Doc is here to tell us all about credit today. He’ll share many great tips and secrets that banks and credit companies use to get you to spend. There are many deep psychological tricks they will use to make spending money or credit seem normal. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Doc Compton Background:
- Owner of Doc Compton Company – the consumer credit expert
- Helped thousands of people regain control of their financial futures by giving them the tips, tools, and techniques necessary
- Two decades of experience in consumer credit
- Counseled thousands on establishing and maintaining credit, through published articles, radio/tv, & speaking
- Based in McKinney, Texas
- Say hi to him at www.DocCompton.com
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluff.
First off, I hope you’re having a best ever weekend; because it is Sunday, we’ve got a special segment called Skillset Sunday where you are going to learn about a specific skill that will help you in your real estate endeavors. And guess what, if you have a credit score that is a liability, not an asset, well you are in for a treat and something that will help you turn that liability of a credit score into an asset, because we’ve got an expert with us, Doc Compton. How are you doing, Doc?
Doc Compton: I’m doing great, how are you?
Joe Fairless: I’m doing well, nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Doc – he is the owner of Doc Compton Company, and he is a consumer credit expert. He’s helped thousands of people regain control of their financial futures by giving them the tips, tools and techniques necessary within the consumer credit sphere.
He has counseled thousands on establishing and maintaining credit through a bunch of published articles, speaking engagements etc. Based in McKinney, Texas.
Today we’re gonna be talking about how to turn our credit score into an asset instead of a liability. Doc, how should we approach our conversation?
Doc Compton: Well, I’d say probably the best thing that I can think of to open it up is to say somebody once told me that your credit is gonna be your best friend or your worst enemy. And in the eyes of an investor, truer words were never spoken, because it can determine how much money you can make, how much money you can spend, and from there how much you can build based on your credit score. It’s critical; you absolutely have to have a good credit score. The better it is, the better you are able to do your job as an investor.
I’ve recently released a book called Credit Ready In Five Simple Steps, and essentially, it breaks down the five things that anybody needs to do, whether it’s just the consumer that’s anticipating a major purchase, or the investor, whether they’re a first-time investor or a seasoned investor trying to maximize what they can do with their credit. I suppose maybe we can go through those five steps…
Joe Fairless: Oh yeah, I love it.
Doc Compton: …and talk a little bit about how to make that work. The first and most important step – if you’re gonna take a trip, you’ve gotta have a map. In the instance of credit, that map is your credit report. If you don’t have one, you need to get one. If you’re an investor and you don’t have one, you really need to rethink being an investor, because you really need to have that; you really need to have a firm handle on exactly where you stand, because you don’t wanna get into any sort of real estate investing or real estate deal without some understanding of exactly where you stand from a credit perspective.
There’s a million different ways to get a copy of your credit report. Obviously, you can go to AnnualCreditReport.com. The only drawback to that is it’s a little bit time-intensive. It takes a while to get all three bureaus – probably 15-20 minutes at least – and it doesn’t include your credit scores. Now, it will include the basic data, the account information and so on, but it’s not gonna include your scores unless you pay for them.
Most of the free websites, the CreditKarmas and CreditSesames and so on – they’re gonna give you a basic idea of your credit score, but understand that there’s about 50-60 different credit scoring models that are typically used, depending on who you’re getting the credit report from, and it’s best to get one that is as close to the FICO score as is possible.
You can actually go to a website called CreditGecko and get a copy of your credit report and all three scores; usually, it costs about $10 per bureau to get a score. If you don’t have a monitoring service, I highly recommend that as well.
So once you’ve got that first step complete, you’ve got your credit report, the second thing is actually reading and understanding the things that are on your credit report. So many people will say “I’ve got stellar credit” or “I have horrible credit”, and 9 times out of 10 they’re both wrong, because they don’t really know exactly where they stand. They’ve got a pretty good idea based on the last time they went to try and purchase a vehicle or purchase an investment property or whatever, but realistically, most people don’t really understand the details on their credit report, and there’s a lot of intricacies and I don’t wanna bore your Best Ever listeners with a big long list… But there’s some key things that you need to understand.
