Personal Finance

Q&A with Julie Kuzmic: Talking Credit & Money

Reading time: 4 minutes

Going through times of financial uncertainty can be stressful and sometimes a voice of knowledge and reassurance can make all the difference. Equifax Canada's Director of Consumer Advocacy, Julie Kuzmic, is a financial literacy advocate who can help us better understand money matters and our relationship with credit.

Why are we afraid to talk about money and the importance of credit?

It's human nature to equate money with our personal worth. It can be hard to hear that someone else's salary is substantially higher than yours when you might otherwise think that you are peers. This all adds up to a desire to be protective of how much money we make, how much money we have in the bank, access to credit, and our overall financial situation. The fear people have is that they don't measure up.

Are times changing? Even before Covid-19, do you think people were opening up about money matters especially as it relates to credit?

I think people are talking more about credit because there are more outlets and opportunities to learn about their credit scores over the last four to five years. It's easier to get access to credit information, which in turn drives a little more media coverage pertaining to financial literacy. People are more apt to have conversations and ask questions about information that they may not understand.

Has Covid-19 made it even easier to talk about money and credit?

The pandemic has clearly impacted everyone and there definitely seems to be a greater willingness for people to discuss their financial situation. There seems to be less hesitancy for people to share that they needed to defer payments to manage a difficult financial situation because everyone understands that we have all been impacted by the pandemic. It's not a matter that people made poor financial decisions.

Has the taboo been lifted? Will it be easier to talk money and credit going forward?

I really hope so! It should be less of a taboo and I would hope that people want to share the knowledge that they have gained. When I'm doing credit education seminars, I'm quite often surprised there isn't better awareness of certain financial concepts like budgeting or saving to create a ‘rainy day' fund. The more we talk about these concepts and money matters the more likely people will have a better understanding of personal finances.

How does someone start a conversation about money or credit?

To be clear, talking about money doesn't mean that you have to share all of your financial details or credit card statements with everyone. It's okay, however, to share a tip that you may have learned. As an example, you don't need to share with someone the value of your Equifax credit score, but you may want to mention that you looked it up. You may also want to share that looking up your credit score did not negatively impact your score, which remains a common misperception with many people today.

What are the top-3 misperceptions about credit?

One — checking your own credit report will affect your credit scores. Two — people should know that they have multiple credit scores versus a single credit score per person. Too often when people see two credit scores in their name with different values, they assume one of them is wrong when the scores were simply calculated using different models. And three — there's no way to 'fix' your credit scores overnight. A credit score is a prediction of making your payments on time and one of the best paths to a high credit score is to make your payments on time. Avoid anyone that tells you they can ‘fix' your credit score.

Is it possible to have a perfect credit score?

It's not baseball. There no such thing as a 'perfect game' when it comes to credit scores. Credit scores are a value between 300 on the low end to 900 on the high end. A very good credit score is generally considered 750 and above, but I will often have people say to me I always pay my bills on time why isn't my credit score 900? What did I do wrong? It's another misconception to think that you start with 900 and lose points for doing something wrong. Credit scores are based on wide range of variables.

Anything else people should know?

Credit scores are not a moral judgment or a character judgment about people. Everyone's financial journey is different. Some may face more issues than others, but knowledge of your own financial health coupled with financial literacy can help you move to a path that best works for you.

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