A Man’s Credit: Taking Responsibilty of Your Financial Life

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When I was 23 years old I applied for my first credit card through Discover and got declined. I couldn’t understand why and that’s when I started to learn about credit. The first bit of new information I received was that I had a Ghost Account. I was told that this was neither good or bad. I basically had no credit history. It was good because there was nothing negative on it. It was bad because I had no history to show I was worthy of receiving credit. I ended up having to go with a credit card from my bank which had a $300 limit. This entire situation raised questions in my mind such as:

What’s the big deal with credit?

Why and how does it play such an important role in our lives?

Why is managing and understanding how credit works not taught in school?

Back in the day a man’s (and woman’s) word meant something. A man’s word could be considered a form of credit. If you said you’d pay someone back and your word was good then they’d most likely believe you. A man’s word is a thing of the past though when it comes to financial dealings. So now, for financial loans we have credit. This is something you definitely don’t want to ruin. However, credit is easy to ruin if you do nothing to manage it and think it’ll take care of itself.

A friend of mine once said, “Manhood can be summed up with this one word: responsibility. Being a man means taking responsibility; responsibility for your life, your actions, your character, your attitude.” It’s important we take responsibility for our credit. One way is to learn from the mistakes of others.


How Others Have Ruined Their Credit


Relying on service providers’ billing departments to always be accurate

I’ve heard of hospital bills and car payments going to collection agencies. These are legitimate bills that you need to keep the receipts for because they might make a mistake and over-charge you.

Using credit cards like they’re free money

Know your credit cards before they ruin your life. Credit is in essence, a loan, and you need to know not just the credit limit but also interest rate.

Not monitoring your Social Security Number (SSN)

Someone can easily take your SSN and assume your identity. If you monitor it you’ll be able to catch it in time.  Don’t share it unless you have to. When you’re legitimately asked for your SSN they’re required by law to keep it secure and not share it without your permission.

Not monitoring your credit

If you use a reliable credit monitor then you’ll get notified when someone opens a bank account or does something in your name that requires a credit check.

With a new job comes increased income and a tendency to splurge

Many forget that this means higher taxes. It’s important to budget that new income first before spending.

Not paying bills

Defaulting and being late on payments is one of the worst things you can do for your credit score.


Horrible. If at all possible, don’t do it. This one single action will destroy your credit for seven years.


Credit Myths To Zap From Your Brain


When I get married our credit scores will be combined.

Not true. Each individual keeps his or her own credit score. When you get married it’s not added together. You may go in for a loan together but both your credit scores will be checked. If only one name has to be on the loan than you can go with the better score. But something like a mortgage takes both of your names. It’ll be embarrassing and frustrating if it’s your credit score that bumps the percentage up a number.

Credit repair companies will fix my credit report of all negative records.

Not true. They can only help remove what doesn’t belong. If you were late on a payment then it belongs as a negative spot on your credit report. They can’t do anything about that.

Some think that carrying over a balance is better than paying in full each month.

Not true. You risk paying interest and eventually making late payments. Credit card activity is good, but pay off the balance each month.

Don’t touch it and it’ll stay intact

It might be out of sight but this is something you want to keep your eyes on.

Your credit is extremely important. Most don’t realize until they start applying for car loans, phone plans, buying a home and applying for a mortgage and some employers will check your credit score. A good or excellent credit score can be the difference in hundreds of dollars on a car payment plan or mortgage. I once walked in to a car dealership and the young man next to me was getting a loan at 19% interest. His credit score was so poor he had to accept the only loan he could get. I’ve even heard of people asking on first dates what the other’s credit score is and if that score is under 600, not pursuing a second date.

While much of this is inconsequential when you’re young, as you get older it can really hold you back and become extremely frustrating. Fixing your credit is much tougher than managing it properly so be proactive and get a jump start. Don’t do what these others have done and don’t believe the rumors. Check your facts because that’s what your credit score is calculated by.


John is a cofounder of Fearless Men. A blog for those interested in Manly topics. Grow Strong, Get Fit, Be Wise, Face Your Fears and Become A Better Man.


Editor’s note: John brings up a great point about taking responsibility for our credit and finances. Credit can be a great tool, if used wisely. If you skimp on watching it, you have the potential to pay the price for doing so.


Photo courtesy of: Psi-Hei Liao


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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


  • I just think that using credit is better for some people, and not so much for others. If people cannot manage it, they would probably be better off using an all cash system. Overall, I do agree that credit is a good tool if used wisely. Some people should just avoid it.

    • I agree Holly. I know a few people that stay away from credit cards altogheter. But even for them, their credit will get run when applying for mortgage or car loan amongst other things. So there is some degree of managing it required.

  • Pauline says:

    I thought college students were given credit cards like free candy, strange yours was denied. I get that you need a credit history to build credit but you would have to start somewhere. There is no credit score in France, there is a bankruptcy list and that is about it, we barely use credit cards, only debit card with an overdraft facility. I see more financial responsibility over there.

    • They do have a student CC but I wasn’t in school anymore when I applied. I’m actually not even sure they had the student CC 9 years ago. I spent a couple years working in Tokyo and they also don’t use credit. They had a similar bankruptcy thing and that was it.

  • Michelle says:

    Credit cards definitely are not for everyone. I’ve always been good with them, but I have many friends who are horrible.

