Zaydoon Munir emigrated to the U.S. from Baghdad, Iraq, so he knows the difference between an authoritarian regime and a free country. But, despite loving our free-market economic system, he criticizes one major aspect of it: credit scoring.
Credit scoring is a system orchestrated by three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) that track our payment histories–whether we pay our utility or credit cards bills on time (as well as our taxes, car loans, and so on) and, if not, how badly we’re late. They mostly use the FICO system (developed by the company Fair Isaac in 1989), and their numbers are highly determinative, in some cases life-changing. Whether we’re in the 500s, 600s, or 700s makes the difference between buying a house and renting for the rest of our lives, or, perhaps, going to college or not. And it certainly dictates if we can buy a $50,000 BMW 20 minutes after walking into a showroom, and what interest we’ll pay.
Make no mistake, credit scoring is one of the privileges of living in America, Munir says. Lots of other countries don’t keep efficient records and accessing a loan (and selling products and services) is thus all the harder. But, there’s one aspect of the credit scoring system that’s unfair–even un-American, Munir says. It looks only at our past financial history (24 months of it) not at our fundamental creditworthiness. It’s a measure of our past failings, not our potential; of what we’ve become, not what we could be, if we worked at it.