How old accounts are is critical when you open them. If for some reason you have negative information, you need to know when the date of first delinquency is on those accounts. Now, the date of first delinquency is what determines the all-important seven-year clock, and thus how old something is in determining your credit score. So if it’s five years ago versus three years ago, well then obviously the three years ago item is gonna be worse for you than the five years ago, and so on.
Obviously, another critical factor is balances, and this is true of your revolving accounts, as well as your installment accounts or bank notes and so on… But it’s really important on the revolving accounts or credit card accounts. We’ve all heard that if your balances go up, obviously your scores will go down.
The difference between a 720 and a 740 when you’re out trying to get a hard money loan to buy an investment property, if you’re gonna go that route – it can be pretty significant. You can be talking about half a point difference, 9,5% or 10% and so on; I don’t wanna quote rates, that’s not my field, but it can be significant, and if you’re having to borrow money for 60, 90, 120, 150, 180 days, sometimes that adds up pretty quickly. And the higher your credit score is, the lower that rate is gonna be, the better off you’re gonna be, kind of as a rule. So again, understanding what’s on that report can have a significant benefit to you.
Joe Fairless: The revolving accounts – I just wanna make sure I’m clear on that… You said revolving accounts are really important, and I missed in what way, compared to other accounts.
Doc Compton: Revolving accounts – those are your credit card accounts, and they’re as good an indicator as anything about how you’re gonna borrow money and pay it back, particularly on short-term loans, because essentially if you think about it, that’s kind of what a credit card is… They basically just make you pay it back within 30 days, or they carry it and charge you a little bit of interest for the privilege of doing so. And if you carry a high balance, then you’re not really paying back the money you’re borrowing every month, and they don’t wanna see that. What they wanna see is you borrow $1,000 and pay back $1,000, and you borrow $1,000 and you pay back $1,000, and so on. Because keep in mind, the credit card companies not only make their money from interest from the consumer when they carry a balance, they also make money when a consumer goes into a store and makes a retail purchase, they’re charging that merchant 2%, 3%, 4%, depending on the type of card, just for the privilege of taking those credit cards. So they’re making money as long as you’re using the card, even if you never carry a balance. So they wanna see that you use the card, but they also wanna see that you pay it back and that you’re not over-extending yourself.
Now, the difference between a revolving or a credit card account and an installment loan is the installment loan is typically scheduled over a much longer period of time. You have a fixed amount that you borrow, a fixed monthly payment, and you’re making a scheduled monthly payment on the same day every month for the term of 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 15, 30 years, or whatever it is. So that’s a little bit less of a predictor on a short-term deal than would be a credit card. Does that make sense?
Joe Fairless: That makes complete sense. I know you’re gonna get to three, but quick question – how much of an influence would it be to your credit score if you paid off all of your installment loans, like mortgages for example, in cash?
Doc Compton: Well, it depends a little bit. Keeping in mind that the credit scoring formulas are written to be a statistical indicator of risk to the lender… If you borrow, let’s say, $10,000, and you’re scheduled to pay back that $10,000 over the span of ten years – well, the bank knows that they’re gonna make roughly $1,000 per year, plus whatever interest, over the life of that note, and it’s very predictable in schedule, presuming you pay it back according to schedule.
Now, if you pay it back early, the bank suffers, in a sense, because they don’t make all of the interest that they were (pardon the pun) banking on making. So realistically, from an installment loan standpoint, it’s better for your score to pay according to the schedule. So if you take on $10,000 and you’re supposed to pay it back over ten years, do that.
