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Financial coach warns Americans’ credit score drop points to ‘uncertain economic times’



FICO recently reported the average national credit score of Americans declined for the first time in more than a decade, and one expert says it reflects a shift in attitude toward personal finance in the U.S. 

“I am concerned that this drop paints the picture of uncertain economic times and a lack of individual accountability toward people’s financial futures,” says financial coach Jeannie Dougherty. “While your credit score may seem like an arbitrary number, it will have a large impact on your ability to be comfortable in the future.” 

A March blog from FICO revealed that the “national average FICO® Score held steady from April 2023 to July 2023 at 718.” However, according to credit score data up to Oct. 2023, the national average credit score fell by one point to 717. 

“Given that the FICO Score is a lagging, not leading, economic indicator, this suggests that the effects of high interest rates and persistent inflation may be starting to weigh on consumers, especially those already struggling to manage their finances,” the report said.


Several factors are flashing signs of consumer stress. Credit card debt and overall household debt are both at all-time highs, a majority of Americans say they had to make sacrifices to pay their monthly bills last year, and delinquencies are on the rise.

Dougherty attributed some of the financial stress to the pandemic, and some to societal shifts. She believes mental health and spending habits are closely linked.

The financial coach said traditionally, Americans were used to people preparing in their 20s or 30s to buy their first home, managing their credit, and to have at least a small 401(k) set up or some type of retirement.

However, when the pandemic hit, many people could not find a steady job, and what people considered “normal” sort of “went out the window,” Dougherty said. She also argued that much of the financial behavior by American consumers today can be attributed to society and perceptions, like buying a brand-new car rather than used, or purchasing a huge house rather than one that is more affordable.


“A lot of people would like to retreat,” Dougherty told FOX Business in an interview. “I’ve seen that sort of as a Western mindset: ‘I’m just overwhelmed. I can’t do this. I’m totally traumatized, just overwhelmed.’ I hear those words more often.”

She said that sometimes individuals know they need to improve their credit scores, but that is not their priority because they are dealing with their own survival. Many are grappling with what Dougherty called “credit fixation,” where they resort to credit cards for everyday expenses and keep piling on debt without any long-term plan to pay it off – which often leads to bankruptcy.

An individual using a credit card reader

Another issue is that Americans often see indulgent spending as self-care, she said.

“But part of self-care is loving all parts of you – past, present, and future,” Dougherty said.”The sooner you start taking care of your future self, the more they will thank you, and it begins with your credit score.” 

Dougherty said her approach to navigating clients through financial difficulties and a defeated mindset is to tell them, “Nope, we’re in this together. Let’s find a way forward. Let’s build a path.”

FOX Business’ Jeffrey Clark contributed to this report.

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