Now an annual tradition at the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, TransUnion recently met with residents and engaged them in a conversation about financial literacy and good credit habits. Bob Skwarek, TransUnion’s Public Relations and Social Media Senior Manager, was joined by Jarad Winget, Founder of Winsite Digital and a member of CARE (Credit Abuse Resistance Education) and nearly a dozen teenagers at the Mercy Home location in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. This event is result of the partnership between TransUnion and the Chicago Bulls.
Often dismissed as being too young to understand credit fundamentals, these teens proved that their generation is financially savvy and in-the-know when it comes to how credit can affect them. With some life experiences and information they’ve discovered online or heard from friends, many of the Mercy Home residents came ready to chat about the world of credit.
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Eager to learn, Mercy Home resident, Markese, got right to the point when he asked, “As a young person with no credit, how do I begin to build a credit history?” It was clear this question was on many of the teens’ minds, as most in the room were too young to have credit files while still mature enough to have contemplated their financial future. Jarad from CARE offered solutions to build credit from scratch including obtaining a student card with lower credit limits or looking into a secured card which requires putting down a deposit with the lender.
With the proliferation of online resources and increased media attention highlighting the importance of ongoing credit report management, a robust part of the evening’s discussion was focused on what goes into a credit report and what constitutes a healthy credit score. Sal from the Mercy Home inquired, “How much do hard credit inquiries impact my score?” In addition to illustrating the differences between hard and soft inquiries, Bob from TransUnion advised Sal how he could check his own credit (a soft inquiry) as often as he’d like without adversely affecting his score.
One of the biggest takeaways for the teens was an explanation of how a Credit Utilization Ratio is calculated and why that metric, along with timely bill payment, is key in keeping a healthy credit score. Jarad noted, “While a Credit Utilization Ratio of 30% is recommended by many financial experts, it’s always advisable to keep that number even lower if possible.”
Of course, no financial presentation would be complete without a pop quiz. Mercy Home staff concluded the evening by passing out Q&A notecards to the residents and asked the teens to find the corresponding person in the room whose card answered a credit-related question. Pat Bittorf, Mercy Home’s Vice President of The Academy, declared the evening a success, stating “Once again this year, I’ve learned some new and valuable information about credit. Jarad and Bob are definitely known as the ‘Credit Crusaders’ around our offices and we’ll be looking forward to having the Crusaders back soon…capes are optional.”