Here’s How to Tell Your Love Your Credit Stinks


When you find yourself staring down a mountain of debt, you probably want to just find a cave somewhere and hide. But if the way you’re managing your money has the potential to affect your spouse or significant other, it’s worth talking about it, lest you suffer the fallout of financial infidelity later on.

While everyone’s financial situation may differ, the tips outlined here can help you get started with having that tough conversation.

Know Why You Want to Talk 

Before you sit down with your loved one, “you have to think about why it is you want to discuss this,” said Amanda Clayman, a New York City-based financial therapist who works with people around all aspects of financial behavior and their relationship with money. Ask yourself, “Why is it that you want to come clean about this? Do you want emotional support? Do you need financial help?” Perhaps you feel like you’ve been misleading, or even dishonest, in the way that you held onto this information or disclosed other information in the past. Whatever it is, knowing your own motivations will help you structure the conversation around what needs to be said.

Do Your Homework  

“To prepare, you really need to be clear on the situation,” said Clayman. “You can’t disclose the truth without knowing what the truth is.” Do as much of your own homework as you can before your discussion by pulling your credit report and doing an overall assessment of your finances. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated monthly, on

Know Your Audience

“It’s a different conversation to have with your parents versus a person with whom you already share finances,” said Clayman. In other words, try to anticipate what you need to disclose to this person in particular. Is the way that you’ve been using your credit card affecting your spouse’s ability to put away savings? If so, you’ll need to be more upfront. If your spending is so out of control that you need to move back home with your parents to pay off the debt, you’ll want to choose your words carefully when telling your parents.

Be Direct 

“The best thing to do is bring it up as its own conversation,” said Clayman. “You want to be direct and honest, and acknowledge why you haven’t talked about [this subject] in the past.” You’ll also want to address any concerns you have about how your loved one may react — and how you hope they’ll respond. Offering some context can be helpful, said Clayman, since being honest is a step toward taking responsibility and hopefully putting yourself on a path to addressing your own financial instability and creditworthiness.

Being upfront about these emotions will also help the other person be aware of their own reaction as they hear this, said Clayman. What’s more, it will give them a sense of why you may not have been so forthcoming up until now.

“It’s not saying that you can’t have your own reaction to it,” she said. “It’s a way of keeping the relational context intact as you talk about something that can be surprising to some people.” She added, “If you’re to say, ‘I’m sharing this, and the reason I didn’t share it [before] was because I was worried you’d see me in a certain way or be disappointed,’ that way the person can address or refute it.”

Give Yourself Space & Time 

When having a talk like this, it’s important to do what you can to make the situation feel less overwhelming, both to you and your loved one. You want to be able to say what needs to be said — and ensure that you have space to do it. “Try to do this at a time when you’re not going to be interrupted,” said Clayman. Also, make sure there’s adequate time. “This is going to be really emotional and a little unpredictable,” she said. “Neither of these things will be improved by having too little time or quiet.”

Focus on Your Loved One 

Discussing your financial woes is never easy, but focusing on your loved one can help you stay connected, even when you feel yourself getting worked up. “Even when people disagree or there’s a breach of trust, look for ways that you’re still connected in other aspects of your relationship,” Clayman says. Reminding yourself of those things will help you get through the worst of the problem — and remind you what you’re working toward.

Remember, disclosing your money woes and/or lousy credit isn’t a time to unburden yourself of your worries and guilt. It’s about finding a way to work through the problem together. Not taking this approach can be destructive, especially if you’re not prepared for your loved one’s “anger, bewilderment and so on,” Clayman says. So take the time to learn where you stand and plan the conversation accordingly. Things may just go more smoothly than you expected.

Image: lorenzoantonucci

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4 Steps to Take to Avoid Money Arguments With Your Significant Other

couple arguing_lg

Talking about money can be a touchy subject — so touchy, in fact, that one survey found finances to be the leading cause of stress in a relationship.

While there’s bound to be a bit of wariness when it comes to discussing your intimate financial details with your significant other, there are certain things you can do to help make the situation less fraught. If you haven’t had a money talk yet with the person you’re planning to move in with, marry or share other significant financial decisions with, now’s the time perfect time to do so.

But first, read this and consider taking the following actions …

Step 1: Talk about your financial past

Understanding how each person in a relationship grew up with regard to finances is a great way to understand why one person might feel a certain way about money today. For example, if your girlfriend’s parents never talked about money in front of her, it stands to reason that money might be a sensitive or taboo topic for her. If your boyfriend’s family grew up struggling to make ends meet, it makes sense that he would feel safer with a more significant savings cushion to fall back on in hard times. It still might be difficult to talk about money, but at least understanding your starting points is a strong foundation for an honest and empathetic financial conversation.

Step 2: Vow to be honest

Hiding things from your special someone will only make matters worse, especially when you consider the fact that these things are bound to come out later, anyway. If your future includes owning a home, moving in together or buying a car, it will be even harder to hide something like looming credit card debt once you try to make those dreams into a reality. Financial infidelity could become a serious problem within your relationship if you try to hide something (or think your partner is doing the hiding), so both of you should promise to be as open as possible. (Check out this piece for more about financial infidelity.)

