Will Marrying Someone With Bad Credit Hurt My Credit Score?

Bitten Chocolate

Love is love. Ever since I was a wily teenager, I’ve had the romantic notion of being with a woman I care about no matter what her financial circumstance. My father used to subtly encourage me to meet some of his friend’s daughters who so happen to come from wealthier backgrounds. They were never my type unfortunately. Only until I reached college did I realize he was trying to play match maker to ensure my financial well-being.

I remember bringing one girl home to “hang out” at the age of 13. When my parents found out she was raised by a single father, I could sense my parent’s lack of enthusiasm. Or maybe they just didn’t like what we were up while they were still at work! My parents didn’t say anything mean, they just weren’t supportive of my latest fling. They encouraged me to stop messing around and start studying instead.

I also recall talking to my parents at the age of 14 about dating a real life princess. Her name was Tengku Zarina and I was smitten. Zarina was of Malaysian royalty and my parents were fascinated by the potential. Unfortunately, my pursuance failed since she was two years my senior. Girls hate younger boys, which is why single men love growing old. If you’ve wondered why men tend to only date younger women, now you know it’s all the woman’s fault!

CREDIT SCORES, FINANCIAL STATUS AND MARRIAGE

In an earlier debate on Financial Samurai between “perfect grades vs. a perfect credit score,” the perfect credit score wins out. With a perfect credit score, you can make your own t-shirt with a sparkly unicorn on the front that says, “I’m perfect, just like my 850 credit score!” Any physical deficiencies you may have would be more than made up by your glowing financially responsibility.

Perfect grades just gets your foot in the door for a job interview. Whoopdeedoo. A lot of employers find perfect grades to be a red flag due to the perceived notion that maybe you are actually Mr. Robato in disguise with no social skills and loads of neurotic tendencies. Can you believe there is a stigma against straight “A” students? Gee whiz. We can’t win.

Before I tell you whether marrying someone’s with bad credit will affect your credit score, I’m wondering whether you would marry someone with poor credit?

Don’t Care

I’ve never ever asked for my date’s credit score. It’s never even crossed my mind until credit score dating site commercials began popping up. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I always assume I’m going out with financially outstanding women! Because I believe everything is rational, I assume most people have excellent credit scores (above 720), or are trying to at least improve their credit scores in order to qualify for an apartment, a mortgage, or any other type of loan.

Obviously it would be nice if my date had stellar credit. However, even if she only had a 600 credit score, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation. As we’ve learned how one late payment can kill your credit score, it takes about three years to get back to excellent status. If you go through a foreclosure or short-sale, expect that road to credit score recovery to last seven years. Age has a lot to do with achieving a high credit score, which is why those with 800+ scores are almost always over 35 years old.

Another reason why it’s never crossed my mind to ask my date’s credit score is because I’ve always imagined having to take care of the entire family if needed. Of course I would love to have a financially potent partner. I just don’t expect it. When society pounds it into young boy’s minds that we must be the breadwinners, it’s hard not to feel the pressure of being somebody before marriage.

Of Vital Importance

On the flip side, my friend Nancy says she would never date someone with less than a 760 credit score. Her argument is that with so many eligible bachelors, why bother taking a risk on someone who isn’t a rockstar at handling their finances? Everyone knows countless examples of men hitting way above average thanks to their wealth. The situation is much rarer the other way around. Nancy is attractive and can have her pick of suitors.

Nancy would rather cut to the chase early rather than invest so much time into a relationship only to discover her man is a financial deadbeat. “I want him to be upfront and honest about his financial situation by the third date,” Nancy tells me. That’s fair enough given the third date is when expectations rise for magic boom boom.

Nancy has fantastic 780 credit and isn’t wiling to “date down” as she put it. “I’m not getting any younger!” At 36 years old, I wonder if Nancy is being a little too picky.

WILL MARRYING SOMEONE WITH BAD CREDIT RUIN MY CREDIT?

