This One Financial Number Might Determine The Success Of Your Relationship

By | Friday, October 09, 2015

Within the last few months on TFD, I have learned a lot about how finance factors into a relationship. The first, and by far the most important thing I’ve learned, is there is no one right answer to how love and money mix. I, for example, do not live with my boyfriend, while others choose to save money on rent and move in early on. However, as I’m in a relationship with someone who is in graduate school, we often decide against doing extravagant things that other couples our age might indulge in, so that we can save money. (I personally struggle a lot with comparing my relationship to the couples on Instagram who always seem to be attending some lavish destination wedding.)

As someone who comes from a history of divorce and grew up around fight that centered about money and debt, I have specific views on what makes two people financially compatible. But I accept that not everyone shares them, and everyone comes from different circumstances. At the end of the day, the only person that really needs to share my point of view for joint finances in the long term is a partner. When I think of financial compatibility between me and my boyfriend, I consider savings goals, and wants and needs for the future. (For example, I’d want to align on goals like property ownership, etc.) Here’s what I don’t bother to scrutinize: our credit scores. I assume they only matter for when we (someday) look for an apartment together, but never thought they said anything about how well we fit together.

But, according to the Washington Post, I’m mistaken. On October 6, they published an article that claims that your credit score is one of the biggest financial indicators of whether or not your relationship will be successful. (Personally, I think “success” in a relationship is a relative term, but the article implies that it means you’ll stay together for a long time, or get married.) The Post cites a paper from the Federal Reserve Board which “analyzed a large proprietary data set of 12 million randomly selected U.S. consumers from the credit reporting agency Equifax over a period of about 15 years.”

Their initial argument is that credit scores play a fairly big role in whether people get into (and then stay in) committed relationships. First, couples are more likely to get into a relationship with someone who has a credit score similar to theirs. The factors that can often (though not always) influence a credit score, are similar to the factors that play into initial attraction. Apparently, how well a couple’s credit scores match at the beginning of the relationship is a good indicator of whether they will stay together in the long term.

The study found that those with “higher (i.e. better) credit scores are more likely to form a committed relationship […]This was true even after controlling for other differences between partners, like education level, race or income.” Furthermore, much like how they say couples start to look like each other after they’ve been together for a long time, couples credit scores tend to converge, in the first four years of the relationship.

While high credit scores can, apparently, be a predictor, similar credit scores are almost as important. This suggests that couples who have coped with similar financial challenges, and have more in common because they’ve each overcome certain things, also have a high chance of staying together. The fact is two credit scores that have, for example, suffered and are being rebuilt, can also be a sign of compatibility because it shows that couples can understand each other on that level.

The Post poses some very strong arguments for this research. One of those arguments being that credit scores are one of the most practical obstacles in a relationship. “Because credit agencies often use the lower score of the two, being with someone else with a lower credit score can limit the kind of house, car or lifestyle a person can have.” The article points out that credit score can be reflective of larger financial challenges, which can, of course, cause fights and hostility in a relationship. The disparity between credit scores, and one person supposedly bringing the others’ chances of owning a house down the road, can shake a relationship.

Do I think that having incompatible credit scores is the one variable that dooms your relationship? No. Of course not. In fact, I think the one major issue here is that this study doesn’t take into consideration that people recover from their financial mistakes. People learn where they went wrong, and how to do better, and those lessons undoubtedly add a layer of complexity that could strengthen a relationship. My boyfriend and I have comparable credit scores, and though they are high, we still have other financial challenges, which I think is another hole in this argument. Nonetheless, at TFD, we want to bring you interesting news items that we can consider, discuss, and comment on, and The Post has brought us important food for thought here. What do you think?

Image via Upsplash

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