Could Your Credit Score End Your Marriage?

Couple not speaking to each other

By Christine DiGangi

Finances may be among the least sexy parts of a romantic relationship. But they are among of the most important parts, even though no one accepts a marriage proposal with the words, "Yes! I can't wait to have a joint checking account with you." Nor do college sweethearts usually review their student loan debts while strolling campus, hand in hand.

But couples should make time to discuss personal finances -- the earlier, the better. Couples with a greater disparity in their credit scores are more likely to break up, according to preliminary results of a study by Federal Reserve Board researchers.

The draft of the paper, called "Household Formation, Credit, and Trustworthiness" analyzes the individual and household credit scores of about 35,000 married and cohabitating couples from 1999 through 2012. It outlined credit score match quality, or the difference in partners' credit scores at the time they move in together, and the researchers found that credit score match quality is a strong indicator of whether or not the household remains intact.

Though the researchers will further explore the data and their conclusions in a future draft, they said the relationship between credit score match quality and household breakups is "quite strong."

Bridging the Credit Score Gap

It's not that people should bring copies of their annual credit reports on dates, but as a relationship gets more serious, the depth of financial conversations should also grow. A good first question: Does your partner know what a credit score is?

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Before you can get into someone else's finances, take stock of your own with's free Credit Report Card. Once you see where you stand, it's time to see how you and your significant other's credit histories match.

But a huge credit score gap isn't a death sentence for your relationship. (On the other hand, if you're looking for a reason to end it, you're welcome.) While the study says those with a like-minded approach to money management are more likely to stay together, there are ways to build credit so the disparity isn't as large.

If there are large differences to overcome, seeking outside advice might be a good idea, especially if one spouse isn't thrilled about role-playing as a financial counselor.

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