Shocking news! Credit scores drop as Americans struggle to pay bills

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Americans' credit scores fall as they struggle to pay bills.

That's the headline in a USA Today article that ran today, and while it's an interesting enough story, it hardly feels like news. Of course, credit scores are going to fall when a sizable portion of the population is struggling to pay bills.

The relevant data in the USA Today article is that from the third quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009, the average TransUnion TransRisk credit score (not to be confused with the more prevalent FICO credit score) dropped 6 points to 651. Some states were hammered more so, though. California's average dropped 10 points, and Arizona's, 11.

That said, this doesn't sound that terrible to me, considering how brutal the economy was in the third quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. I was braced to hear a worse average, and nevertheless, the downward turn, while grim, is certainly not unexpected.

And I could even argue that this is a good thing.

No, I haven't been partaking in any cooking sherry. I just mean that a couple years ago when I was seriously behind on every bill imaginable, I worried far too much about my credit score, even paying my credit card bills before my mortgage. And I wasn't alone, as USA Today reported a year ago.

I mean, you never know, maybe this signals that Americans are getting their priorities straight: focusing on paying for necessities first, and their credit card bills second.

There's no doubt about it -- having a good credit score is very important. I certainly want mine to go up before I feel obliged to seek out a loan so I can replace my car. But while people get their financial acts together and adjust to having tighter credit, a drop in the nation's credit score seems inevitable. It's kind of like when you clean a room, sometimes you have to make a mess first, as you pull everything from under the sofa or bed.

Maybe I'm just feeling optimistic right now, but the six-point plunge in credit scores may just be the natural progression as Americans clean up their spending habits.
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