Credit Lessons from Lidstrom

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We here at the Quizzle blog are always looking for new and exciting ways to jazz up personal finance matters for our readers. Now, we as Quizzologists find such matters absolutely thrilling, don’t get us wrong. But for some folks, the finer points of credit scores, mortgage rates and the like—these items can strike readers as a bit dry so a little rhetorical flourish here and there can help avoid the blahs.

But today, we’re steering into the skid—we’re embracing the mundane by praising one of its classiest and most exalted exemplars: Nick Lidstrom. On Thursday, the surefire Hall of Fame captain of the Detroit Red Wings formally announced his retirement from the NHL. For long-time Wings fans, it’s a bittersweet moment; the captain was always there, even before he was the captain. Through 20 seasons, Nick Lidstrom seemed to make defense almost an afterthought, it was just…covered. Nick was on it.

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With his trademark stoic demeanor, there was no drama involved with Lidstrom. He was steady and efficient and above all consistent. In fact, it was consistency that truly defined his style of play. As any good marksmen or ballistics expert can tell you, accuracy is the ability to hit a target, whereas precision is the ability to hit that target time and time again with as little variation as possible.

It was that consistency—that precision—that made Nick Lidstrom one of the greatest defensemen and players in the history of his sport, and (brace for a personal finance lesson!), those qualities are something to be strived for in many aspects of life, particularly with regard to your credit. It’s actually not much of a stretch, when you think about it.

If Nick Lidstrom’s hockey career could somehow be translated into a credit report, the captain’s score would be well into the 800s. Through decades of practice, repetition and a workmanlike, no-frills attitude, Nick Lidstrom “paid the bills” every time he laced up his skates and took to the ice. In fact, he was so low-key in his near-perfection that for the first decade of his amazing career, while certainly not unnoticed, he went largely unheralded by observers outside Hockeytown. He was soft-spoken, calmly racking up his points in service of much larger goals.

There’s something pretty remarkable about doing a job so well it begins to look unremarkable. But the results spoke for themselves and, before long, Lidstrom’s manifest magnificence became impossible to ignore. By working hard from the get-go, earning his team’s trust, keeping his eyes on the prize, and careful attention to detail, Nick Lidstrom became the cornerstone of the Red Wings defense, eventually earned the coveted ‘C’ on his sweater, and ended up collecting a simply stunning set of superlatives, awards, and trophies.

The lesson here is simple, so I won’t belabor the point: Nick Lidstrom was never the biggest, seldom the fastest guy on the ice but he was usually the most focused, the best-prepared, and the smartest. He played the long-game, never selling his team or organization short by trying to be the center of attention or competing to make a highlight reel. He knew not to indulge in risky gambits or engage in undisciplined play. He was as controlled and methodical as a Wall Street, uh…well, he was controlled and methodical.

So, the next time you think about your credit score, remember these five ‘p-words’ that were personified in the great #5 himself: patience, perseverance, practice, prudence, and professionalism. Just as Lidstrom played the long-game in hockey, think of yourself as playing the long-game of personal finance. The best rewards come after you’ve done something well enough to truly deserve them, and if you pine for the good life too early, you’ll find getting there harder than you expected. You certainly won’t make it look easy like Nick did.

For example: If you’re considering buying a flashy sports car with sky-high insurance premiums, ask yourself, “What Would Lidstrom Do?” (Hint: he wouldn’t buy the car unless he was positive he could afford it. Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do. Ask any Red Wings fan of the past 20 years—they’ll almost certainly agree.)

Or say you want to take a trip to beautiful, sunny Jamaica but have a ton of overdue bills, so you’re thinking about charging the jaunt on a shiny new credit card. “What Would Lidstrom Do?” I’d wager Ole’ St. Nick would skip the fun-n-sun and settle for some sensible, relaxing ice fishing here at home, weather permitting. He’s Swedish, after all. Nothing says ‘responsible’ like trading-in prospectiveCaribbean jerk chicken for a plate of lute fish*. Incidentally, nothing says ‘gross’ like that exchange either, but it’s still the smarter play.

[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]

So, folks, when it comes to building and managing your credit, play it smart. Embrace the mundane. Channel your Inner-Nick Lidstrom by honing your personal finance fundamentals and you can make winning a good credit score look easy. Almost as easy as, say, winning four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy and an Olympic gold medal.
* Important Note: Quizzologists do not necessarily advise the eating of lute fish. You are not Nick Lidstrom. The Quizzologists cannot even confirm that Nick Lidstrom eats lute fish, despite his verified Swedishness. And frankly, we couldn’t blame him if he didn’t.