Bad credit can cost you a job.

When career-changing people in their 40s ask me for advice on how to be successful, I tell them, “Get a fitness program.”

You must be :

  • In good physical shape – provides the strength and mental acuity to cope with stress, especially when changing jobs or making important decisions. It sounds superficial, but a fit and energetic appearance is a bonus in the working world for people in their late teens, as Anne Lamott calls the baby boomer stage of life.
  • Spiritually fit – mind-body balance helps calm you down and teaches you to quietly listen to the inner voice that can guide your decisions.
  • Fit financially – gives you the freedom to choose. It provides the agility you need to start a new career, open your own business, pay tuition to go back to school, add skills, and more.

To be honest, this three step fitness regimen is good for most things in life. The financial stage is probably the most difficult. But here’s what I know. It is not an option.

You may be able to skip the gym every now and then or retreat from a meditation session without bad things happening to you. But you can’t miss out on missed bill payments, living beyond your means, and bad credit reports. He’ll bite you in the tokhes without hesitating for a moment.

It’s there – the warts and everything – in your credit report and your score. Lenders watch it all the time. A bad score can give you a boost in your wallet: higher interest loans, increased insurance rates, and even higher monthly rents are charged if your credit appears weak.

But here is the very bad news I have for you. Bad credit can cost you a job. Whether you’re looking to change careers, find a new job, get promoted, or just keep the one you have, a messy credit report can trip you up.

“Credit checks have become routine with employers,” writes personal finance expert Liz Weston in the new edition of her classic book, Your Credit Score: How To Improve The 3-Digit Number That Shapes Your Financial Future. The problem with this is that there is absolutely no research supporting a link between bad credit and job performance, she writes.

It caught my eye. Six in ten private employers check the credit histories of at least some of their applicants, and 13 percent perform them on all applicants, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Why? Presumably to prevent theft or embezzlement, fear of hiring error lawsuits if their employees do something wrong, or to get a feel for a candidate’s overall reliability.

Typically, employers perform these checks for job seekers applying for positions of financial responsibility, for senior management positions and for positions with access to highly confidential employee information, according to the report.

This trend extends to all industries — they are not exclusive to financial institutions. Some experts say credit checks are now routinely performed on HR and healthcare professionals who have access to personal information – social security numbers, dates of birth, and addresses – that could be misused to steal money. identity of someone. A person in the IT department of an online shopping business could also be screened because they would have access to customers’ credit card numbers.

Weston has not written about the use of credit checks by employers in previous editions, but there is “growing evidence that employers abuse credit checks,” she writes. They “sometimes even violate federal law when they do, and you need to know the risks you face when trying to find a job,” she concluded.

States initiate legal proceedings. The good news is that a handful of states – Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut – have cracked down on the practice. The most recent to do so is California.

As of January 1, 2012, a California employer cannot review a credit report for hiring or decisions to continue employment of current employees. Exceptions: If the job is in the state Department of Justice, managerial positions, law enforcement jobs, and jobs that involve access to money, financial accounts or to personal information. (There are other caveats as well.)

Yes, you read that right. Those of you who are already employed are not immune to credit checks either. Some employers regularly check credit reports when firing, promoting or determining worker compensation. This is especially true if you work for the federal government or a company that does consulting work for a government agency, which often requires good credit for various security clearances.

You won’t be surprised. The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires employers to obtain your written permission to perform the audit. If you are interviewing for a job, the request is often disclosed in your letter of offer, but you may be asked to agree to the check before an offer is made. You can say no, but the truth is, you don’t have much of a choice if you want the job, or if you want to keep one.

Employers who order credit checks for jobs with an annual salary of $ 75,000 or more per year will know more than even a creditor will. For example, bankruptcies older than 10 years can be reported. There are lawsuits and judgments over seven years old and paid tax liens over seven years old. All of these are removed from reports sent to lenders and for those earning less than $ 75,000.

Don’t sweat the little things. Most employers will ignore small oversights, one-off or short-term. Even foreclosures, tax liens, education-related debts and medical debts don’t play a major role in the decision not to hire a candidate, according to the report. The two main reasons an organization would not extend a job offer are: pending judgments (meaning you have not paid a debt that a creditor is legally entitled to collect) and outstanding accounts. Debt recovery.

If your credit history has been undermined by divorce, unforeseen medical bills, or identity theft, be prepared to explain it. Businesses are generally willing to give you this chance to present your point of view and defend your good character.

When an employer says the credit check cost you a job offer, promotion, or was the reason you were fired, you have a right to see the report, and they must tell you how to get a copy. of the consumer information society. There is no charge for the report if you request it within 60 days, and you have the right to dispute the accuracy.

Having said that, I guess most employers won’t tell you that the credit report did it. It is easier to find another excuse, or not to give one at all.

What can you do before they remove your report?

  • Check your credit report for errors annually. Visit to request a free credit report from the three major consumer credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Clean up anything that is wrong or looks questionable. It may take a little while.
  • Improve your credit score. To increase your score, don’t open new accounts, transfer balances, or close accounts, says Gerri Detweiller, personal finance expert at Closing accounts seems like a good idea, but it actually reduces your available credit and increases your current debt ratio. Pay off high interest credit cards, if possible. Pay your bills on time. One late payment is enough to crush your score.

And set aside time for your dog for a long, heart-healthy walk. It will clear your mind and bring you a dose of inner peace – for free.

Click here for an index of articles by Kerry Hannon

I am the author of What’s Next? Follow your passion and find the job of your dreams, available here I am a member of the 2011-2012 MetLife Foundation Journalists Fellowship Program, created by New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America. For more on good jobs for retirees, check out my column on AARP. Follow me on Twitter @KerryHannon

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