Now, there’s a difference between smart money and credit money, and I’ve written articles and lectured around the country about this… Smart money is the Dave Ramsey mentality, where you don’t have credit cards and you don’t pay interest and you don’t finance anything, you just pay cash for everything. Well, that’s great, but you show me a successful real estate investor and I’ll show you someone who has leveraged other people’s money until they can borrow from their own coffers to do these investments. The wealthiest people in real estate have learned to leverage other people’s money to make their own, and that’s true at any level, whether you’re a brand new investor or a 20-year seasoned vet. Ideally, you just wanna be able to use it to your advantage whenever you need to, and the idea being that it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it, and I say that all day, every day.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Doc Compton: Onto the third thing now – you’ve gotten your report, you’ve read it, you have an understanding of it, but lo and behold, in the derogatory or the negative items, you notice a thousand dollar medical collection that’s traced back to, say, June of last year. “Well, wait a minute, I paid all my medical bills, and I have great insurance… How can there be a thousand dollar bill? And it’s from Dr. Smith over on Main Street. Well, here’s my bill from Dr. Smith on Main Street, and here’s where I paid it and here’s the canceled check. Clearly, this is a mistake. What do I do?” Well you’re gonna wanna contact the credit bureaus, you’re gonna wanna contact that provider or collection agency if one is involved, and show them whatever evidence you have that demonstrates that this is perhaps an error.
Now, if you have that proof, great. If you don’t have that proof, there’s a million different mechanisms by which you can go through and ask that they verify or validate the information that’s being reported on your credit report… And you can do that yourself, obviously; there’s a million different credit repair companies out there, and sites and so on and so forth. Obviously, I’m involved with a credit repair company. I don’t wanna make it a shameless plug, but if you go to my website, DocCompton.com, you can find the credit repair company that I’m associated with.
You can also find a website where you can buy credit repair template letters that you can use, that are actually written by yours truly, so it’s not something that some internet guru that lives in his mom’s basement concocted and decided that it’s the end-all-be-all in credit repair letters; these are actual solid letters that will really work if the information is at all challengeable… Keeping in mind that information on your credit reports is subject to correction or deletion under Federal Law if the information isn’t 100% complete, timely, accurate and verifiable. If it doesn’t meet those standards, it’s gotta either be corrected, or completely removed from your credit reports, and you’re well within your rights to ask for that from both the bureaus and any reporting entity, whether it’s a collection agency or original creditor.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Doc Compton: Now, let’s say we’ve gone through those three steps, we’ve gotten rid of whatever errors… Let’s say that someone simply doesn’t have that much credit. Now, obviously, unless you’re a newer investor, a first-time investor, odds are you’ve probably established some credit, but a lot of times people are, say, recovering from some sort of financial setback that caused him to have to file a bankruptcy, or someone’s gone through an ugly divorce, a very unfortunate scenario, or they’ve had a medical issue that’s caused all kinds of financial damage and they need to establish some credit. Well, one of the most valuable tools in the arsenal of anybody that knows anything about credit is a secured credit card. There literally is no tool that’s better at establishing a positive credit history than a secured credit card.
Now, some of your listeners may or may not be familiar with it – a secured credit card is a bank that will issue you a credit card equal to a security deposit that you give to them in trust. So essentially, you give them $500 and they’ll take it directly from your bank account, and they hold that money, kind of as a security deposit, against a line of credit that they’re gonna give you. Now, they’re gonna give you a credit card that functions like any other credit card; you can use it online, or at the grocery store, or at the convenience store, to get gas, whatever. You’re gonna get a monthly statement and you’re gonna be responsible for paying it. It has a nominal interest rate on it; typically, it’s a pretty good interest rate, because it’s very low-risk for the credit card company… Because they’ve already got a security deposit if you flake and don’t pay – well, they’ve already got the money, so they’re pretty well covered. There’s an annual fee usually that’s a little bit higher, because typically when someone’s getting a secured credit card it’s either because they don’t have a proven track history, or perhaps they’ve got a somewhat negative track history, and that’s part of the way that the bank makes their money.
Regardless, if you get a secured credit card, it reports to your credit usually within about 45 days, so you’ll have that revolving tradeline history available very quickly, and if it’s managed effectively, then it’s very likely that you’re gonna find yourself with dramatic increases in your credit score in a relatively short amount of time.
Joe Fairless: What would be a dramatic increase?
Doc Compton: For example, some of the people that simply have no credit, they’ll from having no scores to having 620, 640 within a couple of months. I’ve seen it happen more times than I can even count. Obviously, I’ve been doing consumer credit stuff for well over 20 years now; I started the credit repair company with which I’m associated at this point back in 2004, and since that time alone I can’t even tell you how many thousands of people [unintelligible [00:16:51].04]
Joe Fairless: You say “no credit score” – does that mean they have a zero?
