education resources for Experian. And I just off the cuff said, I think I could do that. And she said send a resume. And I said, well, I kind of like my government job. It's like great benefits, not great pay, no stress, but she said, send a resume anyway. So I did, and I was fortunate to get hired by Maxine Sweet, who I worked for for 17 years and started the first online, what we call the online credit advice column. We called it Ask Max, For Maxine, and that became Ask Experian. And about 15 or 16 years later, we found out that it was the first blog. Who knew it was a blog. We thought it was a column like Ann Landers. So if you're old enough to remember her, but that was kind of how I came into the field. And along the way of, have had the good fortune of working with brilliant people and organizations like AFCPE® and Jump$tart, and a number of others and am fortunate to share what I've learned along the way. And I think that's, you know, what really motivates me and makes me feel fulfilled is that I get to help people everyday just by sharing information.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Awesome. It sounds like you've found your passion along the way too.

Rod Griffin:

Yeah. And it's it's and it is, I mean, it's great to get up and go to work and do something you love every day. You know, my I've told our CEO, I have the best job in the company and I don't know if you should do that, but I did anyway.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So Rod, tell us a little bit more about the history of Experian and the Big Three. And please tell us what the Big Three are.

Rod Griffin:

Okay. The Big Three are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. And in our world, that's the Big Three credit reporting companies. Experian, in our view, it was the first credit reporting agency. We began with a company called Chilton and Jim Chilton in Dallas at the turn of the century, between the 18th and 19th century started going from merchant to merchant in Dallas and taking notes in a little book and would ask them to, to share information about how their customers paid their credit lines. And he would take notes on things like John Smith drinks a bit too much, but his dad will cover the bill.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Wow.

Rod Griffin:

We don't do that anymore. We're very precise and very objective in the data. So that grew from notes in a notebook to people at telephones with file cabinets. And you would call as a business and ask for a credit report. That was then acquired the Chilton corporation along with a couple of others were acquired by TRW in the sixties and the R in TRW, Mr. Ramos, created computer-based credit reporting. And so it became computer driven and data-driven. TRW then in the late 19 nine, mid 1990s, right before I joined the company, spun off the credit reporting piece of that business. I kind of jokingly say it was because we were too controversial. Because TRW wanted to focus on they're an engineering company with this credit reporting business on the side. And they wanted to focus on building bombs and missiles. That was less controversial, so jokingly. But , we became independent, became Experian and we were acquired by a, an investment company called Bain and Lee capital, who then sold us in six months for , at the time, a record profit of several billion dollars to an organization called Great Universal Stores and CCN group, not CNN CCN , which was a, scoring company , in a data company in Britain. And so we became a British company under GUS. And a conglomerate that had us, the British version of like Home Depot and Burberry oddly. So we could get a discount at Burberry for a while, and it still wasn't enough for me to shop there. So we then GUS then divested and we became a publicly traded company. We're actually traded on the London Stock Exchange. Which then people go, okay, so a British company has my credit information and not exactly. We operate independently in each nation. Experian now is the largest information services company. We operate in 40 different countries, but we operate within the bounds of the laws within those individual companies. So in the US our US headquarters of North America Headquarters are in Costa Mesa, California, and your credit report never leaves the US. In the UK, they have their own credit reports. Our CEO Craig Boundy came to the US from the UK. And when he did, he had to start all over again, because his UK Experian credit report didn't come with him. So we don't, we don't transfer data across national boundaries. So while we're globally, a British company, in the U S you have a us credit report, and we do not share it across national boundaries.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

That leads me to my next question for you. How is the credit industry different here in the US than it is in other countries?

Rod Griffin:

