There are plenty of fascinating reasons why people might be rejected for a security clearance. Perhaps they are sleeper agents for a foreign power. Or perhaps they are members of the famous hacker brotherhood Anonymous – desperate to leak American secrets and bring about a new world order. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

In reality, the reasons most clearances get rejected are decidedly unsexy. They’re usually downright boring. The number one reason why clearance applicants are rejected is because of financial issues. An applicant’s exorbitant credit card debt or defaulted loans could make them vulnerable to blackmail – or raise questions about their judgment.

So it makes sense that so many clearance applicants contact ClearanceJobs with questions about financial issues. This week an applicant asked, “Can I take out a loan or debt during the security clearance process?” Yes. And no.

can new debt wait?

In the past, the guidance may have been to avoid taking out any debt during a security clearance application or reinvestigation. Such debt could negatively affect your credit score and – thereby – negatively affect your background investigation.

Unfortunately when applicants may be waiting over a year for their clearances, issues may arise. You may need to take out a loan for a new car. Or perhaps medical issues have forced you to take on additional debt. These things happen and clearance adjudicators know this. They will judge you based on the “whole person” concept, taking into account your character and other behavior.

When possible, though, inform your security officer before taking on new debt. They will be able to offer guidance and help you mitigate any issues if needed. That said, common sense rules still apply; don’t go buy a Porsche if you make $50,000 a year.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a  lot of questions for applicants. For this reason, ClearanceJobs maintains – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed  on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum

If you have a tough security clearance question, you can post your questions or concerns on

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Caroline's background is in public policy, non-profit fundraising, and - oddly enough - park rangering. Though she once dreamed of serving America secretly in the CIA, she's grateful she's gotten to serve America publicly - both through the National Park Service and right here at ClearanceJobs.