What Your Average Credit Score Should Be by Decade—and Tips to Maintain It

Having a good credit score is important, and is the key to locking in low rates on credit cards and loans. Here are credit scores to aim for at each stage of your life—and how to maintain them.

Your credit score is an important part of your financial life. A good credit score is the key to locking in the best loans and interest rates for big purchases like a new home or car, and qualifies you for different types of credit cards with higher credit lines and perks. It shows lenders your payment history, how much debt you have (and how you pay it off), and how many lines of credit you have open. There are many factors that can impact your credit score, so it's important to make those monthly payments on time, and check your credit card statements to make sure all the charges are yours—credit card errors can be a hassle to fix and can impact your score.

It's important to remember that your ideal credit score depends on your personal situation. Some of these factors include, "Socioeconomic standing, systemic issues that may contribute, the type of jobs you have and can get, how likely lenders are to deal with you," says Jake Hill, CEO of Debt Hammer, an online platform that helps people get out of debt.

The general rules of thumb for keeping a good credit score are paying your statement every month, only applying for credit when you need it, and having low credit utilization, which means only using a small percentage of your total credit limit according to Matt Frankel, a certified financial planner and credit card expert with The Ascent.

While you shouldn't compare yourself to others, it is nice to have some guidelines for scores to aim for. Here is a guide to average credit scores according to age—and what you can do to maintain it.

20s: 663-680*

A good goal in your 20s is to just build credit. A great way to establish credit is to get a secured credit card. These are easy to get approved for and report to all the credit bureaus, allowing you to build credit without going too much into debt, because you get to set the credit limit with a deposit when you open the card.

"Establish good payment history with your credit cards, increase the limits of your credit cards as you establish that payment history," says Carlos Medina, operations and business development SVP at One Technologies, LLC, creator of credit scores and reports company ScoreSense. "Making good choices with your credit in your 20s will make things easier in the future."

Since building credit takes time, it's good to start as early as possible—if you didn't learn about credit as a child, your 20s is a good time to create healthy credit habits.

If you have credit card debt, certified financial planner Ami Shah suggests setting up automatic payments for the largest amount you can afford. Shah says it's "the single most important thing you can do to improve your credit score" because debt payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score.

30s: 677-693*

Diversify your credit in your 30s—aim to have at least one installment loan such as a mortgage or auto loan. "A good mix of accounts will help show diversity in your ability to manage credit," says Medina.

If you have debt, figure out exactly how much you owe and start paying it off. Knowing exactly how much you owe, what the payoff dates are, and what your APR is for each loan will help you come up with a plan to pay it off and lessen the financial anxiety that comes with not knowing your money well.

"Over 75 percent of U.S. households are in debt, but don't know how much they actually owe," says Shah. Call your credit card company and try to negotiate for a lower APR—40 to 50 percent lower—by telling them you are getting competitive rates from other cards and that you would like to aggressively pay down your debt. If you have student loans you're paying off, Shah recommends trying a service like SoFi or Earnest to refinance your student loan payments.

40s: 685-701*

Preserve and leverage your credit in your 40s. Set up an automatic payment on the credit card you have had longest—such as a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription—so you can continue building credit on a card without shutting it down. Leverage your long-standing credit with companies and make sure you're getting the lowest interest rate.

If you have kids and are saving for college, talk to your child about their future plans and options so you can make a financially sustainable decision.

"If you start early enough, you may avoid having to cosign for student loans or sign up for the Parent PLUS loan, all of which can impact your credit negatively if not paid on time," says Erica Seppala, credit and financial analyst at Merchant Maverick.

If you have debt accumulated over the years, Seppala suggests refinancing high interest debts, consolidating loans, and coming up with plans to pay off debt quickly.

50s: 703-723*

As you head towards retirement, protect your credit. "You want to make sure there is nothing in your credit report that could cause unforeseen financial consequences, such as late payments or errors," says Medina. Be sure to check your credit report and monitor your credit score and statements to make sure there are no mistakes or potential setbacks.

Make sure you don't have any credit cards you opened ages ago that you have forgotten about. Shah recommends not having more than two or three credit cards—it's hard to keep track of random store credit cards that you may have opened over the years, putting you at risk for missed payments that can impact your credit score.

60 and over: 719-755*

Reevaluate your budget. "Many baby boomers find that they can downsize or even cut spending by 10 to 15 percent," says Seppala. The savings each month can be put towards paying off debt, investing in retirement, or contributing to an emergency fund so you can avoid spending too much on credit cards.

*Credit scores from VantageScore averages

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