Imagine this: In the spirit of adventure, you’re filling out an online dating profile.
Of course, it's important for potential suitors to know that you enjoy library book sales and sauce packets from Chik-fil-A. You’ll also include key stats, like your height, eye color, and education. But what about your credit score?
If the thought makes you cringe, you’re not alone. The vast majority of singles have misgivings about disclosing financial details to potential partners. In the minority are the customers of Creditscoredating.com, a matching service that asks questions like, “Do you currently have student loans?” and allows you to filter potential dates based on whether or not they’ve posted their score for all to see. Clicking around the site, I began to feel it was the proof I needed that our civilization is rapidly coming to an end, especially when another prompt asked me, “Do you prefer only single people?”
Despite my misgivings about the site, there’s some science that backs the credit-score daters up. The Federal Reserve studied the issue in 2015 and determined that people with good credit scores have a better shot at having a successful relationship. That’s not entirely a surprise. After all, money woes are a leading cause of divorce, so couples who aren’t saddled with debt have an advantage. But researchers also found that it matters how similar Romeo and Juliet’s scores are. If one partner has good credit and the other has a bad score, it’s an ominous sign for their relationship.
That makes sense when you consider that the way we handle finances in general can imply a great deal about our temperament and our values, two areas where it’s definitely best to be on the same page as your partner. Credit scores have been correlated with conscientiousness and agreeableness (interestingly, it’s the “nice” people who have lower scores—perhaps they’re too nice and always getting stuck with the check). In the emerging world of psychometric credit scoring, companies ask personality questions like, “Do you make your bed every morning?” to figure out if it’s too risky to loan a particular customer money. If a “saver” marries someone who is a “spender,” her dreams of saving up for private school for her children or supporting her favorite charity may be out of reach. A woman who enjoys the freedom of getting new highlights on a whim could feel frustrated with a partner who watches every dime. Opposites may attract, but when it comes to money, they can also attract resentment.
At the same time, reducing potential mates to a number is dehumanizing and wrong. Not to mention, loving is something we do with our hearts, not our calculators, thank goodness. So what’s a singleton who wants a solid relationship to do?
A few tips
First, a woman can often get a good sense of whether a guy is a good match for her financial style by talking about her long-term hopes and goals. Whether you dream of being debt-free by 40, collecting beautiful art, staying home with your kids, or owning court-side season tickets, it’s okay to bring it up! A great no-pressure conversation-starter is, “Do you think it’s better to travel when you’re young, or wait to travel after retirement?” Your potential partner may reveal he craves an adventurous voyage every year with his loved ones. Or, you may find out he couldn’t care less about family vacations and would rather plow that money into savings. The discussion about lifestyle and finances can develop naturally from there.
If your relationship gets serious, though, be prepared to dive into the details. Even though experts say that before engagement, couples should have an open discussion about debt, savings, and income, surveys have found that only about a quarter of engaged couples would check their future spouse’s credit score before saying “I do.” Armed with that knowledge, brides and grooms can create a strategy to repair or maintain their household’s credit score right from the beginning of their union. Knowing your credit situation can even help you make decisions about your engagement ring, how lavish a wedding you want, or where you’d like to go for your honeymoon.
Don’t know your credit score? Start by visiting Annualcreditreport.com and obtaining a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major consumer reporting bureaus. Although there are a lot of look-alike sites that claim to offer free reports, this is the only site actually directed by federal law and recommended by the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help you exercise your right to review your credit information at no charge, once every 12 months. The reports do not include a score, but they’re a key tool and can even help you discover and correct errors in the bureaus’ records.
Your credit will never be the most important thing about you, or someone you love. But knowing more about it can help you both build a better foundation not only for yourself, but also for love that lasts.
Editors' note: Are you looking to be more intentional with your finances? Verily Cents takes a holistic approach to your finances with your values in mind. Join us here.