I grew up in a household where my father was always talking about finances. Good financial health was very important to both my parents and they worked hard to teach me healthy spending habits. When I was younger, I received an allowance of $10 a month. I could spend it however I wished, but whatever I saved and put toward my college savings account, my parents would match. This encouraged me to spend less of my money and put more of it toward my college education in the future.
As I got older, my father required that my sister and I take a financial education course in the summer with him before we graduated from high school. We learned about savings accounts, investments, checks, debit and credit cards, and many other financial topics, and my father told us about the good and bad financial decisions he and my mother had made. My parents allowed us to acquire a debit card and later a credit card as soon as we were able to do so to give us the opportunity to establish excellent spending habits and a good credit history.
My parents' credit score is almost perfect. I also have an excellent credit score. When I met with a banker last year, he was amazed that I had such a high credit score at such a comparatively young age and asked how I had managed to do that. I told him that I owed a lot to my parents, and to my father in particular, for teaching me good financial habits, for encouraging me to be responsible, and for modeling how to achieve excellent credit. I am currently single and looking to buy a house by the time that I am 30, so I have been very aware of my credit score as of late. I have been consistent about paying off my balances, not using my credit card if I do not have the money, spending significantly less than my credit limit, and promptly paying bills and rent. I have made sure that I do not miss a single payment and that I use my credit card responsibly.
I personally decided to use my credit card for most of my purchases, as it is a rewards card and I receive benefits for the purchases that I make. My father was originally somewhat skeptical of this idea because he did not want me to use my credit card unwisely, but I assured him that I would pay it off every month and that I would use it as a debit card. Since I graduated from college, I have been using my credit card in this way, earning points and rewards and establishing good credit.
If you are still in high school or college, make the decision like I did to start off responsibly: avoid spending money you do not have and consistently pay off the balance on your credit card. You too can have excellent credit in your mid-twenties if you start making good financial decisions as early as possible.
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