Very different , and much more mature. We were the first to really have a credit reporting system like we do. And the Big Three kind of circling back, we all operate nationally now compete against each other. Kind of like if you think about General Motors and Ford and Chrysler , you know, they all build cars, but they compete. We do the same thing with credit reporting. We believe that Experian, we have the best, most accurate, most complete credit reporting system , in the country. But, you know, we, we in the US, because of our automated credit reporting system, enable people to move from one part of the country to another. So if you move from New York to Los Angeles, you maintain that credit history. It's there to work for you as a consumer, you can buy a house, get a car, it might play a part in getting the job that you're moving for. And you can furnish your new apartment or your new house, and still have access to financial services that you would need. In other parts of the world. It's, it's considerably different than some places. They don't have credit reporting at all. And so you, if you have credit agreements, it's based on individual personal relationships , still. In other parts of the world, credit reporting is solely negative information. So you wouldn't have a credit history unless you've messed up and haven't paid your debts. We believe in the US that, what we call full file credit reporting. So having positive and negative information reported helps people build a credit history, have a tool that's there to work for them because it shows that you're a good credit risk. And the kind of the end result there is that credit in the US has lower cost than just about anywhere else in the world. If, for example, you go to other parts of the world in the US an average credit card rate is about 17% interest rate, not really low, but it's compared to other parts of the world. It's on average, more like 25 to 27%. So significantly less expensive. Because we have a national credit reporting system like we do in the US you can buy a house here. If you have good credit for less than 2% interest, that's simply not possible anywhere else in the world. It'd be in because they have no means to assess risk and manage risk. And so, you know , that's, that's what the real value of credit reporting is. It actually empowers more people to have access to financial services at lower costs than anywhere else in the world.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Wow. That's really, really fascinating. Thanks for sharing all that history with us too. Let's shift gears just a bit, and I want to dig in a little bit more to maybe some basic questions around the myths with credit and credit reports and just some sort of 1:1, you know , lessons from you on credit. So how about first, just tell us what is the difference between a credit score and a credit report?

Rod Griffin:

So a credit report and a credit score , that's probably the most common myth we hear. People think credit reports and scores are the same thing, and they're not. A credit report is a record of your financial agreements, your debt specifically, and how you're repaying them. A credit score is a tool that's used by lenders to analyze that information and predict the likelihood that you'll repay a debt as agreed. So the way I kind of described that in very simple terms is if you think about being a student, if you write a paper in class, that paper is like the credit report. As you use credit, you're writing that credit history. You're determining how you're going to use the credit that's available to you. When you apply for a loan, you go to the bank and the bank is like the teacher in class. They're going to look at that credit report and they're going to grade it like the teacher grades the paper. And that grade is like the credit score that represents the quality of the work you've done with your credit history, much like a grade represents the quality of the work you did with that paper. So a grade on the paper is like a score. A score is is not part of a credit report. It's a separate process. That simply is a tool used to analyze or review, that information and help lenders predict lending risk.

Rebecca Wiggins:

That's, I love that analogy. That's such a great way to describe it. So, okay. Going with that analogy, then what is a good credit score and how does that score, much like a grade on a paper, impact your overall financial wellness?

Rod Griffin:

Good score is a score that gets you the credit you need at the rates you want to pay. That's a kind of a tongue in cheek response, but true. And the reason is we talked about the Big Three. There are three credit reporting companies. You have three credit reports, but there are literally hundreds of different credit scores. And the score the lender uses may have different scales. So the good score depends on the score that, in the scale for the score, the lender is using. That said, generally, you know , a good score is going to be somewhere around 700 or above. That's going to qualify you, maybe not at the best rates. Great scores are going to generally be 750 or higher. If you have a 750, usually you're going to qualify for the best terms of the best rates. Scores below 700 falling under 680 or so will be considered sub-prime, and you may not qualify. So that's kind of the rule of thumb. If you have scores that are 700 and higher, you're on the right track, 750 or higher, you're going to have really strong scores and probably get the credit you want at rates you want to pay. The best rates available.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Now Rod, let me jump in real quick. One of the things to note though, is, as you mentioned before, there's hundreds of different scores and different scales. So it's really important to know what the scale is and how it correlates. Is that correct?

Rod Griffin:

Yes. And people will often ask me, you know, how do I raise my score 20 points? Or, you know, what's the exact number I need. And I, you know, I tell them, it depends. I can't really give you that number if I do, I'll be wrong because you'll go to a lender who uses a different score from a different company. There are two primary or best known scoring companies. Vantage Score and FICO. Most people have heard the term FICO. They don't always realize that's a separate company. They're the ones that create the algorithms and own those scores. And they're proprietary to them. Those models today, and what we call models are, are the formulas , are based on a scale of generally 350, 300 or 350 to 850. That's the most common scale. However, there are FICO scores for auto lending, for example, that actually go to 900. So you could have a score better than 850 and still not be the highest score possible. And so rule of thumb 300 to 850, roughly is going to be the , the most common scale.

