The folks at TrueCredit were wondering the same thing so they commissioned a survey to see what caught Americans by surprise in 2008.

When you least expect it

For most Americans, 2008 was, to put it mildly, unexpected. Unemployment soared, the bottom fell out of the housing market and every day brought more surprising news from the economic sector about the credit crisis.

To find out exactly how Americans rated these various events, the TrueCredit division of TransUnion commissioned a survey conducted by Zogby International. This online survey was conducted from 1/14/09 to 1/16/09 and included 2,889 adults from their online panel. According to Zogby, slight weights were added to various regions and political parties, as well as age, race, religion, gender and education to more accurately reflect the population and the margin of error is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

The results

According to the survey, 53% believe the $700 billion government bailout of Wall Street financial institutions was the most unexpected event. This was followed by Sarah Palin's appointment as John McCain's running mate (40%), while fully 28% of respondents called the credit crisis the most stunning event of 2008.

"This past year showed Americans that anything can happen, and emphasized the importance of knowing where they stand at all times," said Lucy Duni, vice president of consumer education for by TransUnion. "Consumers should take a proactive role in managing and maintaining their credit to ensure they are prepared for unforeseen events like losing their job, or racking up debt."

And now, about your credit score

Since the survey was sponsored by TransUnion, you'd certainly expect that there would be a word from “our sponsor” in all this. But, all in all, it does have a purpose since the same survey found that while most people do know their credit score (63 percent), more than half (53 percent) say that it's been more than 6 months since they've checked it and almost 10 percent say that they've never checked it.

TrueCredit then goes on to pitch their credit monitoring service which is a good, if somewhat expensive, idea. An alternative would be to order your free credit report, one from each agency, at 4 month intervals and to receive your credit score free of charge at any time from

Looking ahead into the unknown

According to the report, “Many believe the outlook for 2009 is just as bleak as 2008, with one-third of those polled saying they would consider either a soaring stock market or surging home sales among the most unexpected events they could foresee occurring this year.” TrueCredit ties the entire report together by stating that “the events of 2008 reiterate the importance of taking the necessary precautions to safeguard your finances, as this is truly one of the best defenses for fighting the unexpected.”