The stereotype of women being big spenders, and men being the fiscally conservative gender has inspired plenty of jokes in our society. However, the reality is slightly different from the centuries-long running stereotype: women actually handle certain aspects of their finances (like credit) better than men.
That’s the conclusion of a new study by Experian, which analyzed credit scores, average debt, utilization ratios, mortgage amounts and mortgage delinquencies – all factors that impact credit scores – of men and women throughout the United States. On key differentiators like timely bill payments and lower debt, the “fairer sex” edged out the stereotype, managing credit better than their male counterparts, even while earning, on average, significantly less.
Key study findings included:
* Men have 4.3 percent more debt than women.
* Men use 2 percent more of their available credit.
* Men have 4.9 percent higher mortgage loan amounts.
* Men make late mortgage payments 7 percent more often than women.
“We know from numerous data sources that women working full-time earn about 23 percent less income than men,” says Maxine Sweet, Experian’s vice president of public education. “However, our study indicates that women are taking steps to manage their finances better than men. The most notable difference is that men are carrying bigger individual mortgage loans than women, and appear to have more difficulty making those payments on time.”
While most mortgages are joint (72 percent), many consumers must take individual/independent home loans. Of those, men have 18.3 percent more mortgages, and have higher loan amounts than compared to mortgages held individually by women. However, women in Washington D.C. break the data trend; they have 33 percent more loans than men.
“It’s interesting to observe the gender divide in how men and women approach credit, but understanding the value of building a good credit history rises above gender differences,” Sweet says. “How you manage credit and debt is crucial to your financial well-being.”
Regardless of one’s gender, the principles of good credit remain the same, Sweet points out:
* Pay your bills on time, every month. This is the single most important factor influencing your credit score.
* Be aware of your utilization ratio – the amount of credit you are using versus the total amount available to you in your revolving accounts.
* Closing unused credit accounts can impact your credit scores because it affects your utilization ratio.
* The longer you’ve held an account and kept it in good standing, the better it will reflect on your credit scores.
* Monitor all your financial accounts every month, at least once a month, and review your credit report regularly. You can pull your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once a year for free through www.annualcreditreport.com. You can purchase a score for a small fee.
* Your credit report does not rate your credit, so it can be very helpful to have your report scored to get a better perspective of how potential lenders will perceive you as a credit risk. As part of the service, you will be provided the factors that most impacted your risk. To learn more about credit reports and credit scores, visit www.livecreditsmart.com.
* Credit score health is a long-term investment. There is no quick-fix for improving your scores. Instead, consistently reliable credit behavior over the long-term is the best way to ensure favorable scores no matter which scoring model a lender may use.
“Lenders use many different score models when considering credit applications,” Sweet says. When you review your credit score, try not to focus too heavily on the number, but rather where you fall in the range of risk and what factors in your history most influenced your score. You’ll be better able to identify potentially harmful habits and what steps you need to improve your overall credit management.”