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Credit scores are difficult to understand. We all know that they are simply indicators of how likely we are to pay lenders back, though even thinking about calculating them is a whole ‘nother ball game.

Keep in mind that you do not have to have a credit score in order to get where you want in life. However, if you’re like most people, you’ll probably be surprised to know that credit scores have an impact on many important things in life.

Without further ado, it’s time to break down credit scores and learn about them so you can improve your FICO score and use it to your advantage.

Credit scores are used for a handful of judgment calls

Keep in mind that not all of these people, businesses, and government agencies pull your credit score. Typically, the bigger the city, the more credit score pulling you’ll face. Also, the more corporate-like entities are more likely to use hard financial figures and metrics like credit scores.

Landlords, especially property management company-owned spots, will use credit scores to see how much of a deposit they need to feel comfortable renting to you. Businesses that provide goods on loan to customers, such as cell phone providers, use them. In some cases, even local utility providers utilize FICO scores to gauge how much of a deposit they need to minimize risk.

Employers sometimes use them, as well.

Get your free credit report

Legislature in the United States mandates that Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian must give every consumer in the country one copy of their credit report each calendar year if they so request it.

Check out your report and try to identify any information that doesn’t seem to add up. You might spot debts that aren’t even yours – speak up about them ASAP to prevent getting stuck with them.

Structured settlements can help, believe it or not

These financial tools pay equal sums of cash every month to recipients. You should already be engaging in this behavior when it comes to paying debts off. If you get your hands on a structured settlement, do not commingle it with your regular earnings. Rather, divert all of the settlement’s inflows to debts (learn how to cash out a structured settlement); when those are paid off, head to an emergency fund and a few retirement accounts; last, it’s time for real-deal, true-blue investments.

Structured settlements might not have an effect on your credit score, though framing things through the lens of structured settlements can certainly beef up your financial standing.