Credit Scores: The Secret to Lasting Love?

Here’s why you or your partner’s credit could lead to a successful relationship.

Looking to do something romantic for your significant other this Valentine’s Day? Forget the box of chocolates and roses (okay, maybe not the chocolate). Raising your credit score to match your partners might be the most romantic gesture. Why? Because it could be the key to a more stable relationship. A 2015 study by the Federal Reserve Board found couples in which both partners had similarly high credit scores were more likely to form long-lasting, committed relationships. And the greater the mismatch between a couple’s credit scores, the more likely the partners are to separate within the first five years. Here’s why a good credit score could be the secret ingredient to lasting love.

Financial over physical.
Your credit score is a better predictor of how responsible you are than even your driving record. And couples who value being responsible often have more stable relationships. “People who take a real serious interest in the topic of [credit] and are conscientious about it tend to easily and quickly be compatible,” says Chelsea Fagan, author of The Financial Diet. She even goes as far to surmise that your credit score “probably indicates whether you are generally a thoughtful person or not.” That might explain the results of a study recently commissioned by Life Happens, a nonprofit organization. It surveyed over 1,000 adults to uncover characteristics Americans find most important in a romantic partner. 64 percent said they’d opt for a partner who was “responsible with their money” over “wealthy.” Similarly, 70 percent said having a partner that was “irresponsible with money/financially unfit” was troublesome. That’s more than the number who cited “not having a sense of humor”, being “unable to hold a regular job”, having “complicated family or past relationships” or finding the person “unattractive.”

The long reach of credit.
Why is this such a big deal? As you likely know, credit reports are generated for individuals not for couples — and they don’t merge when you tie the knot. But that doesn’t mean your spouse’s credit can’t or won’t hurt you. If, for instance, you decided to apply for a mortgage based on both of your earning histories, both of your credit scores would be taken into account. (Mortgage lenders typically pull scores from all three of the major credit bureaus. Then they take the middle score from each spouse or partner and use the lowest of them in underwriting). Your partner’s poor credit standing might result in the two of you being charged a higher rate than you would have been offered on your own — or vice versa.

Make a game plan.
“If your number is negative, what’s your game plan?” says financial behaviorist Jacquette M. Timmons. That’s just the start, by the way. Then you have to be doing to work to implement it. A few suggestions: If you can handle credit cards, consider running as many monthly bills as possible through them, then paying the one big credit card bill off in full at the end of each month. “It’s good to rack up things like cashback points and miles but it’s really just a passive way to use your credit card to make sure that you are demonstrating great payment habits with money you already have to spend,” says Fagan. Other tried and true tips: Pay your bills on time, don’t use more than 10%-30% of your available credit (on any one card or all of your cards combined), don’t shop for credit you don’t need and don’t cancel cards you’re not using.

with Hattie Burgher

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky