Deaf since birth, Daryl Hajek earns a living by juggling half a dozen odd jobs.
He’s always got a bunch of different gigs going to make enough money to live. He works, writes and creates artwork out of his home, a mobile home in Tampa that he shares with a roommate.
At one time, Hajek had a terrific credit score — an excellent 750. Potential lenders and landlords love people like that.
Then he moved several times, and during all those transitions, he missed a few credit card payments. He also applied for a credit card and submitted a rental application — two things that required a credit check. All of this caused his credit score to plummet to somewhere around 530 — not so good.
Hajek, 54, wanted to be able to manage his credit better. And he wanted a simple way to do that. His life is complicated enough already.
He didn’t want to pay for a pricy credit repair service. He wanted to keep close track of his credit, but he hated contacting the major credit reporting bureaus.
“They’re a pain!” he wrote to The Penny Hoarder in an email. “Aaarrrggghhhh!!!!!”
Among other things, he was worried that someone might steal his identity and fraudulently rack up a bunch of credit charges in his name.
About a year ago, he signed up for Credit Sesame, a free credit monitoring service. He found it refreshingly easy to use.
“I like the ease-of-use, and navigating the site is a breeze,” he said.
By following its recommendations, Hajek raised his credit score all the way back up to 708. That’s roughly a 175-point jump. It makes a big difference in how lenders view him.
“I just got a better credit card with a larger credit limit, along with a personal loan, too,” he said. The loan paid for relocation expenses and for setting up his art business on Amazon.
Not everyone who uses the service sees such a hike, but plenty do raise their scores: 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
Juggling His Art and Part-Time Jobs
Hajek communicates with his bead supplier via video chat. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
Hajek was born deaf because his mother contracted rubella (a viral infection that’s now largely wiped out thanks to vaccination) during a major epidemic in the U.S. when she was pregnant in 1964.
He communicates in sign language with his deaf friends. “I speak orally with hearing people, as I’ve had specialized speech therapy since I was very young,” he explained.
To earn a living, he’s working various part-time jobs that he can do online. These include:
- Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, where he can do microtasks, such as data entry and surveys and studies, online.
- Writing blog posts now and then.
- Bead art, specializing in things like Christmas trees, snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas bells, candleholders, picture frames, wall art, window coverings and American flags.
- He has written and self-published two novels — “Blood Blossom,” a thriller about a dysfunctional family, and “The Preternatural,” about a deaf family that experiences paranormal activity in their new home.
All of that is a lot to juggle. That’s a big reason he’s drawn to the simplicity of Credit Sesame.
It breaks down exactly what’s on his credit report in layman’s terms, and how it all affects his score. It also suggests strategies for how he can address anything that’s hurting his score.
“Keeping track of my credit score and keeping track of my monthly payments over time (three months, six months and 12 months) has been truly beneficial,” Hajek said.
He also wanted to make sure no errors were affecting his credit score.
One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission, and you can ask to have them removed from your report. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card debt that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and raise your credit score.
Keeping track of my credit score and keeping track of my monthly payments over time has been truly beneficial.
“I found a couple errors which affected my score and subsequently had them removed,” Hajek said. One error on his credit report involved an unpaid bill by a person who had almost the same name, but not quite. Clearing that up helped raise his score by dozens of points.
‘Everything Is Crystal-Clear’
Hajek’s credit score dipped again when he missed some credit card payments, but he’s on track to raise his score again by monitoring it with Credit Sesame. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
Hajek’s credit score recently dipped to 625 after he missed a few payments again. But he knows he can get his score back up — now that he knows how.
He’s planning to stick with Credit Sesame. The service is free, and better credit is helping him improve his standard of living by moving into a deluxe two-bedroom trailer.
Also, his plans for the future require him to have good credit. He doesn’t want to rent forever: “I’d like to buy a nice double-wide mobile home someday.”
He checked out some of Credit Sesame’s competitors, but he didn’t like them as much.
Credit Sesame, he said, has “better ease-of-use and site navigation. Everything is crystal-clear, and I don’t have to hunt-and-peck for this or that, or ask questions, like ‘Where is such-and-such? How do I such-and-such?’ People should not be left hanging.
“It’s just like with reading a book,” this two-time author said. “After the end of the last chapter, you don’t want some readers left hanging and asking questions. That’s bad! Readers should be satisfied and happy!”
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s working on his credit too.