Using crayons to learn how to manage credit

Alisa Glutz has worked in the mortgage business and credit industry for over a decade, as a broker and now as a licensed mortgage professional, currently at the Scottsdale-based Cherry Creek Mortgage Company. She also once booked talent for HBO comedy specials and produced Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” talk show, which ran for nine years.

But her newest venture is a bit different, because you’re going to need some crayons to follow along.

With her own company called “Color My Credit” which opened in July, and her first published book, also called Color My Credit, which will officially release early next year, Glutz wants to help people feel empowered when it comes to understanding and managing their credit situations by utilizing one of the first things we learn as children: coloring with crayons.

“I’ve been a mortgage banker for 14 years and I’ve watched people’s eyes glaze over whenever I’ve shown them copies of their credit reports,” Glutz says. “I’ve found a way to basically black out 90 percent of the credit report so they’re only having to focus on two pages that have an impact to show them the action they can take.”

These two pages makeup the last 24 months of a person’s credit report, which have the most impact on a credit score. Glutz compares her “Color My Credit” method to the expression of eating an elephant one bite at a time, though she prefers “one crayon at a time.”

Glutz explains that there are seven areas in total of her book about banking topics many of us generally aren’t taught in school. She emphasizes breaking down the vastly important subject of credit, and promises that “if you know how to color, you know how to improve your credit.”

The book’s time of release is no coincidence. Glutz refers to the Fair Credit Reporting Act which, pertaining to people’s credit reports, mandates “all derogatory payment information must be purged from the credit file no later than seven years after the negative event” (such as a late payment.) This means the United States housing bubble and Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 will no longer so heavily affect many people’s credit, and consequently, their ability to borrow money or access various resources.

“70 to 80 percent of people who come to me for credit help, they end up actually being much better off because they don’t realize this stuff falls off your credit after seven years,” Glutz says. “This time around, we have to do things smarter and that involves teaching people to better use credit cards, such as setting up systems to pay your Netflix and pay off bank cards every month.”

Glutz’s credit advice comes at a time in which the latest average FICO score as of April 2016 in the U.S. is 699 (right between “fair” and “good”) which is an all-time high, though Glutz emphasizes aiming to be “great” rather than “good” (which would be 720 and higher).

According to FICO data analysis, credit scores have been on a slow-and-steady rise alongside the U.S. economy since October 2009 (with the lowest reported average score in 11 years: 686), and rates of serious delinquency (payments 90 days or more past due) are also steadily decreasing; currently at 17.1 percent as of April 2016 compared to 17.7 percent in October 2015 and higher percentages going back further.

One piece of advice Glutz has for people is to look into peer-to-peer lending, a “trick” she’s learned in which lenders give a full amount to be paid back in three or five years, and the accounts aren’t observed pertaining to credit.

Glutz also organizes events to advise people financially, such as the first Color My Credit Expo. Held at Tempe Improv in early October, she and six other financial professionals came together to create awareness and foster information about the monetary topics of “budget,” “credit,” “insurance,” “tax,” “home,” “retirement” and “legacy.”

“Color My Credit” officially releases on January 1st, 2017, and Glutz is planning a launch party and book signing.