You know your credit score gets checked when you apply for a credit card, a job, an apartment, insurance or a loan. But these days, even potential dates may be asking about your fiscal health when they're checking you out.
While not every prospective date will come right out ask you for your FICO digits, some singles we talked to say they want to know a potential partner's financial status.
Websites such as Creditscoredating.com and Datemycreditscore.com have received plenty of attention in the media. Both are based on the idea that singles want to date others with an excellent credit score. In fact, the motto of CreditScoredating.com is "Good Credit is Sexy."
The concept may sound a little mercenary, but since a low credit score can keep you from doing everything from buying a house to landing a job, singles interested in a finding a life partner may have a point.
"I've never been asked about my credit score, but I wouldn't mind it," says Kathy (not her real name), a single woman from Maryland. "I think financial compatibility is critical at this stage in life, especially if there is even the flicker of a thought that the relationship could lead to something long term."
Kathy says a friend of hers rushed into the arms of a man who, despite his $100,000-plus salary, had a bleak financial picture. "She didn't want to believe his finances were as disastrous as they were, and he ended up costing her thousands and a hard lesson in protecting her assets," she says.
Credit counselors say many of their customers come to them because their romantic partners refuse to get married before they eliminate their debt. Some debt-laden clients have simply made pacts with themselves to get rid of debt before they wed.
We polled a group of five accountants and asked whether they would like to check a potential date's credit score. Most of them said yes, because "a responsible individual makes a better partner."
Naturally, not everyone is buying it.
You're More Than Just a Number to Me
One naysayer among the accountants asked "What do you want, a good person or a good credit score?"
"As much of a stalker as I am, I think it'd be creepy to know someone's credit score before a date," says J., a Washington, D.C.-area single. "There could be many contributing factors to a poor credit score, and I wouldn't want to rule someone out. In fact, if someone had a poor credit score because he's in over his head for, say, helping out a family member, I may want to hear that story, not rule out the candidate. And what about the person who's working really hard to improve their credit score? They may be more appealing to me than someone who grew up with everything handed to him."
Four Ways to Pretty-Up Your Credit
If you think your poor credit score is holding you back on the relationship front, you should be aware that there are no quick fixes. However, with time and attention to these four crucial financial steps, your credit can improve.
1. Start paying your bills on time. Your payment history is extremely important to your FICO score. Your creditors want you to show up on time as much as your date does.
2. Reduce your credit card use to 30 percent or less on each line of credit. Your overall income and debt doesn't matter nearly as much as making sure each credit card shows that you handle credit responsibly and not max out your credit cards. New relationships need a little air, and so do your credit card limits.
3. Don't open new credit accounts unless absolutely necessary. Just like dating around indiscriminately can earn you a bad reputation, opening several accounts will lower your credit score and so will numerous credit inquiries.
4. Check your credit report for mistakes. Accurate negative information will linger on your credit report like the memory of your worst date, but if there are mistakes that are lowering your score you should take steps to fix them.
While there's no guarantee that taking these steps will get you a dinner date, they will improve your financial appeal.
10 Common Money Problems That Need Fixing Now
Credit Score Dating Has Potential Partners Watching Their Assets
Retirement investment companies constantly reassure us that their defined-contribution accounts are successful, or would be if consumers set aside sufficient funds for retirement. Of course, they fund these commercial messages and voluminous studies with the enormous fees they earn by "managing" retirement accounts, often with mediocre results. Is there any doubt we need new ideas to achieve better retirement outcomes?
I have been writing about annuities for 40 years and they remain alien to the very people they're supposed to help. Unless you have a boatload of money and a good financial adviser, the annuity industry has not developed a successful way to speak to you. The irony is that surveys of middle-income consumers find them clamoring for secure and predictable returns, even as annuity payment guarantees are being pummeled by today's low interest rates.
Has any consumer actually ever read and understood one of these endless documents? Don't we instead just avoid the pain and click "accept" when asked to do so? Meanwhile, the companies brag about how clever their products are. Why can't they be clever enough to create customer-service agreements we can understand?
OK. We now have pro-consumer laws that make it harder for credit card companies to zing us with high and unwarranted fees. But I still feel like prey for card issuers. I continue to get mounds of unwanted mail urging me to take out more new cards. And my existing card accounts still send me those scary blank checks in advance of major holidays. I'm sure they are just letting me know what kind folks they are to be extending me gobs of credit just when the nation's retailers are most in need of my purchasing power.
Can I really add much here? We have a new health-reform law that nearly no one understands. It adds thousands of pages of new rules to an already convoluted system that defied comprehension. And if we get state insurance exchanges and mandatory coverage in 2014, the real fun will begin.
Roughly 8 percent of aging Americans have purchased long-term care insurance. It provides support for people with physical and mental disabilities that prevent them from doing basic activities-feeding and dressing themselves, using the bathroom, getting around, and the like. About two-thirds of us will need the services covered by this product at some point in our lives. The costs of specialized care in a nursing home or assisted living facility can quickly wipe out the assets of even financially sound households. Health bills are far and away the leading cause of personal bankruptcies. Even with these cautionary tales and a growing arsenal of tax and other advantages, long-term care insurance continues to struggle to make its case.
The mortgage crisis and collapse of housing prices were caused, in part, because no one paid attention to mortgage applications and every requested loan was approved. Now, as the housing industry is finally starting to recover, banks are reluctant to loan money even to solid borrowers. Please, is there an adult in the room who can hit the reset button?
After years of hearings and rulemaking efforts, the feds finally came up with some new disclosure rules on fund fees. And investors have received their first batch of new and improved disclosure forms. Only it now appears that the documents don't really disclose all the fees that consumers may have to pay. And it's not clear consumers are reading the forms, anyway.
Nearly 62 million people get monthly Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. The government does a solid job of getting those payments out and of keeping track of the earnings histories of everyone with wage income. But as the program has become the dominant source of retirement income for most Americans, it's also painfully clear that millions of consumers do not understand how it works or how they can claim benefits that are in their best long-term interest. Yet, hampered by budget cuts, the Social Security Administration has halted paper-based annual statements explaining the program to participants.
A jaw-dropping amount of financial advice is about tax strategies. Are the contributions and earnings on this or that account taxable? If so, when and at what rates? Compare income-tax versus capital-gains tax rates. Are there estate tax considerations? If I claim Social Security before reaching my full retirement age, how will any outside earnings be taxed? Ratchet up the discussion to wealthy individuals and businesses, and taxes drive key decisions even more powerfully. The tax code has long been the tail wagging the dog. In the face of crippling government budget deficits, hasn't the time arrived for a really meaningful simplification of the tax code?