How important is it to be financially compatible?
Your Mate's Credit Score
by Gary Foreman
How Financial Planning Can Help a Marriage
Finding a Frugal Mate
6 Steps to a Successful Money Talk with Your Mate
Recently we've all learned how important a good credit score can be. It affects every major purchase we make. It's even beginning to have an effect on what we look for in a potential life mate.
Should you date someone with a better or worse credit score than you have? How can you tell if that person is financially compatible?
So we interviewed Polina Polishchuk, Editor at NextAdvisor.com. She's an expert when it comes to credit scores. We spoke about the importance of understanding your mate's finances and why you might want to date someone who shares your financial philosophy.
TDS: Studies show that money is a common reason for divorce and breakups. How can you tell if you're financially compatible with someone you're dating?
Polina: If the relationship is getting serious (i.e. in the direction of marriage), it's important to have open communication about your financial state and future goals. If you later decide to get a mortgage, credit card or other type of loan together after you get married, lenders will use both of your credit scores to determine if you are suitable candidates. Thus, it's important to make sure both of your credit reports are clean if you plan to get married.
However, being compatible in dating doesn't necessarily mean that both of you have to have perfect credit reports. Rather, it is about the willingness to improve your credit and the willingness to discuss and work on financial goals.
TDS: What's the best way to get to know a potential mate's financial personality?
Polina: If someone doesn't have a credit history or has bad credit, this can affect their lifestyle in a number of ways. Having bad credit makes it harder for people to finance a car, lease an apartment, or even have a mobile phone contract.
While asking personal finance questions when you are "just dating" may be a little crass, there are a couple of things you can pick up on to get to know some clues about their financial habits. Do they use a prepaid phone? Do they never use credit cards, just cash, when paying? Have they mentioned how forgetful they are about paying bills on time? These are all little things you can pick up on before your relationship gets serious.
If it is heading in the direction of marriage, it's important to see how open they are to talking about credit and finances, and if they are responsible when it comes to paying bills and staying on top of their credit health.
TDS: Can my score be affected just by dating someone?
Polina: No it cannot, unless you are so blinded by love that you start forgetting to make your credit card payments.
The only way that someone else's credit score will affect yours is if you have a joint account together and the other person does not handle it responsibly, dragging your credit score down with theirs.
TDS: People tend to be at their best when they're dating. We all know someone who was surprised to find out that the person they married wasn't as neat or thoughtful as they appeared during their dating days. Are there any warning signs that might lead you to question whether the person you're dating is putting on a financial front for you?
Polina: In the case of someone making it seem like they are better off financially than they really are, sure, there are a couple of warning signs you can pick up on. If you notice they only use cash and debit cards, it is a possibility that they have bad credit or no credit history at all. Of course, this could just mean they prefer not using credit cards, and the latter may be the case as well. There are other small hints you can pick up on too, like do they have cable? Do they use a prepaid phone? Small accounts such as these sometimes rely on someone's credit (or lack thereof).
TDS: Are there financial actions that would let my mate's score affect mine? That I would take? That my mate would take?
Polina: As mentioned above, setting up a joint account that is poorly handled can definitely affect your credit score. An example of this would be if you become a co-signer on a car loan for them, and they mishandle it.
TDS: If I break up with someone, how can I be sure that they can't affect my future credit score?
Polina: Close any joint accounts and make sure that they do not have access to your personal information. If this person is particularly malicious and has access to your personal information, they could use it to defraud you by opening accounts in your name and exploiting them.
TDS: Are there things that I can do to help raise my mate's credit score?
Polina: Keep open and honest communication on finances and work together to build their score. Be supportive and make it clear that having good credit is important for your financial future.
Thanks to Polina Polishchuk for her insight. She wrote an excellent article on ways to boost their credit score.
Reviewed April 2017
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.
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