Fiscal attraction: Survey shows financial responsibility more important than looks
FARGO - Married adults say financial responsibility is more important than physical attractiveness in a spouse, a new survey from Experian Consumer Services shows.
It was second only to personal compatibility.
Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian Consumer Services, a Costa Mesa-Calif.-based credit-monitoring service, said it’s heartening to see that half of married couples said credit scores were important to them when choosing a spouse.
“That’s a pretty significant number,” she said.
When asked about the importance of having similar goals, married adults ranked financial compatibility higher than sex and intimacy, career goals, religion and politics.
Though couples value financial compatibility, they aren’t necessarily talking about their credit scores, the survey shows.
“Nobody wants to discuss it,” said Morgan Almer, a financial counselor with The Village Family Service Center in Fargo. “But it’s vital that they do, especially if they’re going to live the next 30, 40, 50 years of their lives together.”
People talk about income, spending habits, debt, financial goals and retirement, but only 43 percent discuss credit scores before marriage, according to the survey. Forty-three percent of people talk about credit scores after marriage, while 14 percent say they never discuss credit scores with a spouse.
Those numbers were higher for couples that had been married longer, Frost said.
“They certainly should be including that as part of their discussion because when you come to a marriage or relationship where you’re going to be making purchases together, you certainly should be aware of your partner’s credit,” she said.
Frost recommends couples discuss their financial goals monthly, and credit should be part of that discussion. If couples have regular financial discussions, she said they are less likely stress out about their finances.
“A fun finding with that is 73 percent of women and 60 percent of men said that when they have regular financial discussions with their spouse, they find their spouse more attractive,” she said.
“In many cases opposites can attract,” Frost added. “You have someone who has a great credit score and you have someone who has a credit score they want to work on. By feeling like you have a partner working with you and invested in you, that can make you not only feel like someone is on your side, but you can also kind of find that person hotter.”
Survey results show credit plays the biggest role of importance in marriages when spouses are securing a home loan or applying for good interest rates.
Almer said they’ll often receive calls from someone getting married who just found out their significant other has bad credit and they don’t want their credit ruined.
“One thing that’s important to remember is your credit scores and reports are tied to your social security number, so marrying someone with maybe not great credit is not going to affect your score in the least,” he said.
Where it becomes a problem is when couples want to apply for a mortgage or a car loan, he said.
“Lenders automatically throw out the high score, and they go with the weakest score,” he said. “If you’re going to jointly apply for any type of credit, the high score doesn’t count anymore. They view you as only being as strong as your weakest link. So the days of riding somebody’s good credit through the loan process, those are gone.”
The person with the high score could apply for a loan alone, Almer said, but if the couple needs to use both incomes to qualify, lenders will need to check both credit scores.
The relationship link
Asking for someone’s credit score on the first date isn’t a good idea, Almer said, but once you start getting serious about someone, the sooner you start talking about things like credit and other financial issues, the better.
“I think it’s vital, simply because finances can cause a lot of struggle in relationships,” he said.
As many as one in three long-term relationships end because of money worries according to a survey conducted by coupon brand, www.vouchercloud.net.
The survey of more than 2,400 American adults found that the average person didn’t expect money worries to have such a big impact on their relationship, and almost half of respondents said they would consider a new partner’s financial situation before entering into a relationship.
The main financial issues were disagreements about one person spending more than the other; fear of debt’ and clashing over the division of bills.
Tasks like paying bills on time, maxing out credit cards, and the utilization ration (the amount someone spends compared to what they could spend on their credit cards) all factor in to someone’s credit score, Frost said. To learn more about improving your score, she said there is a credit education center on Experian’s website.
(Experian Consumer Services provides credit monitoring and other informational products.)
The Village also offers pre-marital financial counseling and Almer said all three credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, give consumers one free credit report a year (at annualcreditreport.com). It won’t give you your score, but he said it’s a good way to monitor your credit and since there are three agencies, it can be done every four months.
Credit, Almer said, is something that can be wrecked quickly, “but to fix it takes time, and we live in a world where we want it yesterday, and credit doesn’t work that way.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526