Most Millennials first heard the phrase “subprime” after the 2008 financial collapse. During the fallout from the housing crisis, the entire country got a crash course in subprime mortgages. What many young people didn’t realize then, and still don’t understand today, is that they may also fall into the subprime category.
In 2016, the TransUnion credit bureau reported that 43 percent of borrowers ages 18 to 36 have subprime credit scores, meaning 600 or below. This means thousands of Millennials have far more tenuous grips on their finances than they think, leaving them vulnerable to high interest rates, predatory lending, and ongoing financial struggles.
Rather than put money into emergency funds, long-term savings, and investments, many Millennials will be scrambling to pay down their credit cards and increasing interest rates. That’s bad both for them and for the overall economy.
I used to be the guy splurging on Super Bowl tickets instead of saving for emergencies. Now I shudder to think that the money I spent on those tickets could have meant the difference between paying for a life-saving medical procedure or another truly important expense. A personal loan can help cover these types of expenses, but loans aren’t readily available for subprime borrowers. One unexpected health event could derail someone’s finances for years to come.
What does subprime actually mean?
On-time payments significantly influence a person’s credit score, but other factors are important as well. Low credit utilization, length of credit history, and having a mix of credit cards and other types of loans all determine a person’s score. Most Millennials have short credit histories due to their ages, low credit utilization, and a mix of loan types.
Some companies lend to subprime borrowers, but their offers carry significant interest rates and fees. Such organizations are often criticized as “predatory lenders” because the costs of taking their loans become even bigger financial burdens for cash-strapped individuals who may not understand the terms of their loans.
Millennials can avoid these situations by improving their credit a bit at a time, starting with regularly reviewing their credit files to help catch and refute discrepancies dragging down their scores.
Although I spent freely in my 20s and early 30s, I maintained a good credit score, which gave me a lot of freedom in my purchases. I could walk into a car dealership, choose a car, and negotiate a sale without paying out-of-pocket for the purchase. This is something anyone can do if the time and effort is put into maintaining above average credit scores and financials. All it takes is a little organization and time to review your credit file online. If you’re going to spend time online posting to social media, why not take that time and apply it to monitoring your credit file to ensure your score is as high as possible?
Here are some inspirational quotes to motivate anyone who wants to get out of debt:
1. “Live less out of habit and more out of intent.” - Unknown
Stop shopping on autopilot. Consider whether you really need each item you purchase and eliminate anything that falls into the “want” category. Linking credit cards to your bank account can help with this because paying for goods immediately mitigates the impulse to overspend.
2. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Abraham Lincoln
There’s no magic potion for getting out of debt. Devise an actionable plan for paying off what you owe, and stick to it. By the time you want to buy a house or car, you’ll be able to put your newly improved credit score to use.
3. “Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality. Upgrade your conviction to match your destiny.” - Stuart Scott
Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with the new BMW SUV, but your student loan debt makes owning one seem out of reach. Instead of pining for that dream car, pick up a second job or moonlight as a freelancer. The financial boost could help you pay off your debt and secure a low-interest auto loan — putting you in the driver’s seat both financially and physically.
4. “Falling down is an accident. Staying down is a choice.” - Unknown
If you’re like most people, you went off to college and filled out every credit card application you were handed during freshman orientation. Now all those late-night food runs and roommate road trips have turned into massive balances. Recovering from those missteps won’t be easy, but prioritizing debt elimination now is a step toward alleviating financial pain.
5. “Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.” - Jim Rohn
Most people, Millennials included, are woefully under-educated about personal finance. Thanks to the internet, however, you can educate yourself about how to get out of debt and make smarter decisions in the future.
Realizing you’re a subprime borrower is sobering, but it can also be transformative. There’s still time to change your circumstances, so create a plan for getting out of debt, and liberate yourself from subprime purgatory.
About the Author: Daniel Wesley is a Florida-based entrepreneur with a degree in nuclear medicine. His articles have been featured in Forbes, Mashable, The Huffington Post, Fox Small Business, Entrepreneur and TIME Magazine. He is currently the chief evangelist at Quote.com. You can find him on LinkedIn.