Credit Score – Do I Care?

Do I care about my credit score? If I listen to Dave Ramsey, my “credit score doesn’t matter because I don’t need to borrow money anyway.” If I listen to Clark Howard, I get tips on what to do if there are “issues.”

I attended a bunch of “how to survive getting out of the Army” classes a few years ago. One of the classes was about finances and included a look at my credit score. My recollection of it then was something over 800. The picture shows the current status:


I’ve had a Delta Skymiles American Express card for five years or so. A friend ran his whole business through his card and travelled frequently from the miles. I’ve bought four or five tickets now with miles, including two to Europe the summer of 2015. It adds up. Dave Ramsey doesn’t like credit cards. I’m OK with it as long as you follow Clark’s advice and pay it off in full each month.

“I’ve told my kids many times that most of the lessons my dad tried to teach me growing up I still had to figure out on my own.”

I learned several weeks ago that the AmEx card (AKA “American in Distress” card) provided the FICO score for free. I was intrigued to see that my score had been slowly drifting downward for the last year. Interestingly, AmEx/FICO even provides the reason(s). My credit worthiness (?) had been declining because 1) it had been an increasingly longer time since I had last borrowed money for anything (“12 months same as cash” for an air conditioner in 2008), and I was close to maxing out my AmEx month-after-month. Apparently they don’t care that it’s paid in full month-after-month.

I’ve decided to try a little experiment. I raised the credit limit slightly, so the utilization rate is lower. I now send an early partial payment so the average balance stays lower while paying the rest in full on time. This is super easy to do with Web Bill Pay from my credit union. Finally, I borrowed $600 from myself. Yes, really. My credit union will let me borrow money using my own cash as collateral. The finance charge on $600 for six months at 2.2% is less than $5. I thought for that little bit of “wasted money” I could have a little fun and see what happens. Again, auto payments are already in place to ensure I don’t miss anything and pay it off early.

I’ve told my kids many times that most of the lessons my dad tried to teach me growing up I still had to figure out on my own. However, the idea of paying cash for things, paying bills on time, not going crazy with cars, and saving a little bit every pay period stuck from the beginning.

About the graphic – I moused over the timeline dot at three different places and did a screen capture each time. I layered all three images in Photoshop Elements, erased parts as needed, and cleaned up various artifacts.

I’ve mentioned before there are a couple of great general saving/investing books I really like. They are linked to Amazon below as are one each I like from Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard.

PS If you happen to buy one of the books on Amazon I get a few cents on a gift card. Over the years I’ve made just enough to cover most of the costs of hosting the website. What happened to being a dot-com millionaire?

Trying to upgrade my reading

MOST OF MY friends and family know that I enjoy reading. I can read a good book in the same room as a TV and just filter out the sound. I’ve read a lot of spy/secret agent, detective, lawyer stories over the last several years. In the last six months I’ve tried to raise the level of what I read. I’ve alternated something a bit higher than the traditional spy novel with German detective stories. I’m almost finished with six of eight books about a German private detective I’ve come to enjoy.

This turned out to be one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It was interesting. I learned more about the geopolitics of geography than I ever thought I would enjoy.

In between though, I’ve read some more intellectually stimulating non-fiction including a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a book about geography, and Frederick Forsyth’s autobiography. I’ll give a few thoughts on each book and provide a link to Amazon so you can see what others have said, or even buy it if so inclined. I would get a few cents, though this doesn’t seen to happen too often!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who became an active anti-nazi and was executed just a couple weeks before the end of World War II. He almost survived the regime he can to hate. The book includes information on Bonhoeffer’s life, the times in which he lived, and his impact on theology in the years after the war. It’s not a “religious” book, it’s about a struggle to stand up for one’s convictions.

Prisoners of Geography. Wow! What more can I say? Earlier this year I went to England to so some glider flying. The weather was not supportive, and I ended up making a day trip to Oxford (Where Inspector Lewis is filmed). I had a great time wandering around despite the dreary day and the expensive parking ticket! Right after I got out of the car I saw a bookstore. I like bookstores. I took a quick look, confirmed they’d be open when I came back later and went exploring. Later, back at the bookstore I found more books than I could possibly carry with the low baggage allowance that went with my cheap ticket to London. I selected a book about geography. This turned out to be one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It was interesting. The content flowed smoothly, almost seamlessly through one transition to the next. I learned more about the geopolitics of geography than I ever thought I would enjoy. If you wonder what makes the world tick, this really is for you.

One of the first novels I remember reading was the Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth. I’ve since read most of his novels. At the Frankfurt airport several weeks ago, I discovered that Forsyth had recently written an autobiography. It read like one of his books. It was full of energy, excitement, and stories. It was a great read about politics, spying for real, making and losing a lot of money, and about people in general. Well worth a read if you’ve ever enjoyed one of his books or wonder how an author comes up with ideas for stories.