    • Same here. I had one friend who cut up all her credit cards. The worst part about this type of debt is that it lowers your credti score which in turn raises your interest rate. Nothing good comes from cc debt.

  • I carry around my own ‘mini’ emergency fund in my wallet, I literally hide it from myself. This way if I ever get stranded for whatever reason, or lose my cash card (i’m rather clumsy) or just need that extra bit of cash I have it to hand.

    • That’s a good way to make sure you don’t get stranded financially. I am curious where you hide it from yourself though. How does one do that? 🙂

      • I have a little compartment in my wallet that unless I specifically look for it I won’t see it, so I have to make a conscious decision to go get it, which in turn makes me feel guilty if I just use it for every day things. haha. How sad. 🙂

  • AverageJoe says:

    Your very first point was the biggest unintended Wow from my weekly meeting budget. We (and the people who follow the budget) find SO MANY mistakes in service provider bills. Even things that aren’t mistakes, like questionable charges, we discover and call about. It’s awesome. You’re right: there are mistakes all over your bills and they’re rarely in your favor.

    • Thanks for sharing! I put that one first cause it’s the one I have to keep on top of most. About a year ago directv over charge me by $100’s and had I not been monitoring it my auto payment would of kicked in.

  • If we all took more responsibility, I don’t think credit card debt would be as much of a problem. It’s too easy to swipe the card and forget about it. It’s also really sad that a person’s word doesn’t go very far anymore. We’ve made the lawyers and collections companies rich because we don’t follow through with our commitments.

    • I agree Kim. Responsibility really is the key. Teach it young and it’ll stick. I’m still a man of my word because it was taught to me from a very young age, but society at large no longer gives someone’s word much value.

  • I hadn’t really thought about the mortgage interest rate thing because the bf and I both have excellent credit. But for a lot of couples, that’s probably a big issue. Do you put the spouses name on the house and take a higher rate, or leave them off and then possibly have issues down the line if you break up and your name isn’t on the home. My sister’s name isn’t on her mortgage, just my BIL and I think she’s nuts (she pays the bill, her name should be on the mortgage).

    • For a house I think both names have to go on it if you’re using both incomes. I agree that her name should be on it. Hopefully she has other legal protection should things go down the drain. I have friends who got mortgages at the same time as me whose interest rate is 3% higher because one of them had a credit score under 600. Over the life of the loan that adds up to a lot of interest.

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    So many don’t monitor their credit history and are unpleasantly surprised when they apply for a loan and are told that the application was denied due to negative references yet they believed they had a perfect credit rating. Identity fraud is a growing nuisance so we need to be more vigilant about checking our credit reports.

    • I agree KK. Most banks offer some time of credit monitoring. I pay mine about $4 and comes with an anytime free Experian credit report. I’ve heard of parents using their kids SSN to apply for credit and then being irresponsible with that too. Kid turns 18 and finds out he’s around 450 credit score. This is horrible!

  • I really like how you’ve related responsibility and the commitment of a word to credit. That seems to be the key missing part in our society, frequently.

  • I have always had great credit, which has served me very well. My partner, on the other hand, thought he had good credit because he only ever took out one loan and paid it back within the month. He didn’t have a credit card and never built up any credit at all, so he was surprised when we bought our home and was told that he didn’t have BAD credit, it’s just that he had no recent credit.

    • That’s a similar story, unfortuantely. Leave it alone and it’ll be “good” is a common lie. I always encourage my friends if they have no credit to at least apply for a credit card and pay it off responsibly.

  • I really do wish this was something they taught in high schools…like a mandatory class, because I think it would save a certain percentage of the population from making huge mistakes in their 20’s and beyond.

  • Mackenzie says:

    I had to learn the hard way about credit. When I was in college, I racked up credit card debt like no one’s business. Even though I’ve learned from my mistakes I made all those years ago, I still wish someone had sat me down and explained debt and credit cards, and your credit history. They really need to teach this, especially when you head off to college.

  • Great post! I’ve had to get some false records removed from my credit file in the past so I agree, don’t just assume credit agencies will get things right.

  • It’s a pity that credit is handed out to just about anyone nowadays, even more so College and University students. Starting young and messing up credit for some can take a long time to fix especially with student loans on their plate. Yes, we all need to take responsibility, stop complaining and start doing something even if it’s baby steps. Although everyone’s situation is unique, everyone must find and make their own path. Great post.

    • Part of our recession is because people were taking on more debt than they could afford. More house, more car, more student loans, more credti cards, etc….and no one was stopping them. While this is irresponsible it sounds to me like we need to fix the system. Educate on how to use credit, then provide the credit.

  • Along the lines of your credit scores not being combined, it is also important that when you get married, if you combine your expenses, you should always each carry your own credit cards. While you may have some joint accounts, the only way to continue to build your individual credit score is to have separate accounts. This is also important if you get a divorce or if your spouse passes away.

  • I like the point about keeping your eye on your credit. Pull your free credit report annually and check it for errors.

  • While I typically stay away from credit as I will be increasing my liabilities. I agree that credit can be a great thing if used wisely and responsibly.

  • I love the tips John, especially on the credit repair stuff. Their is no way to instantly fix your credit report unless you have a mistake on it. When I was working in financial services I would have countless people ask me if credit repair services were worth it and for only $600 they would wipe all of your credit problems away. The truth is this just doesn’t work. In most cases the best way to fix a damaged credit score is time.

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