Book Review
Title: "Living Well with Bad Credit"
Authors: Chris Balish and Geoff Williams
Publisher: Health Communications Inc., 2010; 192 pages; $10.36

Once upon a time, it was the case that you could pretty accurately assume that if someone owned a home, they probably had at least decent credit. These days, that assumption is inaccurate more often than not.

So many homeowners have either lost homes to foreclosure, off-loaded them via short sales, filed for bankruptcy, gone late on mortgage payments to qualify for a loan mod, or fallen behind on credit-card payments so they could make their mortgage payments.

As a result, many, many homeowners of my acquaintance have taken some sort of credit hit in recent years.

Credit repair programs abound, but it’s tough to tell which are legit and which are scams.

Into this mix enter personal finance journalists Chris Balish and Geoff Williams, with their new book "Living Well with Bad Credit: Buy a House, Start a Business and Even Take a Vacation No Matter How Low Your Credit Score."

The authors nail the art and science of living a good life in the aftermath of credit trauma, with this soothing, pragmatic and deeply reality-based instruction manual, starting with an introductory chapter on how to move away from the psychological fear and depression that so often seizes new entrants to what they call the Land of Bad Credit.

While making clear that bad credit is truly undesirable, the authors set the stage for living well if you end up with it anyway, by declaring up front that having bad credit does not make one a bad person (contrary to surprisingly popular belief) and sketching out the various scenarios that frequently send good folks into the Land of Bad Credit.

After mentioning several potentially profound upsides (yes, upsides!) to having bad credit, Balish and Williams proceed to provide sound advice and very realistic action steps on banking with bad credit, including such well-supported advice as minimizing automated withdrawals and avoiding payday loans. …CONTINUED

The next topic — getting a good job with bad credit — is essential reading for many job applicants, given that (a) credit checks are widely touted as being routine background check requirements for "good" jobs, and (b) a good job is pretty necessary to digging out of the financial dilemma that led to the bad credit in the first place!

Balish and Williams halt the potential for a "can’t get a job" mental freak-out in its tracks, with data showing that, in fact, the majority of employers still do not check credit.

They also offer insights from a headhunter with insider knowledge of employee credit checks from an employer’s perspective, and a job hunter who was able to land a high-level job after disclosing his credit issues, as well as useful tips for discussing your credit "issues" with a prospective employer.

Balish and Williams move on to provide uber-useful advice on getting good housing, obtaining transportation, starting a business and just plain old good living — including traveling, completing home renovations, gardening and getting good health care — all with bad credit.

"Living with Bad Credit" concludes with chapters on avoiding credit-repair scams and the psychological implications of having bad credit — with tips on dealing with depression and discussing money matters with partners and children — and getting back your good credit, then keeping it.

"Living with Bad Credit" is a bright light for people who have been through a dark period. It powerfully removes the dread of the phase of life that must inevitably be lived during the recovery of credit and finances after major money trauma.

It is full of highly relatable self-disclosure, little steps to make daily life with bad credit easier, and resources that cost little or nothing but hold the potential to decrease bad credit drama. "Living with Bad Credit" is an absolute must-read for anyone seeking to emerge from money problems and credit-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site,


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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