Our Stories: Cynthia’s Path to Rebuilding Credit
by Marcia Tabenken | Photo by Gail Sokoloff
Cynthia had always been a stickler when it came to credit.
With a credit score in the 800s, she prioritized paying bills that could adversely affect her credit score, even when that meant forgoing important family purchases. “My score was a little too important to me,” she admits. But after giving away her cell phone to a family member who was late in paying the monthly bills, her credit score took a dive. “I had no idea there was a problem until I had several credit card applications denied for the first time ever.” To Cynthia’s dismay, her credit score had fallen from the 800s to the 500s. From that point on she avoided checking her credit score, too distressed by the low number.
Fast forward several years. At a 2017 community event hosted by United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Cynthia met staff from the Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment (RCFE), a community-based organization and Boston Builds Credit partner that offers financial coaching and credit-building workshops.
“They convinced me to let them pull my credit score, and to my surprise and theirs, it was in the high 600s!”
The very next week she enrolled in RCFE’s Introduction to Credit Building workshop and began meeting with a financial coach. “Within a month or two my credit score had jumped 100 points,” she said. “Just by taking a few small steps, I now had credit available when I needed it.” Her coach also helped her with budgeting and saving. “When I started coaching, I had no money in savings, so bringing some income in was key. My improved credit score was like a breath of fresh air—knowing I had something in my toolbox that I could bring out,” she said. “It freed up my options to think, to process, and to come up with resources around me.”
She took a personal loan from a family member, bought a used car, and became an Uber driver. The money she earned enabled her to quickly pay back the loan and begin building up her savings. As her driving business took off, Cynthia wanted to upgrade her vehicle. Because her high credit score made available an affordable car loan, she was able to buy her first-ever brand-new car.
“The realization that I could achieve financial goals changed my mindset around money, life, and how I use credit. It transitioned me out of a poverty mindset.”
Today Cynthia is a network leader for Boston Builds Credit, empowering other Bostonians to change their outlook and achieve their dreams.