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You Are Your FICO Score

Many prospective employers have reduced the science of human evaluation to just one three digit number: the FICO score. Fair Isaac Company, the entity that originally developed FICO (hence the name), meant it to be a gauge of financial health for individuals. Unfortunately, FICO has now become the measure of all you are as a human being.

It seems that everyone loves a rating scale. Rating scales make it so much easier to choose a hotel or a new toaster or a doctor than detailed descriptions of their attributes. “I’m buying a Maytag washer because it has 4 and a half stars, while the GE has only 4. I’m going to Dr. Smith because she has a patient satisfaction rating of 4.7. Dr. Jones is only a 4.6.”

Simple rating scales now apply to individual human beings. I am no longer a complicated creature of likes and dislikes and passions and prejudices. I no longer have the subtle personality characteristics that make me different from every other human being on earth. Why did I spend all that time and money on psychoanalysis when I can be summed up in one three digit number?

The thinking goes like this, I suppose. If you pay your bills on time, if you are never more than thirty days late, if the balance on your credit card is not out of proportion to your income, then you are a good human being. A score of 750 means you are reliable, moral and industrious. A score of 550 means you are a bum. If you have had a past bankruptcy, you’re even worse.

So making hiring decisions is now easy. Just look at the scores of the applicants, and you can separate the good people from the derelicts.

I was always proud to be a good person, with a FICO score well into the 700s. Unfortunately, a few months ago, I inadvertently made out my mortgage payment check one cent short of the required amount. Not one dollar, one penny. The bank accepted the check, then reported me delinquent and 30 days past due. My FICO score plummeted. As FICO fell, my Equifax, TransUnion and Experian ratings tumbled too.

It took years of scrupulous money management and obsessively on-time bill paying to build up a FICO score I could be proud of. Now, after cheating the bank out of one penny, I am a deadbeat, a loser, a moral monstrosity.

Please, please, understand. I am more than my FICO score. My family still loves me, and my patients like me well enough. Thank goodness I am not searching for a job or trying to refinance a home.

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