Rebecca Wiggins:

And what would you say are the most common myths, maybe the top one or two myths that you hear about credit a lot?

Rod Griffin:

Know , I think the first would be that if you pay off a bad debt, it will go away. So if you have a collection account, you pay it off. It's not going to fall off the credit report, your credit reports or credit history. And that's a common misunderstanding that confuses people sometimes. You know, they'll tell me I've paid it off. Why is it still there? Well, it's a history. The good news is if you have a collection account today, especially if you pay off that collection account, most scores and newest scores will ignore it when they calculate the score. So paying off a collection account may still be in the credit report, but it could help your credit scores immediately. That's an important one, your credit reports a credit history. So you have to keep that in mind. If you have a , have late payments, your credit history isn't permanent. People think it's kind of like that, going back to the school analogy, a permanent record, it's not. So you can change your credit history over time. So if you catch up on late payments, eventually they'll fall off of the credit report. You can restore that credit history. So if you've had some issues know that it's not permanent, that you can change that history, you can own it and control it. That's really important. Another, you know, we kind of touched on the scoring thing. You know, credit score is part of a credit report. It's not, that's a very common myth. And I often hear people confuse credit reports and scores. So a credit score is not a credit report. I think that's a myth that we have to really address, you know, that they're two different things. Another kind of hard one, it's not doesn't affect everybody, but about half the population or half of the , the married population, a divorce decree does not, excuse me. A divorce decree does not remove your responsibility for accounts in the credit report. So, you know , the myth is if I have a divorce decree, I'm no longer responsible for that debt. If the divorce decree says I'm not, it's not true. A divorce decrees in agreement between the divorcing couple in the, in the courts. It does not break the contracts you have with your lenders. Like I said, I think that's a really important one. It's not always the most , common myth, but it's a really important one that, that, that I actually hear often. So that's really important. You know, I think we talked about scores , you know , credit score is not part of a credit report. Another myth is that there's only one score and it's on every credit report. And as I said, there are hundreds of different credit scores. They're not part of a credit report. That's a really important thing to understand.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Yeah, you've done a great job of explaining why too there's so many different scores. I hear that one a lot of, well, why is this score different than that score? And that's because there's so many different scores and it's looking at different reports. Do you have any follow-up to that?

Rod Griffin:

Yeah. So there are lots of scores because there's lots of kinds of lending and different types of lenders. And the , the scores are developed for specific kinds of lending, first. So if you're buying a house, they may use a different kind of score because they're looking at will you pay the mortgage loan on time? So the scoring systems are designed to help predict whether you'll pay a mortgage debt on time. If you're buying a car, the lender is going to look at a score specific for auto lending. Because they want to know that you'll pay your car loan on time. And they really don't care so much about your mortgage. If you're getting a credit card, they have a different score or different scores, because they're trying to determine whether you will pay your credit card on time and not really looking at your auto loans and mortgage loans. So different types of lending use different types of scores, but different types of lenders also use different scores. So if you're working with a credit union, they're going to use a different score than a national bank because their customers are different. And the , the characteristics of their customers that predict risk can be different. So they're going to have different scores to help determine the risk associated with their particular customers. So there are different scores, but you only have three credit reports. That's the important thing to remember. If you take care of your credit reports, you will have good credit scores. The, I think the most important thing I could share today is that every credit score uses the information from your credit reports to do the calculation. So if you have a good credit report or good credit history, you're going to have good credit scores. So take care of the credit report, your scores will take care of themselves.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Awesome. And you've just explained well to why we as consumers see a different score than even the mortgage lender would see, or the auto lender would see. You've also made a really good argument. That was my next question of why is it important to understand what's in your credit report? But I think you've just mentioned, it's important to know what's in that report because that then dictates the score and it helps, you know, what's inside of it. So as a followup to that, can you tell us how often people should check the reports and how they can do it?

