What’s in a Number? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 71)

UntitledWhen I quit my job as an economist at Fannie Mae in March of 2011, I thought my days of analyzing credit scores were over.  I had to pore through spreadsheet after spreadsheet of credit data, among other financial data, to assess whether the borrower would likely be able to pay back his or her mortgage or instead default on it, which would put the burden back on Fannie Mae.  (For anyone who knows about the subprime mortgage crisis, you already know the outcome of that one.)

But in my current career as a dating coach, it’s as if credit scores have followed me, saying, “Bwahaha – we’re not done with you yet!”  But how?  Why?  It’s simple – just as a credit score is an excellent indicator of a person’s ability, or inability, to pay a mortgage, it’s also a fairly good indicator of how someone has dealt with money as a single person, which may thereby indicate how that person may deal with money as part of a “we” instead of an “I.”

But is asking someone’s credit score gauche?  I would say so!  In fact, in all the years of dating that I’ve experienced, no one has ever asked me that.  We have talked about salary, debt, and savings, so the quality of my credit could certainly be inferred, but no one has ever come right out and asked, “What’s your credit score?”  That seems almost as rude as asking a woman’s weight!

Do people even know their scores?  Perhaps some do (I know mine from a car purchase last year), but the rest would need to go to sites like www.annualcreditreport.com or www.freecreditscore.com (which even has a mobile app!) to get their credit score.  Our generation quantifies everything anyway – FuelBands, Klout scores, Twitter followers – so I guess it only makes sense that this should be added to the ever-growing list.

Are people less likely to delve into a serious relationship with a person whose credit is less than stellar?  The research says yes.  In a personal interview with Ken Chaplin, Senior Vice President of freecreditscore.com, I learned that in a survey of 1,000 people aged 30 to 49, almost half of the respondents (48%) have discussed their credit score with a romantic prospect or partner, with 39% having discussed it within the first year of the relationship.  In addition, both men and women worry that they would be negatively affected by a partner’s poor credit score, and women are significantly more likely to factor credit scores into their dating decisions, often over looks or sexual chemistry!

Even the NYTimes, in an article last December entitled “Even Cupid Wants to Know Your Credit Score,” discussed whether someone’s low credit score should serve as a deal-breaker in a relationship.  The choice is obviously a very personal one, but just like we may prioritize religion or education in finding a partner, it’s up to us to determine how important such things are in our dating lives.  How far you go to find out, though, is another story.

Would I recommend asking someone his or her credit score?  Not a chance!  If you’re going to be in a long-term relationship, I would, however, recommend discussing your views on money and whether they are in sync or at odds, in addition to any other potential deal-breakers you may have, like religion and education (as mentioned above), number of children you’d like to have, etc.  How you rank these things is completely up to you, and perhaps a kind heart and the ability to work on spending habits together will trump a 520 credit score every time.

Feel free to post comments about whether you have been asked or have asked someone’s credit score.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

1 reply
  1. Ava
    Ava says:

    Interesting article. That’s one of those things that you never know how early to bring up. Like, on a first date, I’d love to ask:

    – Do you want a family?
    – Will you raise the kids Jewish?
    – What are you views on money?
    – Did your parents say “I love you” a lot when you were a kid?

    But you don’t find these things out until later, until you’re already invested. It’s a tough one.

    Love the articles! They’ve really helped me a lot.


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