Now that we’ve got the philosophical discussion out of the way, I’m pleased to say that marrying someone with bad credit won’t affect your credit score one bit! You are not responsible for your future spouse’s bad credit or debt, unless you choose to take it on by getting a loan together to pay off the debt.

The problem arises if you plan to go in on a purchase that requires debt together. The most common example is when it comes to buying a house with a mortgage. If your spouse has horrible credit and you need your spouses income to get your debt to equity ratio below a certain level, chances are you will not qualify. As we learned from a previous post, the average credit score for a rejected mortgage applicant is 729. You can do a simple averaging of your credit scores to see where you stand. Realistically, the bank will likely charge you a higher interest rate or deny your application altogether if both your credit scores are not above 700.

The other potential problem is when you want to buy a car. Taking out a loan to buy a car you can’t afford is piss poor financial decision. But, if you absolutely need the latest BMW which costs as much as your annual paycheck, you will probably want to get your spouse’s income power on a loan you can’t afford. Given the reputation of car dealers to try and sell you anything, they’ll probably approve your car loan at a much higher rate than average (sub 5%) and laugh at you once you drive away. Stick to the 1/10th rule for car buying folks!

Finally, one must be careful not to let your spouse’s poor financial habits could rub off on you. It’s very easy to get swayed by someone you love. People go to the ends of the Earth for their soul mates. Make sure you don’t catch the reckless spending virus.

LOVE IS BLIND UNTIL YOU HAVE TO BUY SOMETHING TOGETHER

Whether you are poor and have poor credit matters little to me. So long as you are not stealing people’s identifies and doing shady things to warrant a poor credit credit, all is good for love. We can always improve our credit scores and financial situations over time. Can we always find the one that gets away?

Strong Recommendation: If you would like to check your credit score or convince your future spouse to check their credit score, you can see your TransUnion score for free here. I checked my credit score and found out I’ve got a 799. By knowing your credit score you can improve your credit score. Credit score checks also make sure there isn’t anything fishy going on with identity theft, which is becoming a big problem. 

The Princess Bride – Teaches us to go for love instead of money and status.

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    Sam, thanks for this post. All I have to say is: Now I have my stuff completely together, but when I met my wife I was a total mess. I was 28 and already filed bankruptcy. I was very successful career-wise and knew how to make money…I just spent like an idiot. My credit score was in the 400s. She still took me, man!!! She drove me around, loaned me money, signed all the leases for the apartments. Now she can just perform as a concert violinist because I can pay all the bills and then some. Now I have a score around 800 and blog about this stuff. Go. Figure. Thanks for letting me relive this stuff on VDay! Going to give her an extra hug…

  2. says

    Great posts on love and money! It’s difficult to to separate marriage from finances. And, most often no matter how much we love a person we sometimes have to ask if that person will be more of a liability than an equal partner in the relationship.

  3. says

    I would consider why the credit score is bad. Is it because they are a hardworking but poor student who has student debt but is earning a degree that will allow them to pay it off or is it because they charged fun and cocktails and shoes?

    If the person you are dating is not a worker and money runs through their fingers like water love and marriage won’t change that.

  4. Nbmpsd says

    Funny timing on this topic, just this week I was on a (3rd) date and the beautiful young lady asked me what my credit score was. I was surprised because it was the first time I’d ever been asked that question. She was really surprised I think because I gave her a response that probably seems really foreign to most people. I told her my score is probably a ZERO because I never borrow money…ever. House/cars/whatever…doesn’t matter, if you cannot pay cash you can’t afford it. (honestly I have no idea what my score is). Now I do believe I young people borrowing to buy a house, that is a great way to I build wealth, but the goal should always be to not be indebted to any person or institution. You can Jedi mind trick yourself into believing that 3% mortgage is a wise financial move, and on paper it makes sense, but that is how people get in trouble…makes you feel like you have more money than you actually do. Anyway the date ended very well, I’m sure it was my witty charm!

