For better or worse, the American people have always shaped themselves in the image of their leaders. Under George Washington we grew more stately, under Teddy Roosevelt more bombastic. Under Chester Arthur we grew mutton chops.
So what can our presidents teach us about personal money management? Read on to find out.
1. Live within your means.
Calvin Coolidge was famous for abstaining. Silent Cal earned his nickname and his reputation by being a man of few words, as stingy with his own breath as he was with his wallet. Following his predecessor Warren G. Harding, whose wife Florence was known for lavish parties, Coolidge famously scaled back to a level more simple and reserved.
I'd imagine it isn't too hard to see where I'm going with this. Even in the context of the Roaring Twenties, Coolidge saw it fit to rein in spending and keep a conservative touch on his social expenses. You can too . Check out CK's My Spending feature and see if you can't find a place to cut back.
2. Seek out the best advice.
Much has been made of Lincoln's famous "Team of Rivals." When looking to staff his cabinet, Abe purposefully sought out colleagues who he disagreed with. Lincoln thrived on debate, and felt he needed the challenge that only a cabinet full of intelligent and hard-headed advisers could supply.
The same could apply to your personal finances. Maybe you don't need all that antagonism, but it certainly helps to hear voices other than your own when it comes to making financial decisions. This could include consulting loved ones, hiring professionals or employing some of Credit Karma's free financial resources. Check out our advice section and start collecting your own team of rivals.
3. Some things get better with age.
Ronald Reagan was sixty-nine years old when he won the presidency, fourteen years older than incumbent president Jimmy Carter. Far from a political weakness, though, Reagan was able to use his relatively advanced age to add a hint of wisdom to his speech and an air of gravitas to his persona. It didn't hurt either that Reagan was energetic, active and relatable despite his additional years.
Like Reagan was to voters, your credit file can seem more attractive to prospective lenders with a little bit of age behind it. On your Credit Report Card, you can see where you rank against other Credit Karma users when it comes to the average age of your accounts. For this calculation, Credit Karma only factors in open accounts, though, so follow the Gipper's lead and keep those accounts open and active.
4. Keep that record clean.
Following the public indiscretions of the Nixon administration, Jimmy Carter was able to ride to the White House on a wave of moral reform. His down-home image as a religious, peanut farming, Navy man lifted him to a level beyond the political muck of the Nixon era, making him an attractive and easy choice for voters during his initial run for the presidency.
Just as a prior misdeed, even decades in the past, could have brought down the presidential hopes of a relatively spotless candidate like Jimmy Carter, black marks on your credit report can make you less attractive to lenders. There is relatively good news, though, because unlike Nixon's break-in to the Watergate Hotel, derogatory credit marks can eventually go away. Still, it's best to cut these off before they become a problem. Stay on top of your bills and enroll in our free credit monitoring to discover incorrect derogatory marks and have them removed from your credit.
5. Ambition is key.
Not every president came from a presidential family. Leaders from Andrew Johnson to Bill Clinton grew up in poverty before hoisting themselves to the highest levels of American politics. And even the ones who grew up with more privilege didn't exactly roll out of bed and become president.
Building your credit, just like becoming president or anything else in life, is a long, slow process. Just as Bill Clinton moved from Hope, Arkansas to Yale Law and a governorship before finally calling Air Force One his own, you'll find weigh stations along your path to credit bliss. The credit cards you're recommended now might not look quite the same as those you'll be recommended a year from now. Keep making smart decisions, though, and maybe you'll grab a 4,000 square foot private jet of your own. Or, you know, at least a Honda or something.
No matter who you take your financial inspiration from, it's always important to stay thoughtful and proactive. Growing your credit to something you can be proud of is a goal everyone should have, and here at Credit Karma we're happy to help you out along the way.
About the Author: Mike Goldstein is a Content Writer at Credit Karma. Since joining the team in June 2013, he's been delivering the financial know-how on the daily. When away from work, you can find Mike watching hockey, Twittering for hours and frequenting trivia nights.
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