Kelly and Nicole look at Kelly's credit score.

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Before Kelly can start saving, Suze says she needs to face the truth about her financial situation. To show her how bad things have become, Suze calculates Kelly's credit score—also known as a FICO score—on the website myfico.com. This important three-digit number, which ranges from about 300 to more than 850, is the numerical representation of the information in a credit report.

"[Your FICO score] determines the interest rates on your credit cards," Suze says. "It's starting to determine if an employer will hire you, if a landlord will rent to you. ... It determines everything in your life."

When Suze enters Kelly's information into the system, the damage she's done to her credit is revealed almost instantly. Her Equifax score, 449, falls in the "bad" range, as does her TransUnion score (536) and Experian score (545).

How to repair damaged credit

Looking back, Kelly says she wasn't surprised by the low numbers, but confronting the truth took an emotional toll. "At that point in my life, I was very low," she says. "I knew I needed the help."

Suze says money isn't Kelly's problem—it's merely a symbol of what's going wrong in her life. "Money is the currency of life. It's a physical manifestation of who you are," she says. "If there's trouble with money, it's never the money. ... The bigger issue is you. That's why I've always said self-worth equals net worth. When I see low FICO scores, I see debt, I see somebody late in payments, I know they don't like who they are."
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FROM: What Happened to the Mom Who Shopped Her Family Broke?
Published on March 14, 2008

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