Consumers Are More Embarrassed To Admit Credit Card Balance Than Age Or Weight

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Consumers are more embarrassed to reveal their age and weight than credit card debt balance or credit score, a new survey says.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling surveyed almost 2,200 individuals and 37% of respondents said their credit card debt balance would be the most embarrassing to admit, followed by credit score (30%), weight (12%) and age (1%).

"If you have a lot of debt, that sends a signal that you're not successful or savvy with money," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "Debt lets everyone else in on your secret that you're living beyond your means."

The feelings of insecurity surrounding debt can lead to more financial trouble, especially for those who succumb to peer pressure. When friends or family ask you out to a fancy restaurant, which you know you can't afford, do you tend to make up an excuse as to why you can't go? Or, perhaps you're the one suggesting the expensive restaurant in order to create a false sense of financial security for those around you?

"I think honesty starts with yourself," Cunningham adds. "People will bury their head in the financial sand and pretend its not happening."

As for why consumers are apprehensive about revealing their credit score, the score speaks volumes about one's financial life.

"Those three little numbers are success flags people wave and it's a way to say mine is better than yours or I'm a better money manager than you," Cunnigham tells MainStreet. Credit scores account for how much debt you have and whether or not you pay your bills on time.

If someone reveals their credit score to you, take this number with a grain of salt, as they may not be giving you an accurate read of the score.

A survey from the American Bankers Association found only 42% of consumers know their credit score. This low percentage can lead to people guesstimating or embellishing the score when talking to others about money, which can easily make you feel more insecure about your personal finances.

Plus, the term "credit score" is nebulous, as there are two prominent credit scoring models. The most common scoring model that lenders use is FICO, developed by Fair Isaac Corporation, which ranges from 300-850. The VantageScore, which also ranges from 300-850, has gained traction in recent years but can differ from your FICO score. While you may have checked your FICO score, your friend might be quoting their vantage score, which is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

To improve your credit score, start paying your bills on time, since 35% of the score accounts for this. Next, take some steps to pay off your debt, as 30% of the score accounts for your utilization ratio, which is how much you owe divided by the outstanding credit limits you have across your cards.

Still, admitting your debt levels to friends and family is bound to cause fear and embarrassment, but the support from those around you can be key to becoming debt-free.

"If you're starting to cut expenses to solve your financial troubles, your family may notice," Cunningham advises. "Let them in on your plans and admit it up front to get their buy in, rather than hiding behind the debt."

- Written by Scott Gamm for MainStreet. Gamm is author of MORE MONEY, PLEASE.

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