NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Credit scores make a difference when choosing a spouse and can also predict whether a household will eventually end in divorce, according to a new survey.
"If a potential partner's score is bad, it could be a signal that the person is irresponsible or doesn't understand how to properly manage credit liabilities. Either way it should be a warning that your attitudes about credit are not parallel and could be a long term family problem," said John Ulzheimer, a credit expert.
A Federal Reserve Board study found that the closer the scores of couples, the less likelihood of divorce.
"You don't want to learn your new spouse has excessive debt and poor credit scores on your honeymoon," Ulzheimer told MainStreet. It's much easier and better for everyone to get it out on the table well in advance of getting married so that you can have an honest discussion about whether your attitudes toward credit and money are consistent or if they can be over come."
If your date starts asking about your credit report, there are ways to improve your credit score fast. Paying off or down credit card debt is one of them.
"It's not inconceivable that your score could improve within 30 days if you're able to pay down your credit card debt significantly, but if your score is low because of negative information then it will take years for those items to age off your credit reports and for your score to fully recover," said Ulzheimer.
Credit reports and credit scores have broken new grounds by taking on a new level of importance outside the environment for which they were originally created, which was credit risk assessment.
"One of the biggest misconceptions I hear is that a credit report is a "rap sheet" of things I need to pay," said Katie Moore, a personal finance counselor with GreenPath in Detroit. "This is not true. A credit report shows positive and negative factors."
Poor credit can not only doom a marriage but also bleed on for many years after a divorce with jointly obtained credit cards or loans even for those who have no credit score.
"The mismatch in credit scores causes so many problems but primarily it limits your options when it comes to borrowing money," said Ulzheimer.
There is hope, however. Lenders that once turned their backs on consumers that had no credit score are now reconsidering. That's because an estimated 64 million consumers in American with limited or no credit history that are unscoreable by traditional scores are actually credit worthy, according to Experian, one of three credit reporting agencies.
"I certainly would never advise someone to take out a loan simply to create or improve their credit scores but as it happens organically over time your scores will benefit as long as your payments are on time," Ulzheimer said.
After paying bills on time, the next most important factor in building a positive credit score is the percentage of the credit limit used on revolving accounts such as credit cards. "The less of the credit limit you borrow, the better for your credit score," said Moore. "Review the amounts owed on revolving credit and pay them down as much as possible. "
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet