I’m trying to remember the first time my fiancé and I shared our credit scores. It was either when we started looking for our first shared apartment, or when I got approved for my first rewards credit card and used the bonus miles to visit him while he was working abroad.
Either way, the conversation happened years before we committed to spending the rest of our lives together. We understood that our credit scores, much like our respective incomes, savings and debt, affected the choices we were making as a couple. Like whether or not we could get approved for the lease on our first place.
Unfortunately, credit conversations are not ubiquitous among couples. According to a 2018 Policy Genius survey, 47% of couples don’t know their partners’ credit score.
While your credit score may not determine the outcome of your relationship, an analysis by the Federal Reserve Board found that the closer your credit score is to that of your partners, the higher your likelihood of staying together.
Why? Well, if you have similar credit scores, you’re more likely to have similar financial habits – making disagreements about money less of a potential pain point in your relationship.
The analysis also found that higher credit scores at the start of a relationship make it less likely that a couple will break up.
While a bad credit score isn’t necessarily a relationship killer, a low score can point to potentially problematic money behaviors that can affect both of you postnup.
Maybe your partner has bad credit because they declared bankruptcy after a major medical emergency that left them with overwhelming debt. Or maybe their bad credit is the result of frequent late payments and unpaid debts that have been sent to collections.
In instances like the former, your partner’s poor credit may just be the result of bad circumstances. But in some cases, like the latter, a low credit score may be more indicative of poor financial habits.
In either case, you’ll want to know the story behind the score before you tie the knot and commit to the implications of your partners’ financial habits for the rest of your life.
While you won’t inherit your partner’s credit score when you get married, their negative credit could impact your ability to get affordable financing on major joint purchases like a car or home.
Additionally, if you open any joint accounts in the future, the information on those accounts will be shared on both of your credit reports. So if your partner continues to practice the poor financial habits that hurt their credit in the first place, that behavior can start to impact your credit too.
While a bad credit score shouldn’t necessarily be a relationship deal-breaker, it’s important that your respective credit histories be shared and discussed before making any major financial decisions together – like getting married.
While the act of getting married in and of itself will not affect your credit score, the choices you and your partner make around your engagement, wedding and honeymoon might.
For example, if you finance an engagement ring and start getting behind on the payments, that could certainly affect your credit. Or if you and your partner put your entire wedding on a joint credit card that you can’t afford to pay off on schedule, that can hurt your credit too.
If you haven’t already, take some time to sit down and review your credit reports with your partner, along with the rest of your financial history – savings, debt, retirement savings, etc. This can help you avoid any major financial issues or surprises when starting your marriage, and give you an opportunity to talk about your shared financial goals, values and expectations going forward.
Remember that the poor financial choices in your past, be they yours or your partners’, are not unmanageable. Nor do they make either of you a bad person. But it’s important to share how and why they happened so you and your partner can make a plan to handle the consequences together.
While bad credit may not be a deal-breaker, an unwillingness to discuss it or address the behaviors that caused it can be. Money is one of the leading causes of problems in a marriage. So make sure you’re entering into yours with as much information and honesty around your finances as possible.