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Seniors and Credit: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

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Seniors and Credit: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

Moving into an assisted living community comes with a number of benefits, particularly when it comes to safety and security. Some benefits the residents of Bethesda Gardens in Terre Haute, IN, can expect include:

  • The peace of mind that comes with knowing that caring, compassionate staff are on hand to assist as needed with various activities, challenges, or concerns.
  • The security of living in a safe community with 24-hour staff and monitoring.
  • The ability to reach out to staff at any time for help with medication management, chronic disease management, or just periodic concerns or small issues.

We want all of our residents, at all care levels, to be able to live their best lives during retirement, which is why we work so hard to provide for all these background support services. At the same time, though, many of our residents still live very active, independent lives, making their own decisions and handling their own schedules.

One of the areas that many residents may still manage on their own is personal finances. Whether you're a resident of the Bethesda Gardens assisted living community, considering moving to the community, or a family member assisting a senior loved one with financial management, understanding credit for older adults is important.

Does Credit Still Matter for Seniors?

Many people think once they retire that their days of considering factors such as credit and personal finances are beyond them. They might have a retirement savings and a plan, and as long as they stick to that, they think they're set.

And while that partially is a good benefit of retirement planning, you probably have learned that life doesn't go exactly the way you planned. And seniors of faith are also aware that much of life is out of their control.

One thing that's in your control is your credit, and it does still matter when you're a senior. Some reason that you may want to continue to monitor and manage your credit history include:

  • You might be done with large credit purchases such as cars and homes, but you never know when you might need to rely on your good credit name for emergency funds.
  • You may still want a credit card in your name, and if you have strong credit, you can often get a rewards credit card that offers a number of perks.
  • Good credit opens doors to financial tools such as reverse mortgages, which some seniors use to pay for assisted living for themselves or a spouse.
  • Access to auto insurance, utilities and other services can sometimes be impacted by your credit score.

Tips for Protecting Your Credit as a Senior

If you're not using credit regularly, you might think there's less need to monitor it. But in reality, not using your own credit or keeping an eye on it can put you in danger of someone else using it fraudulently. If you have good credit, an identity thief could use it to take out loans and credit cards in your name, running up balances and not paying them off so that you're potentially left with the fall out.

Luckily, there are some easy proactive steps that seniors can take to protect their credit. Whether you're in an assisted living community or still in a traditional home, here are some tips for keeping your credit history and score safer.

  • Get copies of your reports. Review your reports from all three of the major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — to ensure everything is correct. You can get a free copy of your report at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can get this report once a year from each of the bureaus, and until April 2021, you can get it once a week due to COVID-19.
  • Dispute inaccurate items. If there are negative items on your credit report that aren't accurate, you have a right to have them investigated. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the bureau in question investigate the matter and remove the item if the reporting creditor can't provide documentation to prove it is accurate. You can dispute these items by sending a letter identifying the inaccurate item, stating why you think it's inaccurate and asking the credit bureau to investigate and fix the issue.
  • Freeze your credit. You can freeze your credit with each credit reporting bureau. This keeps anyone from accessing it for the purpose of evaluating you for new credit. That makes it harder for identity thieves to use your information to score new accounts in your name. You do have to plan ahead if you want to apply for new credit, though. You'll have to contact the bureau to unfreeze your credit a few days before you apply for a credit card or loan.

Whether you're enjoying an active life in an assisted living community or keeping your options open during retirement, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your credit. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend to help you with this process if you're not sure how to get started.

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