You’ve heard the saying: What you don’t know can’t hurt you. But if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, not knowing your significant other’s credit score can hurt you.
More than one-third of Americans don’t know their partner’s credit score and nearly one-half aren’t comfortable disclosing their score to their significant other, according to the 2015 Chase Slate Credit Survey. However, “it should be something that is discussed openly in the relationship early on so it doesn’t cause other problems down the road,” said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Credit scores can play a big role in a couple’s life together. If one of you has a bad score, it could make things financially difficult for the both of you. Here are five ways poor credit could be putting a strain on your relationship.
Bad Credit Could Strain the Household Budget
If your credit score is low because your credit balances are high or overdue, it likely means that you’re having trouble managing your debt. To get your debt under control, both you and your partner might have to make adjustments to pay off what you owe.
“That can be a dark cloud hanging over the monthly budget,” McClary said. But debt can get in the way of putting money aside for shared savings goals, and it might anger your partner to have to make sacrifices to pay off your debt.
The worst thing to do though, is look for a quick fix, McClary suggested. The partner who is in a better financial situation shouldn’t bail out the other by paying off all of his or her debt. Instead, underlying spending problems should be discussed and addressed — possibly with the help of an unbiased credit counselor.
Bad Credit Could Hurt Your Partner’s Credit Score
When you get married, you and your spouse still maintain your individual credit scores. So if one spouse’s score is bad, it won’t pull the other one’s down. However, if one spouse’s credit score is too low to get a loan, the other spouse might have to come to the rescue by co-signing.
If the person who borrows money slips up and doesn’t make payments on time, the co-signer’s credit can be damaged because he or she is equally responsible for the debt, McClary said. “If that happens, you won’t be the life raft your spouse was counting on because your credit [will be] damaged as well,” he said.
If you co-sign a loan, make sure your spouse is making payments on time. You also need to keep communication open to avoid problems, McClary said.
Bad Credit Can Dash Your Hopes of Owning a Home
If both your income and your partner’s is needed to qualify for a home loan, your lender will look at both of your credit scores. If one of you has a low score, you’ll likely have to pay a higher interest rate on your mortgage — if you qualify for one at all. “This could be a stress point for couples,” McClary said.
Ideally, both of you should check your credit scores and credit reports long before you apply for a mortgage. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — through AnnualCreditReport.com. By knowing your scores before meeting with lenders, you’ll avoid surprises and have time to repair your credit and improve your score ahead of time.
Bad Credit Could Force You to Pay More for Insurance
Even if your significant other buys the family car, you’ll need to be insured if you’re going to drive it. If your credit score is low, your car insurance rates could be higher than average. In many states, insurers use credit scores to determine whether someone is more risky to insure, according to insurance rate comparison site TheZebra.com. Drivers with low scores could be spending hundreds of dollars more every year on coverage.
Rather than pay high premiums, your partner might rather you sit in the passenger seat or take public transportation. If you want to avoid arguing over whether you get to drive, take steps to repair your credit score so it won’t lead to higher insurance rates.
Bad Credit Might Force You to Rely on Your Partner for Income
About half of employers consider applicants’ credit history when making hiring decisions, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. If your credit history shows that you can’t be trusted to handle your finances, employers might turn you down for work.
Unemployment can take a big toll on a relationship — especially if the unemployed person is the husband. When men are not employed, their wives are more likely to leave the relationship, according to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology. Even if one spouse’s unemployment doesn’t lead to divorce, it still forces that spouse to rely on the other for financial support.
Keep Reading: Bad Credit? Getting Married Can Fix That
If you’re in a relationship with someone with poor credit, rather than cause emotional tension by pointing a finger of blame, work to help your loved one improve their spending habits. A little bit of effort can combat a lifetime of arguments over money.