The Number That Could Save Your Marriage

It’s not your birthday or even your bank balance. If you want it to last, keep your credit score high.

The Number That Could Save Your Marriage

by Michael Ansaldo

photo courtesy of zheng long

filed under Advice, Science of Love

We all know that a high credit score increases your chances of buying a house or securing a car loan. But it also appears to raise the odds that you’ll have a lasting romantic relationship.

That’s the finding of a recent Federal Reserve Board study that analyzed 15 years worth of Equifax data from 12 million randomly selected American consumers. “Broadly speaking, our results point to a quantitatively large and significant role for credit scores in the formation and dissolution of committed relationships,” wrote researchers Jane Dokko, Geng Li, and Jessica Hayes in a working paper titled “Credit Scores and Committed Relationships.”

Love by the Numbers

Specifically, the researchers found that people tend to connect with partners who have a similar credit score, and couples who had high credit scores were more likely to stay together for the long haul. In fact, for every extra 100 points in the couple’s average credit score at the start of the relationship, their odds of breaking up during their second year together fell by 30 percent.

If your or your significant other’s credit is bruised, on the other hand, you might want to put off picking out china patterns. Researchers found that couples with average credit scores of 450 or lower were twice as likely to call it quits as those with scores averaging 750 or higher.

The difference between a couple’s credit scores was also a predictor of long-term relationship health, the researchers found. The closer partners’ scores were at the beginning of the relationship, the better their overall outlook. Conversely, significantly mismatched scores—a greater than 66-point difference—made it 24 percent more likely the couple would split up within the second, third, or fourth year of the relationship.

“The initial match quality in credit scores is highly predictive of subsequent separations even when controlling for other factors, such as couples’ use of credit and the occurrence of financial distress,” they wrote.

Why Bad Credit Weakens Commitment

The correlation between good credit and relationship health shouldn’t be too surprising. A low credit score can indicate financial stress, a well-documented relationship killer. And though you don’t inherit your spouse’s bad credit rating, one person’s low credit score can impact your ability to qualify for joint accounts like a home mortgage. Cue resentful feelings.

The researchers, however, hypothesize that credit scores reveal more about a person’s skills than just their ability to repay debts. “We argue that one such skill could be an individual’s general trustworthiness and commitment to non-debt obligations,” they wrote.

In other words, if you struggle to keep your financial commitments, you might have trouble maintaining interpersonal ones as well.


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