Most people wouldn’t put their credit score on their online dating profiles, but it may be playing a bigger role in romantic relationships.
Talking about a credit score seems to go beyond simply trying to ascertain how much money the other person has and more as a way to measure up a person’s attitude and responsibility about money, especially in an era of high student debt and a so-so economy.
“When people used to get married in their early 20s, there wasn’t a lot to talk about financially. When you meet somebody today and you’re in your late 20s, they’re coming to the party with an entire closet of financial stuff,” said David Bach, author of “Smart Couples Finish Rich.”
Money has always played a big role in dating, but some studies show that how people think about finances has changed. A recent survey by Bankrate.com showed almost two in five U.S. adults say knowing someone’s credit score would affect their interest in dating that person. That includes 47 percent of college graduates and 50 percent of people with annual household income of $75,000 or more.
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Research from 2015 by the Federal Reserve Board suggested people with the highest credit scores were most likely to form long-lasting committed relationships, and the bigger the discrepancy between a couple’s credit scores, the more likely the relationship will end within the first five years.
“This result arises, in part, because initial credit scores and (how closely those scores match) predict subsequent credit usage and financial distress, which in turn are correlated with relationship dissolution,” the Federal Reserve Board’s report said.
Mike Cetera, credit analyst at Bankrate.com, said the survey results were a surprise, but with more public education about credit scores, people are starting to place greater importance on them. That’s likely a result of the 2008 recession that caused many to lose jobs and housing, he added.
But there’s a danger in using these scores to rate potential romantic relationships, as there’s no context in a simple number, said Cetera, Bach, and other money and relationship experts. A low credit score could be because someone struggled to pay major medical bills or is trying to rebuild his or her financial situation.
A better way to determine financial compatibility is to discuss views on saving, investing, sharing and giving, said Michael Liersch, head of behavioral finance at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
“People think talking about money (is) metrics and balance sheets. I would encourage people to reframe it for themselves to think about it in terms of values and principles for good financial decision-making (and) … their willingness to communicate and talk about these concepts either now or in the future,” he said.
Focusing on values helps people avoid getting fooled by appearances if a person uses expensive cars or clothes, said Stan Tatkin, marriage therapist and director of PACT Institute, a training center for psychotherapists. Questions about what a person loves about work or life passions hint more at the person’s character and moral compass.
“You don’t want to look for a person, like someone who is 6 (foot) 4 and makes good money. That’s always a problem. You want to find out what the person represents,” Tatkin said.
It’s fine to talk about money early and often in a relationship, said April Masini, author the “Ask April” advice column.
“If you hear something in conversation about where they live, what they drive, how they vacation and if they have kids in college, you can use those topics to pivot into money talk. … It is less of a point-blank question about finances than it is a hybrid love-and-money question about money behavior and lifestyle,” said Masini, who also was the relationship expert and consultant to TD Bank’s 2016 Love and Money Survey.
For couples who want a longer-term relationship but have different views on how to handle money, Bach said, all isn’t lost. Finding ways to work together is key.
“Have a conversation about what is most important from a values standpoint,” he said, encouraging couples to ask, “'How do we work on our finances as a team?’”