Rod Griffin:

Yes. And you should check your report at, at a minimum once a year today with COVID and all the things we've been going through and the different kinds of agreements you might have and, and , plans you can have with lenders. It may make sense to check it more often. You can check your credit report at no cost once a week, with all three of the national credit reporting companies through annualcreditreport.com. And that's through at least April of next year. So for at least another year. So if you want to check your report, you can check it once a week at again, annualcreditreport.com. There's no cost to do that. And it does not affect your credit scores in any way. And so you don't have to worry about checking your own report. Another common myth that we should add to the list is checking your own report does not affect your credit scores and doesn't affect your ability to qualify for credit. And the common message, if you check your report it will your scores, it doesn't. So at least once a year, you can check it as often as once a week. You probably wouldn't see changes once a week, but you might. I also recommend that if you're planning to make a major credit purchase in the next three to six months, it makes sense to check your credit report several months ahead to make sure everything is okay, and that it's going to be there to work for you. And if anything needs to be improved or worked on, you'll have time to do that. So check your report three to six months in advance of any major credit purchase. And you may also want to check your credit report more often if you've been a victim of fraud or identity theft, it might make sense to subscribe to a monitoring service. Experian offers free subscriptions , through, through experian.com . And we'll notify you if you have any changes to the report. And you can check your report and a score, every 30 days, you get a new report score. So lots of ways to get free reports and scores and make sure that you're aware of , of what's happening in that report.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Rod, do you anticipate that once COVID is over that consumers will still be able to check their credit report once a week?

Rod Griffin:

I don't know. You know, right now we're looking, you know, a year out and we'll reevaluate when next year comes around , you know, it's, you know, like I said, you can subscribe to free monitoring services. There are ways to get free reports as well with additional tools beyond just that free report. So, I always recommend you take advantage of the tools that are available to you. And that's one of them.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Now tell us about Experian Boost and how professionals can use it with their clients.

Rod Griffin:

Thank you for bringing that up. Experian Boost is a tool that lets you as an individual, add your positive cell phone payments, your positive utility payments and your positive streaming services to your credit report as accounts. So if you , are, if you have a cell phone, you can give us permission to check your, your, either your checking account, savings account or credit card that you pay it with each month, capture that payment and include it as an account for your cell phone. If you are paying a natural gas bill or an electric bill or water bill, and you're paying them through a checking account, savings account, credit card, you can give us permission to check that. So experience boost is at a permission-based service that lets you add positive information to your credit report, that wasn't traditionally. Cell phone companies, utility companies, streaming services, didn't traditionally report your accounts unless, they went to collections. So the negative information would get there, but not the positive information. And at Experian , we thought you should get credit where credit is due, terrible pun, but true. You know, we, and we researched, studied it. We have something called our data labs that have studied millions of consumers and the effects of having that positive information reported and found that people who have what we call thin credit files or very little credit history or short history, or have had some issues, by adding that information can show that they should be able to qualify for credit or have better scores than they do, even though they've had some issues. And, you know, we think that's really important because it helps people who have traditionally been outside of the traditional credit system or banking system. And it helps us bring those people in so that they can get better services, lower cost services can break cycles of predatory lending and help people be more financially successful. And that's what boost is all about. And you can go to experian.com/boost and learn all about it.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Thank you. And these are all new features that have been recently added to a credit report, correct?

Rod Griffin:

Correct. Two years. So it was two years ago that we introduced Experian Boost and there've been more than 50 million scores boosted in the last two years.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And is this true across all three of the credit Bureau ?

Rod Griffin:

No. Boost is only an experienced service. So you would only see it in your Experian credit report at this time,

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Rod, we've done some recent episodes on identity theft and identity theft, as you know, is just a growing crime that many have become victims or will become victims of. We've heard a lot about credit freezes. Could you tell us more about how a consumer could help themselves when they've been a victim of identity theft and what a credit freeze or other credit reporting information is.

Rod Griffin:

Fraud and identity theft are a , a huge issue. And we've seen , sadly during the COVID when people are under stress and looking for help, the bad guys come out too. And so there's a lot going on with , attempts to defraud people. So we want to help protect them. From a credit reporting standpoint, there are a number of things you should do. If you believe you're a victim of identity theft, first, you can go to experian.com/fraud and have what we call an initial security alert added it's free. It says I may be a victim of identity theft before granting credit in my name, please take additional steps to verify my identity or call me. You can give us a telephone number. We'll send you a free report. When you have that report, if you find information that indicates you , you, you are a victim or you know that you are a victim, we encourage you to file a police report, which I've actually had happened. I was a victim of tax fraud , which had nothing to do with a credit report. They, there was a breach at the IRS and I got a tax refund check of a few years for $6,000. And I was really excited for about 30 seconds. I haven't filed by returns yet. Something's wrong. So , and I went to my little town in Texas, the police department, and they know what a fraud report is. Go to your police, your local police department, or you can file an online report with the FTC. Then affidavit the file. A police report is usually the easiest, most convenient. And , they'll know what to do with that. You can upload that and add what we call an extended fraud victim statement to your credit report. It says, I am a victim of identity theft. Before granting credit in my name, please call me. And you can provide two telephone numbers. Federal law requires that anyone who gets that report, particularly lenders must respond to those alerts and take what they call reasonable action. Like most will do exactly what they say. They'll give you a call or they'll take steps to verify your identity. So they must respond to them. And those, the extended alert lasts seven years. So it would be on the report for seven years. For most people that sufficient, that will protect your credit history and will alert anyone, anytime the reports requested. If however, there are ongoing issues, you might consider a what we call a credit freeze, and they're free as well. And a credit freeze will , will ostensibly lock your credit report until you provide a pin number to lift it. There are several things to understand though , with a credit freeze or alerts in as well, but , it was specifically with credit freezes credit freezes will not prevent identity theft. And so I always am concerned that people will have a false sense of security. As I said, in my example, there was a breach of the IRS and tax fraud was committed that did not involve a credit report. So it would not have triggered a freeze. So you need to understand that that's just one tool. So , that it will not, not prevent identity theft. Although I hear that often and that, that concerns me. The other thing to know is that there are a number of exceptions to a freeze. For example, if you are applying for an apartment lease the leasing agency can still get a credit report with a freeze in place. Employers can get a free, get a report with the freeze in place , law enforcement, obviously , if you have existing relationships with lenders, a freeze isn't triggered. So essentially a freeze will only be triggered if someone uses your identity to apply for a new credit account. That's a very limited situation. In, in fact, what we call true named fraud is the most rare form of identity theft. So I think it's critical to understand what a freeze does and does not do it's an additional tool, but it limited in its impact.

Rebecca Wiggins:

And what can someone do if it's maybe not fraudulent, but they just see incorrect information on their credit report.

Rod Griffin:

Absolutely. If you see something you believe is inaccurate or doesn't belong to you, you should dispute that information. Again, it's very simple to do with experience . If you go to experian.com/dispute. We will either provide a free report if you don't already have a current report. So we'll ask for some information and we'll provide a report right online. It's a security encrypted system. If you have a current copy of your consumer report, for example, you went to annualcreditreport.com and got a copy. You can put the report number in that will come up right on screen, really simple to do. And with each entry, there's a button that says, I need to dispute. You can click that button and follow the instructions. We'll provide information along the way and educational information. When you're, when you're finished entering your disputes, you hit submit. And it goes right into our dispute system and goes to the sources of that information, who then must verify or the information or tell us that it should be , updated in some way or removed from the report. We will notify you of the results of those disputes. It's very simple to do. If you disagree with the results, another thing that you should, that people should know is you should add what we call a statement of dispute to your credit report. It says, I disagree with the results that here's why, and we can help you do that again, online, you'll get instructions as you go through that dispute process.

Rebecca Wiggins:

So Rod, I'm just curious, speaking about COVID-19 a little bit, and from your vantage point in, you know, sort of from the credit side of the field, what changes or trends have you seen as a result of the pandemic?

Rod Griffin:

Yes, It's been really interesting. You would think that with something like COVID and the economy shutting down that people's credit would have suffered, their scores would have gone down. It's actually been the opposite. When COVID began people, based on what the data we were seeing started saving, they actually reduced their credit card balances and their delinquency rates have gone down and scores have actually gone up a little bit. So on the whole, people's behavior with their credit has been beneficial. They've actually done very well relative to what we've, you know, we've seen. So we've kind of continued a trend over the last decade , scores, gradually improving. So they've gone up a few points rather than down. So it's been really interesting to watch.

Rebecca Wiggins:

And are you finding a correlation between the government stimulus payments and debt reduction?

