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Living Well with Bad Credit: Buy a House, Start a Business, and Even Take a VacationNo Matter How Low Your Credit Score Paperback – January 4, 2010

3.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Geoff Williams has worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist for more than 15 years and writes daily for AOL's personal finance blog, WalletPop.com, as well as HGTV's real estate website FrontDoor.com, where he is a columnist.  He has also written for Consumer Reports, AARP Bulletin, CreditCards.com, and Bankrate.com.  Visit http://livingwellwithbadcredit.hcibooks.com.

Chris Balish is a seven-time Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist with more than ten years of experience on live television and radio. He is also the author of How to Live Well Without Owning a Car (Ten Speed, 2006). A graduate of Dartmouth, he has appeared on Today, MSNBC, and CNN, and can be found at www.ChrisBalish.com or http://livingwellwithbadcredit.hcibooks.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

It is a strange thing that the man
who pays cash for all he gets cannot get credit
while a man who runs bills habitually can
get about all the credit he wants.
Comment made in the Worth County Index,
January 3, 1907

It isn't just this generation that has been saddled by debt. Your grandparents had their own recessions and challenges in making payments to credit card companies and department stores. Back then it was Montgomery Ward and Sears; now it's Walmart and Amazon.com. Even your grandparents' grandparents struggled with money. If you've ever watched the 1970s TV show Little House on the Prairie, that series occasionally mangled the historical truth, but they were right on the money when they suggested that Charles Ingalls would have gotten credit at the mercantile store that Harriet and Nels Oleson owned.

We know you're anxious about the future, and maybe not all that interested in the past, but it helps to know how you got here. If you don't know what mistakes were made along the way, you can't fix them.

And as it turns out, credit problems have been brewing for a long time. Of course, for a long time everything worked pretty well, so we're not saying that every decision involving credit and debt for the last century has been built on a foundation of deceit and doom. Credit has a long and honorable history of working well. And yet, it's understandable why you got into debt in the first place. We have a rich history of spending money we don't have.

Even before the first national credit card―the Diner's Card―came along in 1949, there were credit cards issued by your local friendly neighborhood department store. These started getting popular in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. Nobody had money, and businesses were desperate to at least have the promise of future income. Before that, individual stores would routinely offer credit to their regular customers.

In fact, one of the first, and maybe the first, credit bureau actually showed up in Brooklyn around 1869, and by the 1890s credit bureaus were pretty commonplace throughout America. In fact, one of those 1890s bureaus, the Retail Credit Company, eventually became Equifax, which is one of the three giant credit agencies today.

And what's so unsettling about debt history is how familiar everything is. The numbers get higher, but everything else pretty much stays the same. For instance, in 1896 the New York Times ran a detailed story about a lawyer who was having money problems (apparently they never divulged his name, to spare him any embarrassment). Anyway, one morning at breakfast, the attorney's wife handed him a bill for $5. He looked it over and said that the bill was 'a small matter and the man could wait.' Then the wife handed her husband a bill for $200. The lawyer again examined the bill, this time for a longer time. He finally handed it back, saying that the bill 'was a large matter, and the man would have to wait.'

See? Nothing changes. Human nature is human nature.
Consider the home equity loan, which seems like a pretty modern way of going into debt, due to its surge in popularity since the 1980s. But they've been around since at least the days of the Great Depression. Back in 1961, a Florida bank, St. Pete Federal, ran a newspaper ad explaining the home equity loan concept to their customers. 'Chances are, you can get more money out of your home than you've put into it,' the bank's ad read, adding that customers could use a home equity loan to 'turn a weekend at the beach into a month in Europe. Turn a ski boat into a yacht.' The advertisement's headline gushed, 'It's like magic.'
Like magic. No wonder so many of us are in trouble.

Not that we want to pass the buck (okay, maybe the wrong expression to use). Obviously, ultimately, we as individuals are the ones responsible for our money mismanagement. We signed on the dotted lines. Nobody forced us to get credit cards or take out loans. We have to own our mistakes, and boy, do we own them. But if you're going to beat yourself up, don't think for a second that you got into this all on your own. Banks have been holding your hand and whispering sweet nothings into your ear for quite some time now.

©2010. Chris Balish, Geoff Williams. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Living Well with Bad Credit. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442


Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HCI (January 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0757313582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0757313585
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gaby at Starting Fresh blog VINE VOICE on February 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
Chris Balish and Geoff Williams have come up with a sympathetic, clear, and helpful guide to navigating everyday and large financial decisions. The book is geared towards people with low credit scores, but it also offers information helpful to all of us. The main causes of the disruption/destruction of solid credit history are "divorce, disaster, a serious medical condition, or getting laid off from a job."