    • says

      I just think not renting your entire life and ending up with nothing is not a great financial move. Actually, that’s a good topic to address too! In SF, a lot of women ask guys whether they rent or own. Owners make up about 35% of the population here, so that is one hurdle guys have to cross sometimes. Did you pay cash for your house?

  5. says

    Funny, I have excellent day-to-day financial habits–better than my husband. Although I check my credit REPORT annually, I hadn’t checked my credit SCORE until my husband and I applied for a mortgage.

    Come to find out, my credit score was in the tank. Turns out, paying the minimum on my 0% interest debt to maximize cash flow left me with high credit utilization.

    So, although you’d look at my relationship and think I’d have the better score, my husband actually rocks 800+ while I’m in the upper 600′s! With that bombshell, we took me off the morgage, and used just his info to get a 30-year fixed at 3.25%.

    I wouldn’t have married me if I had known my score, but my husband doesn’t seem to mind. He’s been super supportive about putting more money toward my debt. Guess I lucked out!

    • says

      That’s kinda scary to not realize one’s credit score is in the tank for a full year isn’t it? On the flipside, you survived a year w/ a poor credit score and seem to have done just fine! Knowledge is power, which is why it is recommended for everyone to check their credit scores at least once a year. Why not, it’s free.

      Glad you found a good husband! I have a feeling guys don’t care about a spouse’s credit score as the other way around… perhaps someone can prove me wrong.

      • says

        Well, the really scary part was that Credit Sesame told me I had a 740!! I really would have done something about it if I had checked with an actual bureau. Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson!!

  6. JayCeezy says

    In this world where we are all equally special, I hate to say it but handling your cash is a character issue. This is why any decent job will run a credit check on you, and why jobs with Security Clearance requirements do it, too. A good score may not indicate sterling character, but a bad one is a huge red flag.

    A person with a bad score has the kind of problems that impact others, and then become their problems. Whether it is the lending institution for a home or car, a landlord, a spouse, a roommate, they may not intend to do it but their poor judgment has to be paid for by others. Literally and figuratively.

    • says

      It is true that more and more employers check prospective employee’s credit scores. Same w/ the gov’t. When it’s so easy and cheap for an employer to check, it’s hard to see why not and ask about what happened if they find something poor.

    • mysticaltyger says

      Perfectly stated, Jay. I have lived this first hand with people who can’t handle money. They tend to live their lives in crisis mode in many ways, which always has a negative impact on those around them, financially and otherwise!

  7. says

    Several years ago, I broke off an engagement because the person was so irresponsible with money. Of course, she had a low credit score to go along with her poor financial decisions. It wasn’t the score itself that bothered me, but the fact that someone could not be disciplined enough to control their spending urges and pay those they owed.

  8. says

    Nancy is going to come around in 5 years. Bad credit score is a red flag, but you need to examine what happened. If the person is financially responsible and something happened outside of his/her control, then maybe it would be ok. Bad credit score can be fixed, right?

  9. says

    I love The Princess Bride! Nice video flashback. I doubt I would ask someone what their score is on a third date but I could see it come up later as I enjoy talking about money and financial planning. If I was serious about the guy I’d want to know why he had a bad score and if he was being proactive about changing it. I think it’s always a good idea to talk about money before marriage because finances are a big part of any long term relationship.

  10. says

    I wouldn’t mind so much the credit score as the attitude towards money. The guy may have been dumb with money 5 years ago, if he is on track to recovery I don’t care. But without asking for his credit score, if there are signs on a first date that he is terrible with money, there won’t be a second date.

  11. says

    It’s all relative, I think.

    Credit scores really don’t matter for the big picture. Having a bad credit score because you forgot to pay two bills while on vacation one year is vastly different than having a bad credit score because you have three maxed out credit cards with balances totaling $80,000 plus a student loan for $150,000 for a master’s in fine art.

