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Dvorkin On Debt: What The Credit Bureaus REALLY Know About You

Many Americans have heard about the “Big 3” credit bureaus. They’re aware that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion keep credit reports on them — and hopefully they know they can check  those reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

What most Americans might not know is that the Big 3 also conduct their own polling and research. They don’t just want to know where your money goes, they want to know what you think about where your money goes, and what you do when you’re not spending your money. Confused? Here are a few recent examples…

The honeymoon: Over before it begins?

Experian quizzed newlyweds about ‘what role credit and finances play in establishing a life together.” The results were scary:

  • Newlyweds said they “would spend more than $800 without telling their spouse.” Men were worse: an average of $1,259 compared to only $383 for wives.
  • 16 percent “report having a secret financial account that their spouse does not know about.” Once again, men hid more money than women.
  • 80 percent of couples said credit scores were “important” in a relationship, but 40 percent “did not even know their spouse’s credit score before getting married.”
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Eviction friction: It’s not one and done

It doesn’t sound like deep research was needed to prove this, but TransUnion has learned that renters who get evicted form their apartments are likely to be repeat offenders. Or in the official parlance: “Prior evictions and rental-related collection records are highly predictive of future evictions.”

What that really means, and what’s really interesting, is this dollar figure: $3,500.

‘Eviction losses average $3,500 per unit, which includes court costs, lost revenue and other operating expenses,” TransUnion says. That means these chronic evicted people are driving up the rent for everyone else by a couple hundred dollars a month, on average.

Broke but bright: We know what we don’t have

Given that credit card debt is fast approaching $1 billion and everyone complains about being in debt, Equifax wanted to know if ignorance was the reason. Turns out, it’s not: More than 80 percent of American adults know their credit reports are available for free (at the website I mentioned above) while only 3 percent fall for unscrupulous businesses that sell you information you can get for nothing.

Here’s the rub: “Although consumers are aware they can access their credit reports for free, slightly more than 40 percent don’t appear to take the time to do so.”

This is beyond frustrating to financial educators like myself. It literally take five minutes of sitting at a computer or laptop or tablet or smartphone and clicking some boxes.

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