We know that the cost of bad credit is expensive, so Living Well With Bad Credit is especially helpful with its solid suggestions of ways to both save money and to be able to get hired, find decent housing, rent a car, start a business, go on a vacation (not a posh one!), and repair credit history.

The book is divided into these ten parts:

* Welcome to the Land of Bad Credit
* Banking with Bad Credit
* Getting a Good Job with Bad Credit
* Good Housing with Bad Credit
* Driving: Bad Credit in the Passenger Seat
* Starting a Business with Bad Credit
* Living with Bad Credit
* Avoiding Bad Credit Scams
* Bad Credit: Psychology 101

Each of the chapters are straightforward and helpful. Balish and Williams flag what to look out for in each of the categories and offer specific ways to manage with a low credit score.

In Banking with Bad Credit, the book briefly explains ChexSystems which computes and tracks everyone's credit scores. Since 80% of banks in the country subscribe to ChexSystem and a low credit score or disastrous credit history can make it difficult to open a checking account with a major bank, Balish and Williams suggest looking into the bank's Second Chance program which may be a way to open a bank account again.
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Format: Paperback
The biggest problem with nearly all of the books about credit that are on the market is this: They're all about how to improve your credit, as though that's somehow the key to financial success.

Guess what?

It isn't. Good credit is what gets people into debt trouble in the first place. The only good thing you can do with a high credit score is buy a house. Everything else -- consumer goods, new cars, private student loans, boats, luxury vacations, etc. -- is bad.

What Geoff Williams and Chris Balish show in this book that is actually quite groundbreaking is this: YOU DON'T NEED GOOD CREDIT TO HAVE A GOOD FINANCIAL LIFE! I would rather be rich than have good credit and, contrary to popular belief, the two are not really that related. Most people use a high credit score to destroy their financial lives, not improve them.

Major props to Chris Balish and Geoff Williams for putting together a book whose time has come.

Wake up, America! Your credit score is not some token of your moral value! Get over your credit score and live your life -- and this is just the book you need to get started.


Zac Bissonnette
AOL Money & Finance
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Format: Paperback
I bought the skinny, big-type, lots-of-airspace Living Well with Bad Credit while researching new info I could incorporate into financial education classes I'm creating for the credit union I work for. Usually when I pick up new books like this, I'll use them as door prizes when we hold "How to Build Your Credit" seminars -- but I can't even give this one away, because so much of the advice is just so bad! Much of the book is two Hollywood types nattering away, looking to make the reader go ha-ha-ha.

In fact, I found the entire tome just downright insulting to one's intelligence -- and a slap in the face of people who are in the very real and very painful, back-against-the-wall situation of having badly damaged credit.

(pg 44, giving advice on who might hire you without doing a background credit check: "...You can probably become a farm laborer, lifeguard, or a stripper without a credit check, or you could sell watches on Times Square, or... well, have you ever considered becoming a mime?

"CHRIS: A mime? Did we really just write that?
"GEOFF: Oh, I'm crazy for suggesting people become a mime, but you'e the man with the plan for telling people they should become a stripper or sell watches on Times Square...
"CHRIS: You are right. You are so cool. I wish I was you.
"GEOFF: But of course.
"CHRIS: Stop rewriting what I wrote! Folks, I didn't write that Geoff was cool.
"GEOFF: What you wrote was unprintable! (There is a struggle.)"

That entire exchange occupies nearly the entire bottom half of page 44. (The book averages about 3 - 4 paragraphs to the page.
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I really appreciated this book so much. The authors -- one of whom went through his own bad credit saga and ultimately a bankruptcy -- are down to earth and write in a highly accessible manner. I had always been pretty good with my credit and money, until a serious medical event (brain tumor). Then the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan. I had medical insurance, I had savings, and still ended up with a pile of debt that was crushing me. The authors helped me see the errors of my ways -- in hindsight, my reserves were insufficient -- and also to see that even the best of us can mismanage our budgets, make bad forecasts, or just pull the short straw.

My own debt crisis began just as the Wall Street crisis unfolded. I had always just assumed it was a good thing to have credit cards, and before my medical saga, I generally kept my balances low or at zero. AND paid on time. But when the recession hit, some of my cards were cancelled, some lowered the limits, and the rates were jacked way up. Watching the melt-down from a hospital bed, I had some time to reflect on the whole set of assumptions we've been living with as a culture about money, credit, debt and risk. And self-employed (as the authors are), I saw my income plummet by two thirds. I found myself in a virtual 21st century debtors prison of the body, mind and soul.

What was so helpful about this book, for me, were the tales about how I'm not alone, and how you really can live, and live well -- I dare say, live better! -- without a great credit score. My credit score will eventually recover, but perhaps even more important, I no longer care so much about it.
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