If you're looking for perfection in Jennifer Lopez, you probably won't find it in her credit file. Sure, she looks like a million bucks -- and that's on a bad hair day -- but odds are, J. Lo's credit stinks. In fact, credit scoring is one of the few areas where Madonna, Mel, Snoop, Bennifer, Bradiffer, Whoeveriffer, and Demi can't compare with any of us.
How could the finances of the unmanicured masses be more desirable than those of the rich and fabulous? It's not because of bad management, bankruptcy, or a bad-mouthing ex ruining their credit reputations. It's because extreme wealth stumps the credit-reporting companies. The formulas that Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Fair Isaac
Our dirty-blonde finances, on the other hand, are comparatively straightforward -- that is, if you consider 11 credit obligations to be uncomplicated. According to the Fair Isaac site myfico.com, that's how many obligations appear on the average American's credit report. Fewer than four out of 10 of us have a 30-day (or more) late payment on file; almost half indicate credit card debt of less than $1,000. But 10% show $10,000 or more on plastic.
It's no wonder that the average American's Experian credit score is in the 670s. In cutthroat Hollywood terms, that's barely attractive enough to get the bartender's attention. on an off night.
Don't pity the little people. There are 11% who easily slip by the bouncer at the bank with a credit score of 800 or above, according to Fair Isaac, which uses the FICO scoring system. (All three major credit bureaus use their own scoring formulas, which assign a three-digit credit GPA based on your borrowing and bill-paying history.) Your credit scores are based on one's aptitude in five key areas: past payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, amount of new credit, and types of credit.
And get this -- 1% of the population boasts a head-turning credit score of 850. That's a perfect "10" in La-La Land.
Are you the Bo Derek of borrowers?
If Star Magazine or The Smoking Gun exposed the Bo Derek of plastic, her credit centerfold would contain:
- Between four and six revolving accounts (meaning credit cards).
- At least one "installment" tradeline (e.g., a mortgage or auto loan) in good standing.
- A few accounts around 20 years old with a long history of positive use. (To get into the 800 range, you need 10 years of positive account history.)
- Around 30 years of credit use.
- No late payments (or other account blunders) for at least the past seven years.
- Very few credit inquiries (no more than one to three in a six-month period).
- No derogatory notations -- collections, bankruptcies, bad accessorizing. (Just kidding on that last one).
- Debt levels on credit accounts of less than 35% of their overall credit limit.
But this is the profile of the real-world desperate housewife -- not Teri Hatcher but Teri who sits two cubicles over. Not the Kurt Russell, but the Kurt Russell from your high school graduating class. Or maybe it's you. If it is, you can expect the star treatment from plenty of interested parties and the best interest rates on homes, cars, and loans for cosmetic surgery.
Don't beat yourself up if you're having a bad credit day (or year or two) -- throw on some lip gloss and a baseball cap, ditch the paparazzi, and treat your credit file to some TLC. You'll be red-carpet ready in no time.
If you have all-star credit -- and, according to TrueCredit, the consumer arm of TransUnion about six of you reading this do -- there's $1,000 in cash and a lifetime of free credit-watch services with your name on it. This month, TrueCredit is searching America for the perfect credit score. Find out instantly whether you're in the running.