Let’s say you have a Tinder date this weekend. There’s going to be some small talk… maybe you chat about your hometown, or whether you’re a dog or cat person.
Whatever it is, there’s one thing you’re not going to discuss: your credit score. That would be a huge buzz kill and probably end the first date. You probably won’t talk about it on the second or third date, either.
Some people never talk about money. Instead, they meet somebody, fall in love, get married, and it turns into a huge disaster because they’re financially incompatible.
One person in the marriage spends a ton of money and goes into debt, and the other person just saves and saves. It’s pretty common, and these people fight about money all the time.
They lose all perspective, and fight to the death over things like yogurt. “You got the expensive yogurt, and it cost an extra thirty cents.” It never stops.
Now, of course you shouldn’t swap credit scores on a first date. But at some point, if things get serious, you have to talk about it.
Credit rating agencies look at things like payment history, debt utilization, and when a person opens a new account. They can tell whether someone is statistically likely to repay debt… or not, which means he’s a deadbeat.
These are tricky issues. But if someone has a low credit score, meaning he’s unlikely to pay back debt, does that mean he’s untrustworthy in other ways? Maybe.
Really, someone’s credit score indicates what kind of person he is. It’s a measure of character, which is something you want to know about before a relationship gets serious.
There’s a non-threatening way to start this conversation.
Maybe you say, “Hey, let’s play a game. I’ll guess your credit score, and you guess mine. Whoever gets the closest wins, and the other person has to buy dinner.”
Credit scores run from 300 to 850. Anything above 800 is amazing. Anything above 740 is very good. And anything below 680 is bad, or subprime. If you’re dating someone with a credit score in the 500s, you should run away screaming.
Really, if somebody has a credit score of 649 or lower, you should not date this person. You should not have a relationship with this person, and above all, you should not marry this person.
And if your score is below 649, then you have some work to do before you date anybody.
There’s a reason I picked 649: You can get a 650 credit score, or thereabouts, by simply paying all your bills on time.
If somebody’s not paying his bills on time, it means one of two things. Either he doesn’t care if he pays back the money he borrowed. Or he’s kind of a mess and can’t get organized to pay the bills.
One problem is worse than the other, but these are both issues of character. Either way, this is an irresponsible person.
Nobody wants to hear that. But if you’re a responsible person—if you have a job and pay your bills—you don’t want to get tangled up with irresponsible people. It only invites chaos into your life.
One more guideline: the gap between your credit scores should not be greater than 125 points.
Big gaps mean you have very different philosophies about money. And the kicker is that people rarely change. Yes, people are capable of change. But anyone who’s been married for any length of time knows that trying to change your partner is next to impossible.
Marriages break up for all kinds of reasons—sex, booze, drugs—but the most common reason is money. It’s sort of like death by a thousand paper cuts. You’ll just keep fighting about it. That’s not a good way to go through life.
If you’re still in the dating pool, follow the 649 rule so your partner doesn’t blow up your financial life… and the 125-point gap rule so you don’t spend the next 50 years bickering about expensive yogurt.