As a physician, you’ve worked hard to earn your credentials, which is why it’s important to protect your credit score and maximize your ability to thrive as a professional.
Your credit score matters. That three-digit number assigned to you by credit reporting agencies can affect your career, your ability to borrow money and your business.
As a physician, you’ve worked hard to earn your credentials, which is why it’s important to protect your credit score and maximize your ability to thrive as a professional. Here are five tips to keep your credit score healthy in an uncertain economy.
Tip No. 1
Make all your payments on time
Even if you can only afford to pay the minimum amount due, don’t skip it. Although it may be a small amount, ignoring the payment altogether implies that you don’t think paying off the debt is important. And if you get into that habit, it can have some negative lasting effects. Your payment history is the biggest influence on your overall score (at 35%). To ensure you never miss a payment, set up your bills for automatic payments.
Tip No. 2
Don’t max out your credit limits
The amount you owe lenders makes up 30% of your credit score. This includes your cumulative outstanding balances on things like credit cards, mortgages and loans. Even if you can comfortably afford to pay off your accounts in full each month, the cumulative balance can potentially indicate to borrowers that you’re overextended.
Tip No. 3
Keep old accounts open
Now might feel like a good time to clean out your wallet, but don’t be quick to close out old credit cards. Even if you haven’t used a card in years, it’s good to keep an active status for two reasons. First, it extends the age of your credit history, which makes up 15% of your overall score. Second, it can come in handy should you need to access an extra line of credit, which can serve you well in a time of uncertainty.
Tip No. 4
Track your score regularly
Credit scores can change every month. Sign up for a free, reputable service so you can track your progress and be alerted of any changes — both positive and negative — to your score. This will help you stay motivated, identify challenge areas or fraudulent activity on your accounts and keep your goal of building your score top of mind.
Tip No. 5
Consolidate your debt
It’s a stressful time for everyone right now. As physicians anticipate a return to practicing as usual, there is undoubtedly a lot on their minds. Many physician borrowers are working to consolidate their debt. This enables them to pay off some accounts to free up their limits and fulfill their obligation of paying back lenders.
Protecting your credit score is always important, but it’s especially important in an uncertain economy, when you may find that you need to apply for financing right away. You don’t want to be at a disadvantage because of poor credit.
Remember that your financial health is a key component of your success. Just as you care for patients, take the time to care for yourself financially and position yourself as a more powerful borrower to secure the funding you need. When a crisis strikes, you may not have the luxury of time to repair a poor credit score and enhance your profile to a lender, so take proactive measures to keep it healthy.
Chris Panebianco is a contributing author.