Doc Compton: Exactly, they’ll have a zero, because there’s not enough data available for the credit bureaus to actually calculate a score.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Doc Compton: That happens a lot, particularly with younger people coming out of college that have never had a credit card, or whatever. Maybe they’ve got student loans, and that’s about it. But typically speaking, it’s usually gonna be the younger people, or the people who have lived their life paying cash. It’s more and more difficult these days to live without credit, simply because if you wanna go get a rental car, or you want to check-in in a hotel, they want a credit card to cover the incidentals deposits and so on… So pretty much everybody has some credit card; if they’re very reliant on their debit card, that can get kind of pricey and tie up a lot of your cash, particularly if you travel, with the deposits and so on and so forth… So it’s relatively common, particularly with younger people, to have no score.
Joe Fairless: I wanna make sure I’m tracking properly… I’ve got number one and number two written down. Number three was review for issues and resolve, and is number four establishing credit, and the number one way is to get a secured credit card – okay, I’m with you. Alright.
Doc Compton: Absolutely. Okay, so you’ve gone through that, you’ve gone through the report, you’ve done all this stuff, you’ve established credit – now it’s about maintaining, and this is where particularly for the more seasons investors, the guys who have a good credit score, but you’re fighting for every last point, to shave a quarter point or a half point off that hard money loan, or just whatever, and there are some tips and some tools that I’ve shared around the country, one of which I’m gonna share with your listeners today. This one is probably the most critical; it’s probably one of the least well-known.
I actually wrote an article back in about 2006 for Yahoo! (I was a contributor for Yahoo!) and I pointed out that credit card companies typically report your balance in relationship to your credit limit once a month, and it’s on a fixed day every month. Now, that day is determined by when you got the credit card and when your billing cycle begins and ends and so on… But very often they’ll say on day one of your billing cycle – that’s when they send it out, and let’s say it’s due on day 25 of the billing cycle; they know that most consumers are gonna pay that bill sometime between the 22nd and the 24th or 25th when it’s due. Well, many times, credit card companies will actually report you on, say, the 19th. Why would that be advantageous to the credit card company? Well, where is your balance on the 19th if they know you’re gonna pay it on the 22nd? It’s at its highest point in the month, right?
Joe Fairless: Yup.
Doc Compton: So if your credit balances are at their highest points in the month, then your credit utilization ratio, which is the relationship between balances and limits – it’s essentially a measure of how maxed out you are; if that number is very high, well it looks like you’re maxed out on your credit cards, and we all know what that does to your credit score, right? It drops them.
Now, if they know you’re gonna pay on the 22nd and they report on the 19th every single month, your credit score is gonna be lower, and it really should be. But if you know that they report on the 19th, how do we get around that? We pay on the 17th.
Joe Fairless: Right.
Doc Compton: Exactly, and then just don’t use it for a couple of days, whatever. So that way — and this is true if you pay it completely off, or if you simply pay it down a little bit; hopefully it’s more than the minimum payment… You never want to make a minimum payment, you wanna make more than that, even if it’s just five bucks more. But as you make that payment, your balance is gonna be at its lowest possible point in that billing cycle, which is gonna make your credit utilization ratio look that much better, and make you look that much more like a hero from a credit scoring perspective. So your scores will just invariable go up as a result.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, that’s a great tip. Assuming that we haven’t changed the date for when we pay, the default date for paying, would that be the day that they report?
Doc Compton: It varies from credit card company to credit card company. I’ve actually witnessed first-hand a testimony before the House Finance Committee about this practice. Now, there’s no rule that says they can’t do it, but they’ve admitted that they do this on purpose, and there’s two reasons. Number one, if your credit scores drop as a result even of this, what do credit card companies typically do to your interest rates?
Joe Fairless: They increase the rates, right.
