Kids & Money

A conversation about couples and credit scores

You wouldn’t think the Federal Reserve would be a go-to source on dating. But it turns out the Fed has something to say on the subject.

As you would expect from the Fed, it’s all about numbers. And in this case, it’s your credit score.

An extensive research report published last fall by the Fed concluded that in general the higher a couple’s credit scores, the better their chances of a lasting relationship.

A credit score is the number used by the credit industry to evaluate debt payment history. Your score determines your creditworthiness when it comes to such things as applying for a mortgage or obtaining a car loan.

Three economists reviewed data from the Equifax credit reporting company covering millions of people over a 15-year period that ended in mid-2014.

The researchers identified “committed relationships” by noticing when two individuals who had not shared addresses began to do so and continued to live together at least one year. The data did not distinguish between married and non-married couples.

The researchers said in the report that their goal was to “examine how credit scores play a role in the formation of committed relationships, such as marriages and long-term cohabitations, as well as the couples’ ability to maintain the relationship.”

They found that people tend to form serious relationships with people whose credit scores are in the same range.

For every additional 93 points in a couple’s average credit score at the beginning of a relationship, the chances of separating during the second year of their courtship fell 30 percent.

But if the gap between a couple’s individual scores is greater than 66 points at the start of their relationship, the couple is 24 percent more likely to split up in the second, third or fourth year.

“Poorly matched couples may face challenges in jointly managing household finances, such as managing debt, paying bills or saving for a rainy day fund,” the report said.

The report also said credit scores matter “for committed relationships because they reveal information about general trustworthiness.”

Low credit scores can lead to financial stress, and those difficulties can often spill over into the relationship and destroy it.

One other takeaway from the Fed report: Don’t make money a taboo topic with your spouse or dating partner.

A 2015 survey from TD Bank found that couples who regularly talk about credit card debt, spending, saving — even credit scores — are happier in their relationships than those who discuss finances less frequently.

Not to rain on your Valentine’s Day plans, but money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce.

Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879

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