TheHUB Staff Report
Where you live, the kind of job you hold and the cost of what you buy are related to one three digit number … your credit score.
Like it or not, that number defines you, says Ryan Mack, market president of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Operation HOPE, a non-profit organization providing financial literacy empowerment and economic education to youth and adults.
Whether you’ve ever had a credit card or not, you likely have a credit score, says Mack. He points out anyone who ever has had a student loan, paid a utility bill or applied for a car loan has established a credit history.
That credit history is used to determine your three digit credit score. If you’ve paid on time every time a payment was due and kept credit card balance(s) on the low side of your credit limit, your score is likely above 700.
Even just a few missed or late payments can drop someone’s credit score considerably, according to Mack, who has seen credit scores drop by more than 100 points or more as the result of only one missed payment.
Coupled with unemployment and its related economic upheaval, unexpected medical expenses or a significant personal loss, credit scores can plummet quickly. It doesn’t take long for a household to drop from relative stability to instability once a credit score has dropped beneath 650.
Low credit scores cost consumers “big time,” Mack says. He is working with the Detroit Regional Chamber, Mayor Mike Duggan and John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of the nonprofit Operation HOPE, to open 20 HOPE Inside Centers throughout the city. They will help residents understand and improve their credit scores and get on the road to financial stability.
The centers, which are already in place in 37 areas throughout the U.S., have successfully raised credit scores by 120 points on average, according to published reports. For someone with a credit score of 600 or less, 120 points can be life changing.
The program has already helped thousands move from cashing checks and making payments at high-cost payment centers to permanent and more cost-efficient banking relationships, renters into homeowners, minimum wage workers into living wage consumers and would-be entrepreneurs into business owners.
Mack has made it his personal mission to put retail chains, like the small independent grocery stores, which rake in as much as $500,000 in predatory check cashing fees annually, out of business.
“There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant, but staying ignorant is inexcusable,” says Mack, who wants to help Detroit residents get out of the patterns that chain them to lifetime debt.
It’s time to take credit, Detroit.
Editor’s Note: This article is a first in a series of reports planned to cover the recruitment and operations of HOPE Inside Centers and relative impact on the financial stability of Detroit residents.