As the holiday spending season climaxes and financial literacy month comes soon in April, two financial experts are on a journey to show consumers that perfection is reality when it comes to your credit score.
William “Bill” Cheeks, 71, and Kevin D. Johnson, 37, are quite rare: The two Atlanta-area businessmen, personal finance advocates, and long-time friends recently attained a perfect credit score of 850. By sharing their stories and putting a face on the perfect credit score, so to speak, the two are inspiring numerous Americans to improve their finances today and showing them that “perfection” is possible.
According to a 2010 estimate by the Fair Isaac Corporation, creator of the widely used FICO credit scores, approximately 0.5 percent of consumers reach a perfect rating of 850. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. The average FICO score as of October 2012 is 689.
Cheeks, who just finished a national financial empowerment tour this month, is working on a book about credit, advocating for consumers via his web site MyCreditLife.org, and consulting for major firms. Johnson, an international speaker on business and personal finance, provides exclusive financial tips in his bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Mind, available on Amazon.com and at TheEntrepreneurMind.com. Cheeks and Johnson often team up to share their expertise with consumers, especially when it involves working with nonprofit organizations that help young adults. Their advice to attain a perfect score ranges from practical to highly analytical. For example:
1) Never carry a balance on your credit cards. Pay off the entire balance during the grace period.
2) Ask for clemency immediately from your creditor, if you miss a payment. Creditors will seldom report a late payment to the credit bureaus if your oversight is an isolated occurrence.
3) Live in a census tract or neighborhood where residents have excellent credit. Increasingly, credit scoring algorithms associate the creditworthiness of your networks with you. (Johnson is credited with exposing this practice in 2007. It was a major international story.)
“Attaining a perfect credit score is certainly gratifying, but even more meaningful is showing consumers, especially young people, how it can be done. Change your credit; change your life,” said Cheeks.
Cheeks, a retired Vice President at Equifax, is president of ABBA Associates Inc. (ABBAassociates.com), a fiscal management consulting firm that provides counseling and conducts seminars nationwide to help consumers map a successful Life Plan. The seminars are conducted for companies, governmental agencies and non-profit organizations. He also works with teachers in school systems and professors in colleges to help them teach students about financial management. Cheeks is the executive director for the Coalition to Improve Credit Education, an organization that consists of 23 companies and non-profit organizations that help and advocate for consumers across the country. The coalition is currently advocating reform of the Credit Repair Organizations Act.
Johnson commented, “Growing up, I was fortunate to have a father who emphasized the importance of maintaining good credit. When I met Bill years ago, he reminded me a lot of my father, always encouraging me and providing tips to establish excellent credit. By sharing my story and how I attained a perfect credit score, I hope to follow the examples of my father and Bill and motivate others to set high financial goals.”
Johnson, who started his award-winning marketing and communications company Johnson Media Inc. (JohnsonMedia.com) in 2000 and serves clients like Porsche, Cola-Cola, and Chase, travels around the world speaking to promote entrepreneurship and shares personal financial habits that have propelled his business. A longtime consumer advocate, he was influential in getting the Credit Card Act of 2009 passed and was responsible for a specific provision in that monumental legislation dealing with credit card redlining.