Doc Compton: Okay, that’s a great way to make a little extra money, right? That’s number one. The second thing, and this is kind of the more conspiracy theory-sounding deal but it’s true – every single month when you get those credit card offers in the mail from XYZ company saying, “Hey, we’ll give you a zero balance transfer for 18 months. All you’ve gotta do is transfer it over.” Well, the way those companies know to target you is they go to the credit bureaus and they’ll say, “Hey, show me everybody in zip code 12345 with a credit score of 650 or better, and at least two years of revolving tradeline history, and $5,000 or more in balances.” Well, the bureaus generate a list, and then they give it to that bank… For a fee – obviously, they buy that information. Because that’s what the bureaus do, they mine data. That’s really all they are. And then they sell that information.
So the credit card company now takes this list and generates an ad essentially through these mailers that you get in your mailbox every day, and they’re trying to get you to transfer your balance that bank A is making several hundred dollars in interest off of to their bank, and they’re banking on this “Hey, we’ll give you 0%. We’re gonna charge you a nominal fee, a couple hundred bucks to do it, but long-term if you pay this off, it’s gonna save you a ton of money.” Well, they’re banking on the fact that a) You won’t pay it off, and thus you’re gonna end up carrying the balance and paying them the interest instead of bank A, and a lot of times that you’ll continue to use that card; once again, they’re gonna be making their 2%, 3%, 4% off the merchants every time you use that card. And given that you’re carrying $5,000 worth of revolving balances, obviously you’re using your cards. So that’s what they’re trying to do.
So if bank A can kind of very ingeniously manipulate your score to a 649 instead of a 650, that’s one less list that you’re on that month, one less opportunity for bank B to steal you as a customer from bank A.
Joe Fairless: How do you identify when your payment is reported to the credit agency?
Doc Compton: Well, the funny thing is this is the moment where everybody kind of smacks themselves on the head [unintelligible [00:23:43].20] Call them and ask, that’s all you have to do. And a lot of times you’ll get somebody on the phone that doesn’t really know and doesn’t understand the question, but if you get someone like that, hang up and call back; you’ll get somebody else. And just ask, “What day does this report to all three bureaus?” and they’ll tell you. It’s simple.
Now, for some banks, they don’t do this; they may report right after your payment is due, and so on. And presumably, as long as you’re not paying it late, then you’re gonna be fine, but it’s better to know and take advantage of that tip than not know and leave money on the table, literally.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, fantastic advice. I’m very grateful that you walked us through this five-step process that’s outlined in your book as well. I have one final — well, I might have a follow-up to this, depending on your answer… Do you have kids?
Doc Compton: I do.
Joe Fairless: How old?
Doc Compton: I have two 17-year-old girls, and a 13, almost to be 14 next week year old son.
Joe Fairless: What have you done to help them – if anything – get started correctly with credit?
Doc Compton: You know what, because they’re not 18, they’re not allowed to have credit. Now, they have debit cards that they have access to, and they have to manage those balances. The value in that for them is understanding that just because you can throw a piece of plastic down and get it doesn’t mean it’s not real money, and I liken it to — I like to play Blackjack and poker in the casinos, and the reason casinos don’t use real money is because it’s not real money; it doesn’t hurt as bad to throw out a little plastic chip, and a credit card is a little more than a little plastic chip. It doesn’t hurt as much as actually counting out $20 at the grocery store or at the convenience store or fast food joint. So that’s why they do it.
The trick is, at a very early age teaching kids to budget. If you don’t have the cash to buy it, you wouldn’t wanna put it on the credit card, and that’s why the value of a debit card — I think as soon as the child is old enough and responsible enough to handle a debit card, it’s a good idea to get them one. Even if it’s only linked to a savings account that they can pull cash from or whatever, the psychology of this -and this is probably a much bigger topic, but if you’re local to me in McKinney, Texas, there’s three high schools, and for a while there was a particular bank that was offering branded debit cards to anyone over the age of 16 that had… We have McKinney High School, McKinney North and McKinney Boyd, and they would have their little logo on there.
Now, the psychology behind that from the bank’s perspective is “We want the kids in the habit of using that card.” It’s just branding and gets them in the habit of doing it, and it’s a deep psychological response, and that’s what they want them doing. Now, they do it under the guise of “Well, it’s a support for the school…” They want you using their card.