    That said, I can’t imagine involving myself with someone completely financially illiterate. Finances affect virtually every choice you have and ever decision you ever make. Someone who has no idea what a dollar is worth will be a poor match for anyone who does.

  12. says

    I agree with Pauline. I don’t care so much about the credit score, but I wouldn’t waste my time with someone who doesn’t have their s**t together financially or otherwise. Things may have happened in the past to affect their credit score ,but if they’re on the right track now I wouldn’t hold it against them.

  13. says

    Excellent post Sam. I wouldn’t mind so much the credit score as I realize things do happen in life as opposed to what they have chosen to do with their life. Are they working towards making changes. I wouldn’t have been able to have been with someone who didn’t have similar financial goals as mine. It would have only led to divorce or miserable relationships like many often do and why I believe it’s important to talk “money” before taking a relationship to the next level.

  14. says

    Thankfully, I am not dating! I wonder if it would kill the date if you discussed FICO scores on the first date? Of course, it would. I think when it gets serious, this is a subject along with many others you should discuss.

    When I return to the dating scene in my 90s, because I am a widower, should I wear my FICO score on my sleeve or attach it to my walker and I will be a chick magnet! One thing for sure, I won’t remarry. I will have numerous ladies hanging on to me just for my money. That statement makes me smile!

      • says

        Women love confidence and humor. If you can make a woman laugh you are about 90% there! They find those attributes sexy. I guess the only thing (for me) to overcome will be my age. Women will be attracted to my money and that I will soon die. Since I won’t remarry, the joke will be on them.

  15. says

    A single number as a hard cutoff seems pretty strange, but I’m in the situation where my score is actually lower than Mr. PoP’s because my parents didn’t send me my mail. That should fall off my report in the next year, but until then, Mr. PoP’s parents told him when he had bills in the mail after he moved. Mine didn’t. =(

    Seems like a weird thing to be penalized for years later.

    But I do get needing to be on the same page in terms of financial priorities, I just don’t think it can be distilled down to a single number that easily. When did we stop taking the time to get to know someone before writing them off completely?

  16. says

    I think that the overall attitude towards money and lifestyle matters more. If a girl drives an expensive car, owns a massive house, and otherwise spends frivolously, it’s unlikely that we’d be very compatible as a married couple.

    But since I don’t drive a minimum of Lexus, she probably wouldn’t even be interested in me in the first place.

  17. says

    Credit scores never crossed my mind when I married Mr. LH. Had it been a factor, then we probably would have delayed our marriage. ;) After we were married, we worked together to improve our scores and now have good scores (mine is a little better than his at the moment.)

  18. Michael says

    Simple… I (because I manage the family finances) use our money to solve our problems.

    We’re lucky that we’re both highly-compensated workers in STEM fields. I think I would have a bigger problem had my spouse-to-be not had the ambition to be a rockstar at work. I can forgive past mistakes, but I cannot forgive lack of ambition.

    • says

      So many woman talk to me about wanting a man with ambition and the desire to be a rockstar. Not so much the other way around. Thanks for your perspective. I don’t mind a rockstar either. Marisa Mayer is an example.

      • Michael says

        Indeed, and that was something that we talked about. I made it quite clear that I was always going to have the type of job with a large enough salary to support my family. My spouse could have been a homemaker, but that was not their ambition. It comes down to the fact that I needed someone as a part of my life who was going to be just as driven to accomplish our goals as I was.

  19. says

    Judging someone based on credit score is like judging them, sight unseen, on their BMI. Somebody 6ft tall and 200lbs of muscle will be classified as overweight based on BMI, just as somebody with no debt but piles of money will likely not have a great credit score.

    I realize the article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but seeing sites like creditscoredating make me cringe.

    Fortunately I married up in the credit score realm, she had a high-700s while I was probably 50 points lower. Come to think of it, I married up in a lot of ways.