Step 3: Create a shared financial plan for your future

Once you’ve discussed the past (how you both relate to money based on the way you grew up with it) and the present (whatever debts you might both owe), then you can start to make plans for the future. Moving in together, buying a house, retirement planning and having kids — along with plenty of other goals — will take a lot of financial planning, so it’s a good idea to start discussing all of that as early as possible. There are plenty of ways to divide expenses, and what works for one couple might not work for you. Some couples are able to save one entire paycheck and live off another, while others split things evenly down the middle. Still others decide to break up expenses based on who makes more money. Consider all of your different options before jumping into action, and make a plan to check back in after a couple months to ensure that whatever scenario you go with is working for both of you once you start acting on it. 

Step 4: Have frequent check-ins

People get raises and lose jobs, rents go up and bills magically appear. Finances are not a fixed point, which means it’s important to plan for regular financial status check-ins. Plan to do this at least once a month, if you can, and it doesn’t have to be a drag. Whether you make it a easy breezy check-in on date night out or something somewhat more serious where you stay in with a bottle of wine, try to keep in mind everything you’ve discussed in the past and all of your future financial goals — after all, there’s a solid reason you’re doing this.

Remember, even couples who are careful to discuss their finances frequently may run up against sticky money situations from time to time. Check out this piece for some advice on how to navigate certain awkward money talks with your partner, and if you’re interested in advice on how to handle financial chats in other areas of your life, too, read this piece about five embarrassing money situations and how to handle them.

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Can Credit Scores Predict if a Relationship Will Last?

Young couple calculating their domestic bills

Who among us has never shaken a magic 8 ball to see what the future held for a relationship? Maybe you’ve even taken it to the next level with palm readings or psychics. As of this year, there’s a new metric to gauge your relationship’s longevity, and it’s based in the concrete world of math and numbers.

In August, researchers Jane Dokko, Geng Li, and Jessica Hayes released a working paper for the Fed’s Finance and Economic Discussion Series. That paper is Credit Scores and Committed Relationships. Its results are tentative, and thus shouldn’t be taken as absolute doctrine, but their proposal that we could glean predictive, statistical evidence about the longevity of our relationships based solely on our credit scores is intriguing.

This study looks at the Equifax Data regarding credit scores during the quarter in which couples start cohabitating. Because both partners’ scores tend to get closer to each other’s throughout a relationship, this initial number is the only one they look at as a prophetic figure. The depth of dynamics they assert as predictable based on those first numbers is incredible.

What Your Average Credit Score Says About Your Relationship

The paper submits that when you look at a couple’s initial average credit score, every 93 point increase reduces their chances of breaking up during the second year of their relationship. When you get into the third and fourth year, that 93 point increase means you’re 37% less likely to call it quits.

Here’s how you’d calculate your average credit score:

(Your Credit Score + Your Partner’s Credit Score) / 2 = Your Average Score as a Couple

Let’s look at an example. Meghan has recently decided to move in with her boyfriend, Matt. She has a credit score of 700, and Matt’s is 660. Their average score is 680.

Around the same time, her friend Heather moves in with her partner, Helena. Heather’s score is 760, while Helena’s is 786. Their average credit score is 773.

The difference between Meghan and Matt’s score versus Heather and Helena’s score is 93 points. That means in the second year of their relationship, Heather and Helena are 30% more likely to stay together than Meghan and Matt.

If Meghan and Matt make it beyond the second year, their relationship is in slightly more danger in the third and fourth. This time around, they’re 37% more likely to break up than Heather and Helena.

What Your Initial Credit Spread Says About Your Relationship

Even more important than the average score is the initial point spread between you and your partner. Dokko, Hayes, and Li’s research supports that for every 66 points difference between your initial scores, you’re 24% more likely to break up in the second through fourth year, and 12% more likely to break up in the fifth and sixth. Here’s why those smaller percentage points matter more than the average:

Matt has a brother, Sean. About a month before he moved in with Meghan, Matt helped Sean move his girlfriend in. Sean’s credit score at the time was 810. His girlfriend, Sarah, had a score of 560, making their average score 685, five points higher than Matt and Meghan’s.

They don’t stand better odds, though. Their initial scores are 250 points apart, while Matt and Meghan’s are only 40. This means that their odds of breaking up are as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 4.07.46 PM

The couples have almost the same average, but because of the point spread, Sean and Sarah’s chances don’t look good. The research also found that couples with lower averages, but closer point spreads did better than couples with higher averages, and larger point spreads.

Breaking it Down

When the researchers looked at the numbers, they wanted to know if there were particular components of the scoring that had a greater effect than others. After all, a number doesn’t tell a person’s whole financial story.

It turns out that there were. As a part of their investigation, they isolated these six aspects of credit scores across their pool:

  1. Personal Bankruptcy
  2. Derogatory Records
  3. Total Debt
  4. Number of Credit Inquiries
  5. Credit Card Utilization
  6. Credit History Age

If one of the partners had personal bankruptcy or other derogatory records on their credit report at the time the two initially moved in together, their odds were much higher for breaking up, especially in the third and fourth years of their relationship.

The other four aspects did not have as large of an effect, with number of credit inquiries losing almost any influence by the fifth or sixth year of the relationship.

Where Do You Fall?

Of course, everyone wants to know how his or her own numbers work out. Should we use hard numbers to predict matters of the heart? There is a 9% chance that Sarah and Sean will make it through the first four years of their relationship. Is that small chance one they’re willing to take for the sake of love? Or would they rather avoid the heartache, nodding to the argument that it’s not a relationship meant for perpetuity?

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