The reality of it is what we wanna do is teach them, “Hey, look, don’t use the card if you don’t have to. Pay cash if you can.” Debit is better than credit, but eventually you’re gonna want to credit. If I could go back and do anything different, very honestly, going back to my youth, I would have bought my first home when I was 22 years old. Like most Americans, I waited until I was about 31 before I bought my first home; that’s actually the national average, believe it or not, the first time home-buyer. And I waited that long.
In retrospect, I think of the number of houses that I could own outright as an investor or landlord with all the money I’ve spent on rents back during those formative years, those ten years before I bought, and they would be life-changing. I’d be retired.
Joe Fairless: When your girls turn 18, are you doing the secured credit card?
Doc Compton: Absolutely. And they’re on the payroll for the company, yes. Because they have income, and they’ve got money put away. Now, here’s why – I’m not a huge proponent, as an entrepreneur… I’m a college dropout; I went to Austin College. Very well respected, high-end private liberal arts…
Joe Fairless: That’s a nice one.
Doc Compton: A very nice school. I was there on academic scholarship, and I was biology, chemistry, physical education triple major, and two and a half years in was talking to doctors and med schools, and looking at mounting debt and so on and thinking to myself, “Do I really wanna go to school another 6-8 years on top of what I’ve already done, come out $200,000 in debt and maybe be rich when I’m 50?” and it just stopped making sense to me all of a sudden, so I dropped out.
Now, at the time, it broke my mother’s heart, but in retrospect it was the smartest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve actually written articles about the poor investment that standard college strategy is. I’m actually writing a book right now called “A Case Against College” where I’m talking about – I’ve literally seen tens of thousands of credit reports over the last 20+ years, and the overwhelming majority of them have college debt that is somehow defaulted [unintelligible [00:28:42].10] that they otherwise wouldn’t have had to pay. And I’m a big proponent of “Send your kid to trade school.” If they’re not going to be something that requires them to go on beyond four years – doctor, lawyer and so on, let them go to two years of junior college first, figure out what they wanna do.
I was dead set, my name is Doc – that’s how sure I was I was gonna be a doctor. It’s been doc since I was 15 years old. But fast-forward to 20, 21, suddenly I’m not sure anymore. Well, trying to ask an 18-year-old determine the course of their 70 or 80-year life when they’re 18, when you really kind of sit back and think about that, fundamentally it’s flawed. So I always say it’s a much better idea to send your kid to junior college for two years, let him live at home; don’t send him out into the real world at 22 with $100,000 or $200,000 or more in college debt. Maybe let him go to junior college, figure out what they do or don’t wanna do… Maybe they go out and start their own business. I’ve always been a big fan of that and I know you are, too. Be an investor. There’s a lot more money to be made and a lot more security and freedom to be had doing it that way.
Joe Fairless: Well, Doc, thank you for being on the show again. How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you or learn more about your company?
Doc Compton: The easiest thing to do is go to my website, DocCompton.com (Compton, just like the city, or the encyclopedia, depending on how old you are). My phone number is there, links to the websites I’ve talked about – the credit repair website, the do-it-yourself credit repair website, credit tools… If anybody wants a copy of the book, you can actually order that online through a link to the website as well.
Joe Fairless: Well, this went above and beyond just five simple steps to get credit ready. This really was how to turn your credit score into an asset, not a liability, and it spoke to both people who are beginning and then also people who have established credit, and a way to enhance that.
The five steps – have a map, so get your credit score. Number two is know how to read it. Number three – review for issues and resolve. Number four – if you need to establish credit, then get a secured credit card, and number five, if you don’t need to establish it, then maintain the credit. One tip for doing that is to identify the date the report goes to all three credit bureaus and make sure your account balance is zero, and if you need to maybe pay a couple days earlier so that that’s the case, that can enhance the credit score. And your advice for any 18-year-old listening, or any Best Ever listener who has an 18-year-old child – or adult, I guess I should say…
Doc Compton: Yeah, some of them are more adult than others.
Joe Fairless: Right, yeah… It would be to have the secured credit card right out of the gate, because there’s no better tool, as you say, at establishing a credit history. So thanks for being on the show… I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Doc Compton: Thanks so much, I appreciate it.