  20. says

    The key is what you said here: “because I’ve always imagined having to take care of the entire family if needed” — now, your friend Nancy’s on the other end of the spectrum, but you know, truly, that your life partner need not work in order for you to remain wealthy. So, no work, no credit, no problem! Right?

    • says

      Correct! Nancy does well for herself though as a strong, independent, financially secure woman. I just wonder whether a relationship is now much more important that money. Or when that cross will intersect.

  21. says

    Love or wife or girlfriend but co-sign only when it makes financials sense to you to avoid being a financial deadbeat. I have known far too many friends who have sabotaged their financial well-being to please their alter ego.

  22. says

    If you’re responsible with money, it could potentially be maddening to deal with someone who’s irresponsible. Being realistic, if financial responsibility is something a person cares about for themself, it makes sense to ensure that the person you’re going to be with either A) is also this way, or B) has the capacity and willingness to learn.

    As for people from poor backgrounds, raised by single parents, etc – I don’t think that should be any kind of negative. Everybody starts somewhere, and character/responsibility resides with people across all walks of life. I know people who came from extremely humble circumstances, had odds against them – yet turned out to be very responsible and successful financially and otherwise.

    • says

      I agree. I also understand from a parent’s point of view, all else being equal they’d want their daughter or son to marry into the best family and someone with the brightest future.

      I don’t think my friend Jaabir (anther post) is very financially responsible, but we get along because I understand his interests.

  23. Sara says

    My credit score is 726 (just checked recently, which is actually why I read this) I’m 20, almost 21 and have had a credit card for about 2 years that I would rotate paying minimum/medium/full payments on. I know I’ve gotten my score to go up because I’ve checked it annually since I was 18. At 18 it was around 650 which is what I assume most 18 year olds to start out at considering they haven’t done anything to build their credit. Last year I got my score which was between 690 and 700. I’ve even jokingly applied for a great discover card (even though I don’t have a job right now as I moved in with my parents since my dad is sick) and they called and asked if I had any income and when I said no, they were trying to see anything I could consider as income just so they could give me the card. Compared to when I got my first credit card, I wasn’t approved for any type of card except for 1 for people with bad credit or just starting out. It’s a secured card that you have to put a deposit on to get credit. I know that since I’m 20, once I buy anything it will go down but I would rather have a higher score when I buy a house and have it go back into 600′s than having it in the 600′s when I go to buy the house and not be approved for a good apr.

    My boyfriend, who is almost 29, on the other hand, I have no clue what his score is. He doesn’t check it, and hasn’t put anything towards his credit except for a student credit card that he was stupid with and owed so much and didn’t pay it off until either last year or year before last (after not paying it for over 1-2 years) He’s now had a secured card for about a year, and is working on his score. The only thing I would say makes his score seem better is when we go to buy a house we’ll have between 50-100k to put down in cash (depending on how much the house costs, We don’t want to put half the cost of the house down in cash). Also any car we buy would just be paid for in cash unless we decide we want to get a loan, to again work on our credit.

    • says

      Best to convince the BF to check. It’s free, so why not? About 25% of the population have credit errors, which can provide massive hiccups when taking out a loan for a house, car or whatever. Here is my story of how a $8 non utility bill payment by my tenants from two years ago smashed my score from 780 to 680 and almost derailed my mortgage refi. If it did, it would have cost me HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars and a lot of grief.

  24. Joe says

    I have been single for 20 years, raised my daughters w/o a mother. I’m rather well-off, and recently ran into a woman I knew 40 years ago in high school. I’ve always loved her, but we took separate paths. She’s going through a divorce, she and current husband have file Chapter 7, they have liens and a judgement from business. There’s much more, but her life is a real mess. My heart says ignore her problems and offer to pay her way out, and then we can live happily ever after. Am I being naïve, or are there any possible problems I better be watching out for?

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