Rod Griffin:

We can't make a direct correlation, but we think that may have something to do with it. We know that, you know, when people got the stimulus payments that we, what we suspect is that they use those payments to reduce their debts or to put into savings accounts. And that we think had some correlation there. But we, we can't show that directly , because we don't really have access to data that shows what people did or where the money came from. But we do know that those balances on their credit cards went down, that we saw a reduction in delinquency rates. And so we think that probably had , was part of the , the equation.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

It's been very interesting. And I will tell you Rod personally, as a professor, the professor in me loves your analogies. Hey, at the end of each interview, we like to get the guests to sense our biggest takeaways for our listeners. If you had one piece of advice to offer our financial professionals, what would it be?

Rod Griffin:

Understand and know what's in the credit report. I think for consumers in general, don't be afraid to look at that credit report and use it as a financial tool. You know, I , I talk to people in groups often, and I, I always ask who here is looked at your credit report and I see the heads drop and they don't want to look at me anymore. Why? Why are you, why don't you want to check your report? And they'll say, I'm afraid. Don't be afraid because it probably isn't as bad as you think. And if you don't look at it, don't know what's there, you can't do anything about it. So get that credit report, know what's there. We want people to work with us. We want people to know what's in that report because it should be a financial tool that should be empowering. It shouldn't be a barrier. And that just means you need to engage in it, understand it. It's not as hard as you, as you think it might be, or as complicated as you think it might be. So the , the thing that we, we encourage people most is use the tools that are available to them. Like Experian Boost. Know what's in that credit report and use it as a financial tool so that when you walk into the lender, you know what they're going to see, and you'll know that you have the , ability and that you're empowered to get the credit you need when you need it.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

That's awesome. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today. Will you just tell our listeners where they can connect with you?

Rod Griffin:

Several ways , go to experian.com and you'll find lots of free education information. You can join us on our credit chat on Twitter every Wednesday. You can learn more about that at Ex.pn/credit chat. We also do live interviews that we record with financial experts called Credit Chat Live. We're not very creative with our names, but you go to the ex.pn/creditchatlive, and you can find out more about that. And we have YouTube videos as well.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah, absolutely. And we'll put a link to all of those things in the show notes as well. Rod, thanks so much. It's always a pleasure talking with you, and I appreciate all you do to reach out and provide education on this to kind of dispel all those myths as well. So thanks so much for joining us today.

Rod Griffin:

Great. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Rebecca, this was a fantastic episode. As a teacher, it was great to hear Rod speak on this topic because he covered so many things and credit reporting and scoring that I teach in the course. And, I thought it was very interesting to know the history of Experian and how it came about. I love that he discussed the difference between a credit report and a credit score. So much confusion it surrounds that one topic alone. And then he just gave you a lot of good topics to be able to hit from a credit freeze or how to change incorrect information. Just a lot of things that are, I think, are good for both practitioners, as well as consumers. And I really like this new Experian Boost or what we're seeing as apartments or mobile phones or gym memberships, things that we haven't seen on a credit report before, finally being added to help those that maybe have been outside the bounds of credit to be able to help them get good credit and possibly make larger purchases and things like that.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah, Rod is so fun to talk to, and I feel like Experian in general. But Rod , particularly has done such a great job of making, I guess, the credit industry as a whole, just so much more accessible. So I've really appreciated their work and their focus really in that consumer education space. I also, as you said, really enjoyed learning more about Boost and the ways that they're sort of creatively tackling this problem of bringing more people who have been marginalized or left out of, out of the services. So I thought that was really interesting too. And I loved the history. I didn't even really know all of that. So I thought that was great. I want to remind everyone though that April is Financial Literacy Month. And so in celebration, AFCPE® is offering a great opportunity for you to build capacity to better serve your clients. All month long, AFCPE® Essentials courses are going to be Buy One, Get One half off. And you can find more information if you go to our website and we'll put that in the show notes as well, along with all of the resources that Rod mentioned today. So hopefully this gives you a great start to working with your clients, but also to helping you understand your own credit report and your own score. And as he said, using it as a tool for your own financial wellness and working with clients.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

If you enjoyed the show today, please give us a rating and review and be sure to share it with a friend. Real Money, Real Experts is available wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you want to continue the conversation, consider joining the AFCPE® membership community. As an AFCPE® member, you gain access to resources, networking opportunities, and professional development, that supports your work and your career. Learn more at our website, AFCPE.org.