Credit and the single mom: Screw up your credit, screw up your whole life. And your children’s lives.

When I was going through my divorce, one of the big question marks was my apartment. It was by far the biggest financial asset my ex-husband and I owned together. Plus, it was my and my kids’ home  – familiar, close to our day care, and in a building full of neighbors who supported us when we were going through the worst of it. There was no way I was leaving.

Fortunately, I had good credit when I was married, and I also had an income (that’s important in more ways than you know – stay tuned for Part 2!). I kept those two things going until recently, when I refinanced, bought out my ex and now am a proud owner of a big fat mortgage with Chase. Yea me!

The point is, good credit gives you options. And when every single point in your life is a giant cluster tangle of uncertainty, it can be hard to remember to keep your nose clean and take care of business. Here I could point to the much-referenced study that found that women’s standard of living dropped by 26 percent on average after a divorce. But I won’t, because we’re not going to let that happen.

Today I interviewed Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert and consumer advocate, who said that women often let their credit slip (or never paid any attention in the first place), and realize the err of their ways only when it’s too late. “When you’re going through a divorce you’re so vulnerable financially. Even if you have a high paying job, you’re still insecure about the future,” Harzog says. “The better credit you have, the more options you have. Many women don’t realize that credit affects your whole life.”

Bad credit can make it hard or impossible to:

  • Rent an apartment
  • Refinance or buy a home
  • Buy or lease a car
  • Get a credit card
  • Get a job (almost half of employers run credit checks on job candidates)
  • Start a business
  • Get a man (sorry, just telling it how it is)

Scared yet? Stay tuned until tomorrow when I’ll break down how to care for your credit, whether you’re recently divorced, in the middle of a separation, or fantasizing about single motherhood.




Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

4 thoughts on “Credit and the single mom: Screw up your credit, screw up your whole life. And your children’s lives.

  1. Hi there, thanks for the article. I’m super concerned about my financial situation, even though people say that I’m young. I’m an undergraduate in college and I’ve had to take out loans to cover health insurance and fill in the gaps when work study couldn’t. Is there any advice you have for post undergrad or grad students on how to build credit? Anything would help.


    1. Kamille! Thanks for writing — funny you should ask. I recently wrote a story for Retail Me Not about credit cards for students. I will post the link when it goes live in the next week or two, but one thing you might consider now is opening a secured credit card. Ask your bank.

    1. Credit really only serves as a way to get more debt. More debt will never help you prosper and build wealth. IMO the first step is to get out of the mindset that good credit is even necessary. Elimination of debt should be the goal!

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