How to Tell if You’re Marrying Bad Credit and What to do About It

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Nearly one-third of couples reported that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship, according to the 2014 Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association.

Other recent research backs those findings such as a SunTrust survey which found nearly 35% of all respondents with relationship stress reported money was the main cause. SunTrust also found that 36% of relationship partners do not involve their partner in even large purchases. That would stress me out!

So, it stands to reason that you will want to find out if you will have credit problems in your marriage for any reason, before it’s too late. And, before you are jointly denied for a mortgage loan or a car loan.

Is it rude to ask your partner about their credit?

Maybe it seems rude to flat out ask someone you are dating seriously their credit score. But maybe it’s a good idea to assess your own credit behavior as well as theirs. In the SunTrust study, 36% of couples discussed finances within three months of beginning their relationship and 41% took more than three months. You definitely don’t want to be one of the 7% who never discussed finances with their partner.

In fact, Suze Orman, in her book, “The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke” advises having this discussion well before getting married and offers a handy quiz to see how well you and your partner stack up on financial matters. Family finance expert and author of “The 60-Minute Money Workout,” Ellie Kay, advises making a date to discuss money for at least 60 minutes per week, so you can create and work towards financial goals together.

But, if you’re too scared to ask directly, you may notice some financial behavior tip-offs that may lead to poor credit or poor money management, which can spur some telltale conversations about credit.

How does getting married affect your personal credit?

According to FICO, when you get married, you both keep your individual credit score. There is no such thing as a “joint credit score.” When you apply for credit on the basis of your joint income, lenders will take into account both of your individual FICO scores to evaluate your joint loan application. However, the way you handle your joint credit accounts will affect both of your individual scores. So, if one partner charges up the joint credit card or makes a late payment to the joint credit account, it will negatively affect both your individual credit scores. And, if only one of you has poor credit it will affect the interest rate offered on a mortgage or a car loan you are applying for jointly.

Are they an over-spender?

Does your partner seem to make purchases without stopping to think about it, talk it over, or check a bank balance app ever? Well, they could be independently wealthy and carry no debt or this behavior could be a sign of an over-spender, or someone who does not follow a budget. To find out about their spending attitudes, the American Psychological Association suggest asking them basic questions about their financial goals with their money, what their parents taught them about money and what fears they have about money. This will spur a conversation that will let you know how they feel about their own spending and will let you determine whether this jives with your own vision of responsible spending and financial health.

Are they in debt and default?

Does your partner have a large bill pile? Have you noticed the words “late fee” or “collections notice” on any of the bills? If so, that is an indication that they do not pay bills on time or they have defaulted on payments or accounts. Having accounts in collections and making late payments are tip-offs to a poor credit score because payment history is the single largest factor in your credit score, according to FICO. You might ask them if they have a system for paying their bills on time and the answer will give you a good indication as to whether they think this is important or not.

If they are on the path to improving their credit, or have enrolled in a debt management program, or is using professional credit repair they may talk about that with you and there is hope for a positive financial future.

Do they need to use credit cards to get by?

Does your partner whip out a credit card, or cycle through using many different credit cards, for all purchases? Your potential partner could be a credit card whiz at accruing points and rewards, using the cards only for what they are able to pay down in each month and maintaining an excellent credit score. Or, they could be someone who is using credit and spreading their debt around because they have a cash flow problem. If they have excellent credit they will likely be excited to tell you how they work those card rewards whereas if they are masking money problems by cycling through several different credit cards, they won’t want to talk about it. Using credit cards for purchases when you don’t have enough cash, carrying a lot of debt on many cards and applying for new cards often is a tip-off to a poor credit score. Cash-flow problems also affect making payments on time and can result in charging up cards, which are both large factors in your FICO credit score.

Checking each other’s credit

In her book, Suze Orman advises logging on and checking both your credit scores (on a free credit score site like together. She says to make a vow that after you are married, you will do this twice per year so there are no credit surprises or secrets in your marriage.

If you’re concerned that you or your love one need help with your credit, learn how you can start repairing your credit here. You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

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