A very good friend of mine will only marry a woman with at least a Master’s degree from a top 25 school. Given less than 10% of the western world has a Master’s degree, it’s kind of curious why he’d want to limit his pool of mates given he’s still single at 35 years old. The answer is that he has a Doctorate in Medicine from Columbia and a cardiology fellowship from Cornell.
As any good friend should, I’ve made fun of him for years for being so picky. He’d always retort, “Look Sam, I’m a catch! If a woman wants to date me, they’ve got to be up to snuff.” He’s hilarious and I love him for it! I could never quite understand his insistence for a highly educated woman until I finally got an 805 on my credit score this summer. (How To Improve Your Credit Score To 800+)
The difference between an 805 credit score and a 770 credit score is negligible. You still get the best rates by lending institutions who gladly open up their coffers. But to go from a high 700s level to over 800 takes years. The process feels like plate tectonics where land moves only one inch a year. So being the very honest person that I am, I suddenly started thinking questions such as:
“Should I figure out someone’s credit score before I marry them?”
“Should I set a minimum credit score limit for a woman I plan on dating?”
“Should I raise my minimum credit score hurdle rate for prospective tenants to 760 from 720?”
“Can I fully trust someone with my financials if s/he has under a 700 credit score?”
“Will TransUnion send me a framed copy of my credit score if I ask?”
I’m suddenly an arrogant bastard! I went through some very similar thoughts after I finished business school as well. Suddenly, everybody without an MBA didn’t seem as smart, especially my bosses who just had undergraduate degrees and not even CFA designations. Despite my more experienced bosses bringing in more revenue to the firm, I mentally discounted their achievements. The air of superiority only lasted for a couple months before I returned to a normal cog in the wheel. (Should I Get An MBA To Find A Wealthy Husband Or Wife?)
The more you achieve, the higher your expectations of others. I kind of feel sorry for children of very wealthy parents, brilliant entrepreneurs, celebrities, or double PhDs.
EVERYTHING IS A SCREENING MECHANISM
Colleges want to know your SAT or ACT scores because higher scores have demonstrated some correlation with intelligence. Employers want to know your GPA because higher grades correlate with stronger work ethic. Parents want to know what their daughter’s boyfriend does before they give him their blessing for marriage. So is it not perfectly logical that if you plan on spending the rest of your life with someone that couples should know each other’s credit scores? I think so.
Marriage is as much about about love as it is about financial union. The credit score is a culmination of years of financial responsibility or lack thereof. A credit score highlights all your outstanding balances, the number of open accounts, the number of late or non payments, and the type of credit lines each person has. If you are a reckless spender there is no escaping your past.
Everybody makes financial mistakes at one point or another. In fact, I’d be a little bit worried if someone never spent more than they made or never missed a payment or went through financial hardship at some point in their lives. Financial hardship is what makes all of us more fiscally responsible individuals. I would much rather have someone go through financial hardship, learn her lessons, and make progress towards improvement than never experience anything bad.
When I was interviewing recent college graduates for a position that paid over $100,000 a year, I was very wary of the perfect 4.0 GPA students. Of course they worked hard and were smart. But I was much more interested in hearing about how they failed and overcame adversity, because Wall Street is a brutal business where only the strong survive. Those with 3.5 GPAs (B+) turned out to be much better colleagues who were much more appreciative of their opportunities than those who had 4.0s.
With so many choices in everything we do, it’s only natural to use various metrics in order to screen for what we want.
SHOULD YOU ASK SOMEONE’S CREDIT SCORE BEFORE GETTING SERIOUS?
I’ve never asked for someone’s credit score and I’m not sure I ever will until after a long courtship. It’s the same thing with a prenuptial agreement. I probably should know my future mate’s credit score and draw up a prenuptial agreement given half of marriages end in divorce, but I’m a hopeless romantic who believes everything will turn out alright in the end.
The credit score is becoming a much more important financial criteria over the past decade due to all the financial disasters that have taken place. Employers are much critical in hiring due to the exorbitant costs of letting people go during downturns. Is there any wonder why freelance work and temp agencies have boomed? Lending institutions have been burned from the housing crisis, needing multi-trillion dollar bailouts to keep the afloat. Meanwhile, married couples have seen their finances go to hell in a hand basket because of poor spending habits and bad investments by one or both.
I hope everybody develops a level of comfortability with each other to openly share their credit history and credit score before joining forces. Even if your credit score is horrible, at least be on the same page so that both of your finances can improve.
WEALTH BUILDING RECOMMENDATION
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Updated for 2015 and beyond.