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Color of Money

'The Most Important Financial Number'

By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page E04

Anyone who uses credit ought to know what a credit score is. And surveys show that most people do.

But many still don't know what information is used to come up with their credit scores, according to a new survey by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Fair Isaac Corp., developer of the FICO credit score used by most lenders to evaluate consumers looking for credit.

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If I were to tell you that as your income goes up your credit score will increase, would you agree?

If you answered "yes," you need to do some credit score basic training.

And you wouldn't be alone.

Almost one-half of consumers questioned in the CFA and Fair Isaac survey didn't know that increasing one's income will not increase one's credit score.

The fact is, credit scores reflect only your own past credit history and not your income, marital status, occupation or other personal characteristics.

"Despite all of the news coverage about credit scores over the past year, many consumers still do not understand important facts about these increasingly influential numbers," said Stephen Brobeck, CFA's executive director.

How would you answer this question: True or false, a married couple has a combined credit score?

It's false. You might be able to marry for money, but you can't marry your way into a good credit score. Debt that is jointly owed can affect your credit score as an individual. However, couples don't have a combined credit score.

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