When I was in my early 20s, I fell in love with a guy who had an abysmal credit score.
He was open about it, and I was willing to give him a chance. After all, love conquers all, right? Right, until he stole my social security number and financial identity just a few weeks before our wedding.
This experience got me wondering — is a bad credit score a relationship deal-breaker, or is it just a red flag? (Because, like it or not, a bad credit score is telling you something.)
The all-important credit score
“How you do one thing is how you do everything,” says Mackey McNeill, a CPA financial planner from Bellevue, Kentucky, and CEO of Mackey Advisors. In other words, the way a man manages his money is indicative of how he manages his life.
Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances like an illness or job loss, but a credit score can be a symptom of a substantial character flaw. McNeill explains, “If someone has bad credit, it may mean one of several things. First, he doesn’t make or keep commitments. Second, he doesn’t manage money well. And last, he isn’t consistent at making money, either because he’s too risky in his own business or he doesn’t make a good employee.”
Ouch. Sadly, it doesn’t end there. Beyond the character issues that may make a relationship challenging, women need to consider what a partner’s bad credit score may mean in her future. “When you apply for joint credit, both credit scores are considered,” McNeill went on to explain. That means that your guy’s bad score may stand between you and the future you want for yourself — like a house, children and even an emergency fund. All of these desires are hugely important as you try to build a relationship with a man, no matter how hot or funny he is.
What’s a girl to do?
If your guy has a bad credit score, it’s important to determine if he’s a man who’s made mistakes and wants to change, or if he’s committed to money mismanagement. The first is just a red flag, and the second is a deal-breaker. “Anyone can make changes in the short term,” says McNeill. “Women need to see at least six months to a year of good money behaviors before choosing to stick around.”
I’m here to tell you that McNeill is spot on. Ultimately, my fiancé apologized and cleaned up his act for a few months, but he never figured out how to pay off his debt to me and others, how to live within a budget and how to talk with me respectfully about money management. I ended up sticking around for long enough to lose many more dollars and several more years before I realized that he was more committed to his bad credit score (and its accompanying behaviors) than he was to me.