Credit can be a wonderful tool. It can improve one’s livelihood or it can become the proverbial albatross that constantly weighs us down. I’d suggest that we use caution when thinking about OPM, or Other People’s Money. While borrowed funds can be used as a multiplier effect to leverage an investment or fund a new project, this debt can also become part of an out-of-control boulder, rolling downhill.

This section is focused on personal and consumer activity. Business-related credit decisions require a more involved and in-depth decision process.

1. THINK – What do we need (or want) the borrowed money to do? What will my situation look like after I borrow or if I choose not to take this action? The bigger question is can I afford it or is the reward worth the risk?

2. RESEARCH – Check with others who have made a similar loan decision. Was it a good move? Would he/she do it again? Are there online examples supporting your decision? Would you loan your money for this purpose?

3. REST then RESPOND – This simple step can really help one regain “balance” when considering a large financial decision. Eliminate “heat of the moment” decisions and you’ll benefit with a better more rational result. “At least sleep on it” is sound advice.

Regarding your credit standing, here’s some tips, suggestions and ideas:

• Banks, retailers, car and equipment dealers, employers, insurance companies and others use credit bureau reporting. Anyone in a position to offer credit may also have access to at least some of your credit history. This tells us all we need to know regarding the data’s importance and its potential impact. If others know your position, shouldn’t you?

• Check your credit scores or credit report. Try, or The site: offers quality, unbiased credit-related information. You’re entitled to receive up to one free credit report (or score) per year from each of the three primary reporting bureaus; Experian, Trans Union and Equifax. Consider spreading these reviews out over the year to gain a better understanding of their content while having time to compare information.

• Generally scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the score the better. Some creditors use all three reporting companies and merge or average your scores.

• Review your data and respond to the appropriate company if you have a dispute or see an error. Debt levels, repayment activity, length of time, high balances, legal suits and bankruptcies are typically available to the report user. Credit reports and credit scoring reflects a quantitative, composite representation of our debt histories.

Ken W. Knies is an agricultural and rural consultant. He holds a bachelor’s of science and arts from the University of Arkansas and a master’s of business administration from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. He formed Ag Strategies, LLC as a business unit focused on quality borrowers and lenders.


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